It’s an ordinary Tuesday night, a night one would expect to develop quite the cut-and-dry bar scene. I’m just two beers in as I walk up to the jukebox. The jukebox swallows the bill, and I select some tracks to groove to: TY Dolla $ign, ASAP Rocky, A Tribe Called Quest, Cardi B, Alicia Keys, Kurt Vile, and Jessie Reyez.
Fat Jacks is a hole in the wall bar that tends to attract a good-sized crowd on weekends and holidays.
I’m accompanied by my best friend Cam who is a Jewish woman and my girlfriend Cassie who is white (NOTE: I disclose race in this story to add more detail to the narrative). We establish a giddy mood at the table, which we’ve coined “The Misfits Table”. It wobbles from side to side, has a few battle scars and adjoins a sectional wood post that’s surrounded by all the common booths.
A few bathroom breaks, and rounds of “Hi” and “How are you?” later, the voluminous bar conversations seem to echo.
“Yo, what happened to the music?” I ask.
Um… Did the jukebox magically lose power? We glare at a group of four people sitting closest to the jukebox. We’ll call them the ignorant regulars, but you’ll soon learn that that’s an understatement.
Hunched over the table, I take a whiff of my cigarette. “Dude, did someone unplug the jukebox?”
“I have no fucking clue what happened,” Cam says.
Cassie, disgruntled, peers around the bar and decides to go on a mission to solve the riddle.
She approaches the group, in what, from afar, appears like a heated a face off, shoulders pulled back, and for a few seconds, arms crossed ready for confrontation. She makes eye contact with a white guy in a ball cap wearing a black fleece, short in stature. He’s apparently smug, head tucked forward and chin propped on his fist, as he sits on a stool.
“Is she asking them?”
“I don’t know,” Cam says, flicking her cigarette. “she’s smiling.”
“People smile when they’re agitated,” I say, and take another sip off my beer.
We watch the following scenario unfold:
Cassie asks politely and, at first, nonchalant, “Did you unplug this?”
The guy casts a blank stare at her. “Yeah… What were you trying to play?”
(Translation: It’s your choice of music that drove my impulsive desire to unplug the jukebox.)
The only girl of the group chimes in with an unsure, “YOLO”.
“My friends just picked out $10 worth of music,” Cassie says.
“Oh, well it must have been the kind of music you picked.”
(Translation: That music is too urban for the bro-type country music that better fits the demographic makeup of this bar.)
“Excuse me?” Cassie tries to keep her composed state.
(Translation: Can you just say that one more time for clarification? I’d like to give you the benefit of the doubt before I call you something I can’t take back.)
The cap guy looks at his friends for validation before dishing out a sleazy remark. “Why don’t y’all go back to Club 7 if that’s the shit you want to hear?”
(Translation: Look hur girl, this is a honky-tonk bar, and we don’t want a bunch of coloreds and their convert white friends around here listening to that nigger shit. You fucking libtards, this is the confederacy, so why don’t you people go somewhere else with that racially integrated, flower-in your-hair San Francisco shit?)
For a moment, the room is still. Cassie’s retaliation is hardly patronizing, a soft bee sting, compared to his wasp-like macho front. Before she walks back to our table, she laughs in his face.
I gurgle my beer from cheek to cheek, take another drag of my cigarette and put it out in the ashtray, imagining the mush of the cigarette being the guy’s face after I fist his jaw. Then I remember that retorting to physical aggression makes me the loser of this classless bar squabble.
Cassie returns to our table, and we sit there for a few minutes, joking about the foul play. I look at the jukebox nestled in the corner, drowning in all its shame. We go and reboot it and surprisingly, the music picks back up from where it was cut off.
A hand full of people line up at the jukebox ready “to fight for [their] right to party”— or fight for their right to listen to whatever they pay for— in this case— whatever god damn song they want to hear.
A few are riled up in our defense: a group of out-of-town guys, sitting behind us, and a married couple, along with their third-wheeling cousin. I’ll call them the my-uncle-owns-the-bar table (due to the wife repetitively mentioning that her uncle owns the bar).
