$30,000 Millionaires: Douchebags in the Mist

Venturing into the Dallas jungle in search of the elusive $30,000 millionaire: Is he myth or fact?

After weeks of painstaking research and late-night expeditions that had turned up next to nothing, I was finally on the verge of a breakthrough. I found myself standing, nearly motionless, in the dark, warm environment that I'd identified as the native habitat of the creature I'd been trying so hard to track down: Homo sapiens douchebagus, a hard-partying bipedal primate indigenous to Dallas.

Many people know this creature better by its common name: the $30,000 millionaire. The name is derived from their distinctive behavioral pattern of spending more money than they make in an attempt to appear wealthy and desirable. A clever creature, adept at camouflage, Homo sapiens douchebagus is a peculiar species, and evidence of its existence is largely anecdotal. I hoped to capture one in the wild.

Earlier that night, as I approached my target location downtown, I took note of the telltale signs that experts agree indicate a high likelihood of nearby douchebagus populations. First, there was the valet stand advertising an $8 fee. Like the symbiotic relationship between a clown fish and the sea anemone that houses it, a $30,000 millionaire is never far from a valet. I handed over my keys to a black-shirted attendant and immediately spotted the next signal: a velvet rope.

The VIP booth is where the bottle service happens. Can't afford a $300 bottle of Grey Goose? Make best friends with someone who can. These lucky Wish loungers have the most coveted spot in the bar.
The VIP booth is where the bottle service happens. Can't afford a $300 bottle of Grey Goose? Make best friends with someone who can. These lucky Wish loungers have the most coveted spot in the bar.
The sexy ultra lounge life is filled with beautiful women and the men who love leering over their shoulders. This is Wish, where spiked hair and whisker-washed jeans are de rigueur.
The sexy ultra lounge life is filled with beautiful women and the men who love leering over their shoulders. This is Wish, where spiked hair and whisker-washed jeans are de rigueur.
Two blondes fall into orbit around a wrinkled-chic guy. The rolled cuff is keyónobody likes an uptight douchebagus.

Because a good pair of $200 leather loafers rarely leaves tracks on the sidewalks of Dallas, a velvet rope is usually the surest indication of a $30,000 millionaire's location. I'd arrived early on purpose. Tonight's expedition was more of a stakeout than a hunt, so the long line of club-going hopefuls that every $30,000 millionaire hopes to bypass with a quick "What's up, bro?" to the bouncer had not yet formed.

The black-clad doorman unclipped the velvet rope before me, and I descended into a world of neon blue. This was Mantus, and today was Naked Sunday. In 3.5-inch suede Cole Haan heels, wearing a tiny pair of what a salesgirl had assured me were "winter shorts" and with a head full of painstakingly straightened hair, I had done my best to imitate the target mate of the $30,000 millionaire: trendy, scantily clad, but otherwise unremarkable. No flash, no glow. I would leave that to my quarry.

In the bar, credit cards passed from patron to bartender. Discarded glasses containing half-bitten olives and over-squeezed limes littered the scene. As I forked over $7 for a well whiskey and cola, waves of imminent douchebaggery washed over me. Tonight was my night. I moved toward the back of the room, near the VIP lounge and high-definition televisions.

The bar, an increasingly popular type of Dallas drinking establishment known as an "ultra lounge," filled as the minutes ticked closer to midnight. I sipped my whiskey and sucked in my stomach, smiling slightly. To my surprise, many potential specimens were looking my way. My heart pounded. How close I was to making actual human-to-douchebag contact! Yes, it seemed every guy who came within 10 feet of me took a good, long look. It was like they couldn't help but stare at this fine piece of girl-bait. I sucked up my drink, fast, and tried to look thirsty and vacant.

My oglers fit the profile magnificently. A guy in a white shirt sewn from neckline to hem with superfluous off-white patches glanced over three times. His buddy, in a dark green sport coat and Kenneth Cole sneakers, followed suit. Across the walkway, a dude with a bleached faux-hawk and four silver necklaces gave me the eye. I was on the verge of deciding which one of these guys would be the first to buy me a drink when a flash of pink just a few inches to my left caught my eye. I turned my head and realized, to my horror, that the flash of pink was exactly that.

