My Office Is a Dive Bar in East Nashville
Meet Cock D., the fictional Nashville-based Yelper, written by a real-life chef, whose idea of nirvana is a dirty burger inside a beer joint amidst questionable patrons and a couple of health code violations.
Illustration by Joshua David Stein
We first discovered the fictional character known as Cock Daniels, or "Cock D." on Yelp, where he was busy writing longform stories about his culinary adventures around Nashville's overlooked gems, dive bars, and dark corners. As we read through his stories, we quickly realized that this epic series of demented tales—which is like reading a cross between Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential—should find a proper internet home. It was also flagged as inappropriate on Yelp. Written by a real-life respectable chef who will remain anonymous, this is the first of many installments in this ongoing literary series. Meet Cock D., as in, "the D's short for Daniels, and the Cock's not short for shit."
"You can't sleep here," the officer told me.
"I'm talking to your partner, the one with the light up my ass," I said.
The lights were coming in from all sides, making me dizzy again, and I salivated something sour. "I'm not drunk, I've just been drinking," I replied. I swallowed a mouthful of vomit, my head lifted itself off my shoulders and fell on the horn.
Three hours prior...
"Cock!" she called, barely wearing a black bikini on a pontoon boat tied up to the dock with a cooler full of iced-down beers, waiting with a pack of reds clutched in her waving right hand. The shape of her hip bones pierced my lungs, my breath turned into a cold fog while I stood ashore at the bottom of a frozen hill. A fair-haired and lean whitetail deer stood at the top with the fog settling around itself. The animal was asking to be put down, cut open, and bled out onto the frosted grass. I wanted to wear her skin like long underwear, tight as a tree and fit enough around the crotch for a layer of Levi's.
The rope unraveled from the dock, and she continued to wave from afar as the pontoon creeped down the river.
I opened my eyes to realize that my open mouth was in a pool of warm beer, drool, and hydrated ash, my fingers still gripped around the glass handle of an empty jar. I was at Dino's Bar and Grill, the last stop before Wonderland and the most ancient bar on Gallatin Pike. My love, my purpose, and my office. I couldn't have her enough, but I do try.
As the east side of the Cumberland River continues to eat and shit on everything that was once good and true about the simplicity of a sorrowful man drinking a warm beer while smoking a crooked cigarette in a colorless room in Nashville, Dino's is a pirate ship floating in a wave pool, surviving each cycle of its own idea, misunderstood and misused. I've seen Dino's appropriated by these young scavengers, with their striped tank tops, tiny nipples, and hairless chests, but they all have too much drive and wit to call it their permanent home. Their phase with this place molests itself and they move on to the next dirt lounge with a fresher established date, more selections, and prettier women—or they buy a tie and get jobs selling rental cars or managing a phone case kiosk when someone with a bit more recognizable taste than their part-time barista girlfriend gives them an honest critique of their dogshit band.
Like a well-seasoned and soiled fingernail, it'll turn off the innocent. I've seen a gaggle of revolted fat girls with cramping stomachs leave abruptly, never ordering anything because they were too afraid to see it get made. As for myself, I regularly have the cheeseburger, and it comes highly recommended. It hangs just under the unnecessary hamburger on the plastic lettered menu above the flattop and fryer. They do our national food product its fair justice, with the simplicity it deserves and the complete lack of care it takes to properly prepare. But my Lord, it's the smoke, the stools, and the smallness that carry its charm. Dino's is made of denim and brick, and like those precious materials, it'll be swallowed by the sea before it goes out of style.
If it weren't for beer and burger joints like Dino's, I'd probably kill myself. So it's a five-star rating for me, if not only for keeping these lips from sucking on the end of a .38.
"Pull your shit together," Rick, the bartender/cook/captain said to me as he spat out a hunk of Timber Wolf snuff into a coffee can on the kitchen side of the bar, lit a cigarette, and turned to the flattop. He flipped two burgers with one hand, dropped a basketful of fries into hot black oil with the other, and jerked his head back, teeth biting the filter and smoke exhaling from his skin. "Your boyfriend's here."
I raised my head up from the bar's ledge, let the stool help swizzle me to the left, and braced myself with my right elbow onto the bar's lip. And there he was, my bottom half: Frog Williams, part-time landscaper, full-time asshole. He moved in like a cave drawing, with that slow, alien shape. Frog's beer belly is legend. Not for its size, but for its significance. It's the Mount Kilimanjaro of bellies. The rest of him is just razorblades all pointed at you. He's got the figure of a vegan Pilates instructor just into her 3rd trimester. I haven't seen him eat solid food since he started smoking, which... well, I've just never seen him eat, but that's not to say he doesn't eat. I'm just saying he's got an eating disorder.
