So, maybe you don’t have movie-star good looks. Maybe you don’t drive a luxury car or live in a fashionable part of town. You can still feel like a VIP. All it takes is reservations at Bar Smyth in Dallas, Texas.
Don’t look for a neon sign or sidewalk seating. The entry for Bar Smyth is completely unmarked—part of its mystique. Announce yourself using the small keypad next to a nondescript door and you’ll be buzzed inside.
A dim hallway leads you to a narrow, warmly-furnished space that may have you checking the calendar to be sure you haven’t stepped back to a Prohibition-era speakeasy, or a Cold War-era covert rendezvous.
Menus? This place is too cool for menus
Your bartender visits your table with some questions, then disappears to concoct a beverage to appeal to your personal flavor profile. The results are surprising and exquisite.
My visit included two excellent cocktails. The first, shown here, was an Old Fashioned, crafted for me with grapefruit bitters, and tequila instead of bourbon. The second, a perfectly balanced Sazarac. (Hats off to Robert the bartender for choosing America’s oldest-known cocktail for me. I love a good Sazarac.)
Most of the others in our party preferred slightly sweeter drinks. Our bartender called on a variety of fruits, herbs and flowers to delight each of them in turn.
Bar Smyth sounds like fiction, right? For me, it sounded like my fiction—specifically Club Clandestine, in Going Native. Here’s how it breaks down:
Real vs. fictional VIP cocktail lounges
Club Clandestine (from my novel, Going Native)
Bar Smyth (located on Travis Street in Dallas, TX)
|Hard-to-spot entry||Unmarked entry|
|Bouncer asks for password||Secure, locked entrance|
|Dim stairs lead down to club||Dim hallway leads to club|
|Speakeasy/Cold War spy vibe||Speakeasy/Cold War spy vibe|
|Unforgettable night of covert, erotic games in the arms of a sexy hero||Outstanding cocktails in intimate setting, guaranteed to make you feel special|
All told, a remarkable evening. And I confess I’m glad to have friends who can assure me it really happened. Otherwise, I might wonder if, like Club Clandestine, I’d created Bar Smyth out of my own secret imaginings.
Shall I meet you there?
And then I realized we might not be talking about the same thing.
The alpha hero you can keep, thank you
My old idea of “alpha male”:
- Is accustomed to being obeyed
- Interrupts his lessers when they speak (and we’re all his lessers)
- Considers apologies a sign of weakness
- Takes control because he “knows what’s best for you”
In other words, a self-righteous jerk. In real life, I prefer to walk away from these types. If they appear in my writing, they’re secondary characters or antagonists, not the hero.
I like a hero who respects other people, even when he disagrees with them. I want him to make an attempt at seeing things from his adversary’s perspective, even if compromise proves impossible.
Do we need alphabetical labels?
Is respect an “alpha” or a “beta” characteristic? What about kindness? Are all nice guys “beta?” If I don’t know the difference, how do I choose romances I’m likely to enjoy reading? How do I tell readers what to expect from my books?
Before my brain explodes with questions, how ‘bout we accept “alpha” as a synonym for “prime,” as in first choice, or ideal. That way, there’s room for every preference.
The alpha hero I love
Here then, is my new idea of “alpha”:
- Lives his values, leads by example
- A knowledge seeker
- Doesn’t give up in the face of setbacks
- Admits his faults and overcomes his failures
- Fights to defend, not destroy
- Willing to grow and change
I have men like this in my life. I admire and adore them. Small wonder I seek similarly wonderful book boyfriends.
Your list may be different. I respect that. A wonderful thing about the romance genre is its diversity. And if you’re inclined to share, I’d love to hear about the type of hero that wins your heart.
Photo: Tambako the Jaguar
Exchanging “get up & go…”
In the winter, I love basking in the morning sunlight that beams through the little window in my shower. It energizes me. When days are shortest, I want as much sun as I can get.
Right now, though, days stretch out in lazy splendor. They bring chlorine-dipped days at the pool, dirt-dusted arms and legs from working in the yard, and skin coated with SPF, insect repellent and plenty of sweat. It’s nice to rinse off in cool water before bed.
…for “get on my glow”
So I venture into my tiny bathroom and forgo the bright bathroom lights in favor of a few candles. Their glow filters through the translucent shower curtain. It’s moody and relaxing and eases me into sweet, summery dreams. Ahhhh. I love this time of year.
Do your habits change to reflect the season? What sensual pleasures are you celebrating?
Tempting as it is to become an efficiency drone, there are big benefits to taking a more playful approach. Let me share my most recent proof that it’s true.
Dance party at the Petco
Me and my to-do list entered the Big Box pet store and hauled a bag of premium cat food to the checkout stand. There I surrendered a coupon to the very young sales clerk, a skinny guy with glasses, braces and the slouch so common among teens of low self-esteem. While he did his thing, I said, “This brand always makes me feel like I’m buying Disco’s Greatest Hits, you know?”
At his curious glance, I used my best radio DJ voice. “Solid Gold Katz-N-Flocken!” I cried before executing a brief reprise of one of John Travolta’s classic dance routines.
My inner pixie asks for more
“Does it include the dancing discount as well?” I asked.
He glanced around, and seeing no sign of his manager, punched in his employee discount. “Now it does,” he said, grinning. And when I left, he stood a little straighter.
The whole exchange took maybe 15 seconds and brightened the day for both of us. Plus, I saved an additional $3.80.
How are you enriching your life with play today?
P.S. Disco lives! (At least at the Petco.)
Photo credit, disco ball: Sarah