Less than a foot from my head, on the high-definition television, was a giant, gyrating female organ, freshly waxed: the real object of all those glances I'd thought I'd been getting. Naked Sundays at Mantus are taken literally—soft-core porn played on the screen all night. I abandoned my post immediately and was forced to come up with an emergency plan. Thirsty and vacant could not compete with this broadcast of flesh.

The porn on the wall served as a powerful reminder: The $30,000 millionaire is accustomed to instant gratification. He cannot be expected to work or wait for anything. I would not only have to insinuate myself into his environment, but I would have to offer myself up to him on a (leased) silver platter. But I remained resolute: In the name of overpriced martinis everywhere, Homo sapiens douchebagus would be mine.

Elusive and, some say, mythical, the $30,000 millionaire is a creature of legend among the denizens of Dallas nightlife. Used frequently as a term of derision, the $30,000 millionaire is often referenced but rarely captured because it is a master of camouflage: $30,000 millionaires live above their means, usually with the aid of multiple credit cards and sympathetic family units, spending more money than they make on items such as leased luxury cars, designer clothing and $14 drinks.

Fancying myself an intrepid, if boozy, anthropologist, I tried to find out as much as I could about these beings. My hope: to make this urban legend a reality by observing Homo sapiens douchebagus in its native environment. Dallas, with its low cost of living, plentiful jobs and affinity for the flashier, finer things in life, is the $30,000 millionaire's ideal habitat. Exclusive clubs­—ultra lounges—offering bottle service and supposedly airtight guest lists make it that much easier for the $30,000 millionaire to convince himself he is living large.

Live capture may be rare, but sightings are not uncommon, especially in the areas of North Texas where douchebagus is believed to make its nest, forage for food and search for mates. The anthropologist looking for $30,000 millionaires should begin in Uptown, Knox-Henderson or Addison.

Anecdotal evidence, gathered over 2.5 years of shopping, drinking and partying in Dallas, provided me with a basic sketch of the $30,000 millionaire. The creature is predominantly nocturnal. He is occasionally spotted during daylight hours in close proximity to brunch buffets and build-your-own-Bloody-Mary bars. More intelligent than many experts give him credit for, the $30,000 millionaire is highly social and characterized by easily identifiable plumage: wildly spiked, occasionally faux-hawked and usually frosted hair atop the head. About the torso, look for brand-name adornment in the form of shirts stamped with cheeky slogans or printed with a great deal of over-designed crap. There will be man-jewelry.

Indeed, members of the species douchebagus are overwhelmingly male. This is not a problem, as they have no need to procreate and, in fact, are averse to it. The rare female of the species is closely related to Homo sapiens gold-diggus and can be recognized by her exorbitantly priced footwear and surgical enhancement in the chest and facial regions.

But barroom conjecture and blurry, late-night observations do not a proper study make. I needed an expert, someone who could help me find hard evidence. Luckily enough, the world's foremost authority on all things Homo sapiens douchebagus lives in Dallas. His name is Jay Gormley, and most will recognize him as one of the faces of KTVT-Channel 11's nighttime newscast. Gormley is the writer of an independent film called, appropriately enough, $30,000 Millionaires. No one has spent more time trying to understand Homo sapiens douchebagus.

When I meet Gormley at his pleasant cottage in Southern Dallas, he is hardly the martini-hating, fashion-loathing lunatic with poor hygiene I expected to encounter. When a student travels to the outer reaches of the world—in this case, Oak Cliff—to find her mentor, she hopes to be rewarded with an aged, wizened teacher conducting bizarre rituals with smelly, holistic beverages. To the contrary, the tall, gangly Gormley is an agreeable 41-year-old single guy, and he makes a fine cup of coffee.

Gormley says he identified the $30,000 millionaire immediately upon moving to the city in 1997 as a cub reporter. After living on a shoestring budget in cities such as Los Angeles and Philadelphia, the 32-year-old Gormley was pleased with his reporter's salary in Dallas and ready to start looking into grown-up things like 401(k)s and home ownership. He still went out a couple of nights a week, though, and was shocked by what he found at local bars and clubs.