"Cock Daniels," he said. He was happy. Something was wrong. "Well, aren't you as bad off as they say?"
Thanks to my refusal to address my own interpersonal communication weaknesses and my crippling lack of empathy, I have no actual friends, only a few favors spread across a very small contact list, and somewhere near the top of that list is Frog Williams. We've been collecting favors from each other ever since I kept watch at the bathroom door in the seventh grade, when him and Ms. Baker... Shit. No, that was Sewell. We've been collecting favors from each other ever since I kept watch at the bathroom door in the seventh grade when he got his first blow job from a sixth grader. Now, I'll stop you right there, cause that's not as horrific as it may sound. They dated for a couple of weeks in high school, so it's damn near romantic.
"She's gone again, huh?" I asked. Frog confidently lifted his hand. "Gimme two."
"Let's just leave it," I told him.
Two freshly handled masons of the finest lukewarm Pabst on this side of the river landed in each of our hands. As far as I can tell, there are a load of assholes out there trying real hard to make it uncool to drink Blue Ribbon, but fuck them all, because legends never die. Thank God for craft beer and attention deficit disorder, or a PBR might cost me more than a dollar fifty.
"Good," he replied. He's such a bastard.
My eyes bobbled in the glass. He looked straight at me. "Listen, Cock, I got an idea."
"If this is something to do about a fucking horse," I responded. "No way, no how. Not this time."
This happens quite often, as men without any redeemable, serviceable, or societal skill absolutely adore ideas.
"I'm getting married," he said. I wanted to take my stiletto switchblade out of my back pocket and push it to the hilt, right through his rock hard belly, and gut him straight up till his sternum stopped the blade.
"That's not an idea, that's just something people do" I told him.
He replied. "I'm settling, is what I'm saying, and I wanted to tell you first." Then I'd twist the sharpest end to his left and follow the length of each rib—back and forth, and up to and around the next—until I found his heart.
"Okay, so what's this idea? You wanna get a shot somewhere, or something? What is this?" I didn't understand.
"We're going to Vegas," he said with a smile.
"Ok. Good luck with that" I replied.
"No, motherfucker. WE are," he said as he hit my belly. Frog put a wet and wadded two-dollar bill on the bar.
"These are on me, buddy. Look, I gotta run. We got reservations at Margaritaville tonight. I'll find you once I figure out the details."
Frog breezed out the door before I could build the care to ask who she might be.
Rick picked up the cash and quickly noticed,"You know this isn't enough?"
"Yeah," I responded. I've been on either side of this several times before, yet this time was different. It felt like my skin could dissolve, that my bones could let go of their meat, and it all could just fall off the stool. "I'm not nearly done drinking yet."
Less than three hours later...
I came back to life in the back of a patrol car, wrists cuffed behind my back, and two officers starting at me from the front seats.
"He's awake again," said one of the officers.
I raised myself up on the seat.
"Cock? Hey, what's with the license plate? Why the fuck would you, of all people, advertise?" one of them asked from the front seat of the squad car.
I coughed up something rancid and let it go on the floorboard. "It's not my car. You should know that already."
He nodded, "I didn't take you for a CR-V man, anyhow."
"Yeah, so whose is it?" The passenger cop turned. "Your old lady?"
"It's a long story, that you will never hear," I replied.
"'COCK D.' Hell of a tag. She's got a tramp stamp on her fucking car? Must be a fun one."
They both laughed like they hadn't in days.
"What's on the back of your car? 'CUNT D'?" "How about 'DUBL D'?"
They kept laughing. If I remember only one thing, I'll remember this: I noticed the passenger seat cop tapping my ID on his left leg.
"I don't have a car."I told them. I realized that my attorney, Suitcase, wouldn't be up for another eight hours. I'd assumed he was just as drunk as I was.
"Good luck getting a DUI out of this one, fellas," I told them.
"Is that right?" The driver raised his eyebrows in the rearview.
"Keep the car, and thanks for the bed. I'll call my lawyer in the morning. Excuse me while I lay back down." And so I did. "And please, a bit of quiet, boys? I got a dream that keeps getting interrupted."
I rubbed my cheek against the seat, and I smiled for the first time in three days. The leather upholstery felt like a cool breeze right off the Tennessee River.
Cock D., out.