Photo by Matt OttoSitting backward in a chair outside Momo's, his fingers tightly clutching a silver counter that—judging by the crowd inside—probably read 13, the bouncer was a portrait of absolute indifference.
"I smell gas. You smell gas?" his friend asked, checking the power switch on the outdoor heater for the fifth time in six minutes. No reaction.
"Well, I smell something."
Not even a nod.
It was midnight on a Friday night—the Friday before Halloween to be exact—and we'd been loitering outside the bars on Huntington Beach's Main Street for we didn't know how long, watching others watch the passers-by and fighting the urge to utter, "nice costume" under our breath each time a cop walked by. But now, it was starting to feel like we were watching the same minute-and-a-half long film on repeat, so we continued down the street, leaving the scene to loop its way into eternity. By the way, guy, that smell? It wasn't gas—it was boredom.
Strolling along Main Street a few hours earlier, we'd been alarmed at how dead the drag seemed. It was, after all, the Friday before Halloween—we'd figured Huntington would be party central, with every bar filled to capacity with witch hats, angel wings and a fair amount of projectile vomit. Instead, we counted no more than two dozen people in costume—not including the 10 or so street cops patrolling the sidewalks for the wayward drunk, skateboarder or skateboarding drunk—and most of the revelers seemed, much to our disappointment, to be saving their livers for the next night's costume keggers.
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Still, it was early, so we walked over to Perqs, where we hoped to at least find a cheap drink and a place to sip it. We were wrong but paid the $10 cover anyway, and we actually sorta liked the bar, with its rustic interior and patrons who'd dressed up—intentionally or not—as roadies for the Doobie Brothers. If it hadn't been for the music—and it must have been us because Walter Trout's definitely got something when even Vegas has been giving the door away for free lately—we would've stayed, but there're only so many seconds you can stay in a bar before asking the bouncer for a refund makes you look like a cheap fool.
And so one white lie and a quick getaway later, we arrived at Killarney's, where things seemed a little more friendly and a lot less $10 cover charge-y and we were greeted by the sight of Julius Caesar sharing a drink with Captain Hook. "Put those away!" we heard the bouncer yell in their direction, only he wasn't yelling at Caesar—just at the breasts on the woman in front of him. Now, we liked Killarney's, too, and were having a grand old time watching the skater bros sip beer with their eyes glued to the Fuel Channel broadcast on the TV screens—featuring clips of skater bros doing what? Sipping beer!—but there's only so many minutes you can listen to the sound of loud music skipping on a CD player before you feel like an idiot for even going out in the first place when you have a full bottle of Maker's Mark and an adequate unscratched CD collection waiting at home.
And so, after grabbing a quick glass of water at the Huntington Beach Brewing Co.—whose reggae DJ we loved and where we would have stayed longer had there been more than just us in the bar—we ended up back on the street, where we finally found exactly what we'd been looking for: skateboarding Oompa Loompas. Sadly, though, it was too little, too late, and the Oompas knew it, too.
"Let's get outta here," we heard one say to another, and sure, he was probably just worried about getting cited by the po-pos, but we agreed anyway. Huntington Beach, it turned out, was so boring it was scary, a disappointment eased only by the fact if Huntington Beach was that frightening, the rest of the county must have been a nightmare.