"I'm noticing people five, six, seven years younger than me," Gormley remembers one morning at his home just south of Kessler Park. But these drinkers weren't at dollar beer night, or five-dollar pitcher night, the way Gormley remembers his 20s. "They were partying at $12 martini night."

Gormley initially thought Dallas was just filled with wealthy young people, but closer inspection brought a revelation. "They were sales managers at J. Crew!" The memories are fresh in Gormley's mind as he throws up his hands, acting out his frustrations: "You dress nicer than me! You drive nicer cars than me! But I think I get a little bit more money from my job!" Gormley is honest about the source of his frustration: "It was out of jealousy."

Gormley channeled that negative energy into writing a screenplay. $30,000 Millionaires is a romantic comedy in the vein of Wedding Crashers and Swingers, about the over-sexed, under-funded escapades of five 20-something Dallasites who live by a mantra Gormley coined: "You fake what you don't make."

The film has yet to be made, but Gormley has secured a distribution deal and had an offers sheet—a preliminary contract for a role—approved by Jon Gries, who played Uncle Rico in Napoleon Dynamite. Today, the movie has become both Gormley's greatest dream and worst nightmare. Initial interest in the film was strong, and it looked like Gormley and his filmmaking partner, John Venable, would be overnight successes in the manner of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.

The Dallas duo launched the film's Web site, 30kMillionaires.com, on February 1, 2006. By the end of the month, their site had garnered nearly 40,000 hits and e-mails were pouring in from around the country and across the globe. Alongside woeful confessional letters from self-professed $30,000 millionaires, Gormley found e-mails of interest or Web hits from Warner Bros. and Fox's comedy development department. Investors were wrangled. Money was promised. And then, nothing. Bigger projects came up, and $30,000 Millionaires was pushed to the backburner.

Today, the film is in limbo. But passion for the $30,000 millionaire remains strong, evidenced by the continuing popularity of Gormley and Venable's Web site and the e-mails they still receive. If anyone can take credit for popularizing, if not originating, the term "$30,000 millionaire," it's these two.

"After I wrote that script and launched that Web site two years ago, it took off," Gormley says. His knowledge and understanding of these financially challenged creatures is unparalleled. He owns what is probably the world's largest archive of writings collected directly from Homo sapiens douchebagus, amassed in an e-mail folder on his personal computer.

Their words are heartbreaking: "Credit is my middle name," one laments, and "the only girls I can't get are the good ones that see through my façade." Another describes "meeting friends for drinks and watching half of them bail for the bathroom or taking a call when the check comes to the table."

With my notebook poised, I become his dutiful student, drinking in years of close study and accumulated knowledge.

"Dallas is the Los Angeles of the South," Gormley lectures, the kind of place where "we drive everywhere to get anywhere." Unlike Los Angeles, however, "there are only two things to do: dine out and shop." With little local history other than the dubious honor of being the site of the Kennedy assassination, Dallas doesn't have the cultural draw of cities such as Chicago or New York or the geographical features that make Miami and Denver destinations. "There's not a family somewhere sitting around a table, holding hands, saying, 'Honey, it's Dallas or San Francisco for vacation this year, where do you want to go?'" Gormley says. (Naysayers who cite Dallas' art museum and gallery culture in order to contradict Gormley are addressed in $30,000 Millionaires directly: In the deserted arts district, a character says, "you could shoot someone in broad daylight and never spend a day in jail.")

The result is a city full of wannabes. There are enough real moneyed folk—North ranks sixth in the nation in number of millionaires—tooling around in Bentleys and Rolls-Royces to drive the image-obsessed to financial extremes to fit in. The recent openings of luxury hotels such as the W and the Ritz-Carlton only further Dallasites' reputation as connoisseurs of pre-fabricated symbols of wealth. Our culture is no culture, or, our culture is shiny objects.

The No. 1 thing to look out for, Gormley tells me, is the car. "A BMW 3 series." The cheapest luxury lease you could get. "It's always a 3 series."

As I prepare to enter the field, however, Gormley gives me a dark bit of advice: "The guys who are $30,000 millionaires," he warns, "don't know that they're $30,000 millionaires."

I am intrigued and undeterred. Bigfoot may not know he is Bigfoot, but that doesn't mean he won't leave tracks in the woods.