“Heeeey, I just wanted to say that my uncle owns the bar,” she says. Her words are elongated after a drink too many. “I already said something to the bartenders, so if we just keep complaining, they’ll have to leave.”
“We have an app on our phone,” her husband, who I think is Latino, smiles. “What do you want to hear?”
“Play some fucking Wu-Tang, ‘Bring the Ruckus’.” This is my go-to when I’m feeling jumpy.
The ignorant regulars, again, retort to their bravado. “Trump! Trump! Make America Great Again!”
A bartender with long, blonde hair tied up in a ponytail strides toward the regulars and says, “Hey!” with her eyes pierced. “Stop it right now, and I mean it.” Maybe the complaints to the staff worked.
I could hear the out-of-town guys talking in regard to the parochial worldview of the ignorant regulars:
“Typical fucking Trump supporters.”
“What fucking assholes.”
The battle of the jukebox starts now. The ball cap guy walks up to the jukebox with a $100 dedicated to play some boot scootin’ country. Who can outplay who and push whose buttons more? Contrary to his expectation, I nod my head and jig along to play his little game.
It’s a mediocre attempt to run us out back to wherever the fuck he thinks the cultured come from.
Despite being provoked, I reluctantly laugh, a common defense I use to mask my anger. The rule of thumb has always been that you never allow a group of dimwits to get a rise out of you, true?
Still none of us are so naive to the concealed gestures of racism, especially from Trump supporters who rationalize their support for him by citing their patriotism and a need to protect the American citizen from the invasion of the immigrant.
Why did I write this? first, for cheap entertainment thrills. We, humans, have a tendency to get off on others’ conflict. Second, to unearth the mischief of a jukebox. Jukebox, you are not so innocent. You are not the party starter but the party thrasher. My drink is empty, and my pals have gone home, and the jukebox reference is an obvious joke.
But really, how does a jukebox become the scapegoat of an underlying political issue?
All humor aside, the second reason for this narrative is to decode the hidden meaning of the slogan, “Make America Great Again”. It creates a pivotal question asked by plenty anti-Trumpians— when was America great? Are we referring back to the olden days of slavery or segregation?
The stubby guy in the ball cap answered it precisely. Make America Great Again means if you want to stay here, you better conform to the Dixie ways, or we will cast our stones at you. Simply put, we’d prefer you to just get the hell out.
The third reason for this narrative is to paint a vivid picture of the scenarios that are likely to unfold in a bar that’s centered in the heart of East Texas.
Southern conservatives are extremely vocal about gun rights. “Y’all liberals ain’t gonna take away my constitutional right to bear arms.”
You think liberals are attacking your constitutional right to bear arms?
No, talk about one of the most fundamental rights, one’s freedom of speech (like the right to listen to whatever the fuck you want to listen to without some pretentious fucker trying to kill your good vibe all because of this twisted glorification of the “Make America Great Again” slogan) being jeopardized under the divisive get-’em-out practices driven by Trump.
We got the memo, man.
And the jukebox isn’t on your side.
Your only political scapegoat is your ignorance.
I want to clarify that Fat Jacks is a seemingly diverse bar, considering the demographic makeup of Texarkana. Fat Jacks, in simple words, is a hole in the wall bar more than it is a country bar, so one can expect a variation of music genres to play over the speakers.
The translations in bold are there to interpret the meaning of the ball-cap guy’s remarks to vividly and candidly uncover his ill-toned gestures.
All readers should note that the greater issue is not the jukebox. Rather, the issue is a cross-reference between “Go back to Club 7” and the politician slogan, “Make America Great Again”, which suggests the antagonist’s motivation for unplugging the jukebox was due to his inability to socially tolerate a diverse gathering of people that night. It’s unacceptable to disorderly treat the bar as a stomping ground for foul “Make America Great Again” schemes.
Lastly, this was purposely written in a witty, sarcastic-like, smart-ass(ish) tone with sprinkles of dry humor.