Barfly - Crossing the border to Chaparral Nightclub
Spring Break on Buford Highway
Three years ago in a Buckhead bar, a drunk douchebag asked me and a friend where we'd met and I instinctively lied, claiming we waitressed at Chaparral, the seemingly sketchy, windowless compound I'd driven past so many times on Buford Highway. I had no clue if it was a strip club, Latin dance club or cock-fighting arena, but since blurting it out to that stranger, I'd been intrigued. It just took three years to get there.
The parking lot wasn't as full as I remembered from the days when the VIVA! 105.7 van parked out front, but there were a handful of people in the lot enjoying brown bag-wrapped beverages. I walked in with the male friend I recruited to attend with me and let my eyes adjust to the dark, expansive space, surprised by the lack of people on the dance floor and at the two bars. It seemed quiet for an 18-to-party/21-to-drink spot, but it was only midnight.
I've never been to Tijuana before, but I imagined this must be what it looks like: Latin hip-hop bumping, chin straps and sunglasses on the guys, skintight outfits on the girls. There were Latinos (obviously) with some black folks sprinkled in and a token whitey here and there. Chaparral's manager, Frankie, informed me that the club alternates between gay and straight nights (Friday, Sunday and Tuesday being gay). Even though it was Saturday, I noticed a few lesbians in the mix; but pretty straight otherwise.
We made our way through the clouds of machine-generated smoke to an elevated area behind the DJ booth where the scene looked like an episode of Tijuana "Teen Mom" meets MTV Spring Break. The girls were young and scantily clad while their suitors looked like high school "wankstas." A young, pocket-sized girl, who stood out among her curvier cohorts, approached a Latino male her exact size with a simple one-liner: "Hey, what's up." They hit it off immediately and I mentally high-fived her. She had game.
The crowd was trying to get sexy on the dance floor, but you could tell they were yearning for something more in the music department. Then Ying Yang Twins' "Salt Shaker" came on, and the room went wild. Young'uns on the stage stepped up their grinding game, twenty- and thirtysomethings made their way from the bar tables to the main dance floor, and the emcee (read: dude with a mic) sprung to life, chiming in with various lines from the six-year-old hit.
When "Teach Me How to Dougie" came on, two Chaparral regulars, Tiffany and Ebony, jumped up from their bar stools and the 24-ounce Smirnoff Ice they'd been sharing to start dancing. I felt an undeniable urge to do the same, confident that no one would judge me, my white-girl style or my lack of skills at doing the Dougie. Just a few miles away in Buckhead, insecure girls were probably holding their vodka waters — and holding in their stomachs — in search a cute frat guy to take them home, while fighting the urge to get sloppy like they did in college. This could be their safe haven! I couldn't think of a better place in town for white girls to show up drunk and dance the night away until 4 a.m. (thanks to DeKalb County laws). I felt like I'd found the next big thing in Atlanta nightlife, even though it had been there all along. A hot blonde breezed by me on her way to the dance floor, instantly validating my discovery. OK, so she may have been a hooker. But on spring break, anything goes.