Time: 1:15 a.m. Friday

Location: The W Hotel's Living Room Bar

Research team members: Jay Gormley, John Venable, self

Target: Gormley spots four potential Homo sapiens douchebagus drinking vodka tonics in button-down shirts and whisker-washed jeans

Suspicious behavior: Unnecessary amounts of hair gel.

I approach confidently, unknowingly exuding threatening levels of sass. I peek my head into their circle and muster up all the sugary-sweetness I have. "Hey, guys, can I ask you a question?"

The alpha male, sunglasses perched on his forehead, sizes me up. "What's up, babe?"

"Have you guys ever heard the term '$30,000 millionaire'?"

I watch as the guys catch each others' eyes.

"Yeah, man, they're all over this place!" the one in the striped shirt says.

"This place is packed with them," another assures me, leaning in and assaulting my olfactory nerves with cologne.

"Do you guys know any?" I ask, looking from the loafers to button-down to hair gel on each one.

"No!"

"Nah."

"Uh-uh."

The alpha male simply shakes his head.

Results: Inconclusive. Subjects familiar with species. Possible specimens based on attire, over-application of artificial scent and use of term "babe" for an unfamiliar female. Reluctance to continue conversation could be construed as an admission of guilt or merely as plain dislike for this researcher. Does Homo sapiens douchebagus fear sass?

When Dian Fossey first set up camp in the African wilderness, hoping the surrounding mountain gorillas would eventually become habituated to her presence, she made one key mistake. The first behavior she set out to imitate in an attempt to integrate into the gorilla culture was chest beating. Fossey worked hard to imitate the animals' rhythmic signals by pounding on her own thighs. Eventually, she got it down, but the gorillas didn't warm to her. Finally, the answer came: Chest beating is a sign of alarm, not friendship.

I made a similar mistake, and my faux pas also involved a chest—my own. I wanted something that would introduce the subject of $30,000 millionaires subtly. My first overzealous tracking expedition, to the Ghostbar atop the W and the Living Room Bar on the hotel's main floor, had revealed little other than the fact that the Ghostbar's guest list is still a joke. Unless, that is, your idea of a swanky, exclusive club involves middle-aged women in mom jeans juggling cosmopolitans and Brighton purses, plus a whole lot of dudes in pleated Dockers.

Just as valets and velvet ropes attract Homo sapiens douchebagus, there are certain things guaranteed to repel them. Pleated Dockers and middle-aged women are on this list. What would catch the $30,000 millionaire's attention? What would make him laugh? What would get the conversation started? Why, a sexy tank top with "I $30k Millionaires" splashed across the front, of course. I would turn myself into live bait.

I visited Armhole, the perennially trendy T-shirt boutique in the Mondrian building on Blackburn Street, right in the center of the $30,000 millionaire breeding grounds. In less than an hour, I had both an enlightening conversation with the shop owner and a tight, cheeky tank top.

"We get those types in here sometimes," the tattooed owner told me, as she affixed little yellow letters to my shirt. "They pull up in a Mercedes, walk in and ask for a job application." She laughed. "You drive a Mercedes, but you want a job application?"

It is a fine example of the sad state of $30,000 millionaires' financial affairs. Bottle service at any local ultra lounge starts in the hundreds of dollars for one night of partying. Add that to a car payment—figure at least $300 to lease a low-end BMW—and $650 in rent on the smallest available Uptown or Knox-Henderson studio apartment. Pile on designer clothes, and the expenses go up. You might be able to get away with one or two pairs of $150 jeans, but even shirts from Banana Republic or Diesel, if the $30k-er is slumming it, will run $50 each. And he'll need several.

That's thousands of dollars a month in clothes, booze and flash. The catch: Anyone who can be seen partying five, six or seven nights a week, as Homo sapiens douchebagus is known to do, can't possibly maintain the kind of 9-to-5 job necessary to cover those expenses. How do they do it?

"We're not talking three or four credit cards," debt counselor Bettye Banks tells me, when I go to her to find out how these exorbitant lifestyles are funded. "We're talking five or six credit cards." Banks is the senior vice president for education at Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Greater Dallas, and if anyone can confirm the existence of debt-plagued Homo sapiens douchebagus, it's her.

