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“a woman walks into a bar…” at La Descarga

on 09/07/11 at 6:50 am

a woman walks into a bar..., BoozeBlog, Slider

Sometimes an evening out at the bar doesn’t make the time fly as it does when you’re in a bubble of jollity, quaffing ambrosial spirits. Sometimes you’re stuck in limbo merely as an observer, surveying the herd at play as the hands of time tick-tock loudly away making you acutely aware of Father Time. This isn’t, by itself, a terrible thing but it doesn’t mean the time spent musing is memorable either. And so it was at the ‘it’ bar of the moment, La Descarga, a faux Havana nightclub right here in the wilds of Hollywood. Was this choice of location supposed to offer up a flavor of decadent Cuba of the 50’s? For one thing, I’m sure they didn’t have valet parking.

Maybe I’m not a good one to judge this place. I’ve been to Havana and this is no Havana but it is a cute theme club. To give it its proper props, the place is much like the owners’ other place, Harvard & Stone, quite like a fabulous a movie set.  The entrance is designed to make you feel like you’ve dropped down a rabbit hole into another time and place. Cleverly, you walk upstairs to go downstairs, descending a circular staircase into the bar and into another era. Well, in a Disneyland sort of way.

Moseying my way up to the bar, where it’s standing room only, no stools, I order a Manhattan – made with Buffalo Trace. I’m an island unto myself, as everyone’s a couple or part of a large party group. No matter. I go to check out the back cigar room where there’s another smaller bar, shrouded in smoke. It’s like a sauna in here! Taupe smoke engulfs the tableau of couples, looking like bas relief, they line the walls, drinking, smoking, nuzzling, entwined. I’m suffocating, so it’s back to the bar where I claim my post, watching, watching, knowing I’m in that limbo space of being a voyeur. It is great to see everyone dressed up, the women going all out, the guys more casual. Megan’s making a giant punch bowl of mojitos, muddling a fistful of mint whose exquisite fragrance wafts over the bar. In goes a whole bottle of rum and then some, the sugar, the sparkling water, tons of ice, lime. All for two hundred and sixty bucks. Not bad. I need another drink. Pisco sour with Macchu pisco. Delicious.

Alone at the bar, I wait for the show to start at the top of the hour…1st show 10p. The kickass band – piano, bass, congas, trumpet – squishes in on the balcony overhead, warms up with a couple of numbers. Whoa, here she comes! The spotlight illuminates a gyrating body as she bumps and grinds her way along the top balcony, down the circular stairs, all 206 of her bones whirling in rhythmic circles as she slithers among the crowd. The lights saturate the room in emerald green as the crowd parts to let the dancer tantalize her way around the floor. What? Nobody’s dancing? They’re just watching through their cellphones? Snapping away…hey, you’re right here! Put down your friggin’ phone, feel the music, move some body parts other than your shutter finger. How can they stand still? The music is pulsating, the trumpet screams, the crowd stands and looks around. What is up with that?

The wash of emerald lights vanish as does the dancer. The show lasts all of ten minutes, an interlude at the top of the hour. I wait for the next show to see if, maybe, the mojitos work their magic and people get more into it. So, okay, here she comes again, same shtick, same lights, nothing electrifies these folks. Cellphones out again, snapping away. One couple dances a few steps. I don’t care, I’m dancing by myself at the bar. The second show is over. There’s a decidedly voyeuristic quality to this experience, and not just by me. I’m clearly not in Havana.

O, Havana, city of sultry nights, music that gets under your skin, combos that play day and night, spectacular little bars and amazing musicians everywhere. The place exudes sensuality, where people are vibrant, warm and resilient. Thanks, La Descarga, this evening evoked a potent memory and now all I want to do is go back to Havana…the real one.






La Descarga
1159 Western Avenue
Hollywood, California 90029 (map)
Reservations recommended, call (323) 466-1324 or do it on the site.

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