"They are the reason I have a job," Banks says, a sad smile on her face. Dallas-Fort Worth consistently ranks among the lowest nationally when it comes to credit scores. Experian, a company that tracks credit, estimates DFW's average score to be 667 as of October. The national average is 692. Texas' average, 666, is the lowest in the country. We are maxed out.

Banks calls credit cards "C-4," as in plastic explosive.

"It's that bling-bling attitude" that makes credit cards so tempting and dangerous, she says. "Everything's got to be shiny. That's the millionaire outlook, only on a $30,000-per-year income."

Being a $30,000 millionaire is a high-stress job in itself. Debt collectors call every day, but the pressure to act like you're shitting cash doesn't go away. No wonder these guys can't stop bragging about their cars and their clothes—it's all they have to go on, as I learned when I took my "I $30k Millionaires" shirt out for a spin.

Time: 11:30 p.m. Friday

Location: Wish Ultra Lounge, off Knox-Henderson

Research team members: Two faithful co-workers, self

Target: Blond guy in a faux-hawk and black sport coat

Wish skews younger than other ultra lounges, toward the college set, but this guy is older than most in the crowd.

"Hello, love," he whispers in my ear. I've been left alone with my tank top by my co-workers in hope that I might seem more approachable. He's half-drunk, and his British accent is as faux as his faux-hawk.

"Hi, there," I say, turning to face him. This is Jeremy, and he is behind the white half-wall that separates the plebes from the swanksters with bottle service and booths.

"I've been watching you all night," he says, and I refrain from asking what he thought of the Lean Cuisine I'd eaten for dinner. "You're really hot."

"Thanks." I do a little shoulder-wiggle, wondering how it's possible that this guy isn't (1) staring at my boobs and (2) commenting on the shirt.

"Do you come here often, love?"

"No, it's my first time."

Silence. I'm the one being hit on here, right? This should be where he swoops in with yet another brilliant, clever follow-up line like, "Are your feet tired?"

I force the conversation to plod on. "What brings you here?"

"Birthday party for my friend," he explains. More silence. I ask him what he does for a living.

"Mortgage banking." Riveted as I am by our conversation so far, I'm anxious to get to what I need to know: Is he or isn't he a $30,000 millionaire? I reveal that I'm a journalist, writing about nightlife in Dallas. Is he familiar with the $30k-ers?

"You're really cute."

I thank him for his time and head to the bar.

Results: Not nearly enough game for a $30,000 millionaire. Homo sapiens douchebagus has a nearly unparalleled ability in the field of bullshit.

By the end of the night, I find myself relaxing on an outside futon with a musician and a doctor—Wes and Joe, respectively. Recent Dallas transplants from Memphis and Kansas City who happen to know the club owner, they're miffed by the douchebaggery that surrounds them.

"There's nothing like this in Memphis," Wes says. Joe, the quiet one, nods in agreement. Musicians and doctors make terrible $30,000 millionaires because of the inherently cool nature of their jobs and, for doctors, the fact that saving lives limits the amount of time they have to chug bottles of Grey Goose with Justin Timberlake remixes playing in the background. I enlist their help in drawing out a key behavior of Homo sapiens douchebagus: peacocking.

"Peacocking" is a term popularized by the mondo-douchebag's guide to picking up women, The Game. It means dressing to get the attention of women, but I like to apply it to the douchebag vs. douchebag verbal competition in which each attempts to one-up their opponent by bragging about the expensive things they own. For the birds, it's colorful feathers. For the $30,000 millionaire, it's usually cars.

"Hey, man, what kind of car do you drive?" Wes grabs the elbow of the first guy who walks by.

"Infiniti." Low-end $30k-er. Perfect.

Next, a shocker from a blond guy who doesn't look a day over 19: "Aston Martin," he says, grinning and putting his arms around two bulbous-chested blondes in sweater dresses. I try to look impressed rather than incredulous. "What do you do for a living?"

"Oil and gas," he says, winking. Something tells me that might mean running the grill at Cuba Libre, not closing billion-dollar natural resource deals in South Texas.

Finally, lightning strikes. The fifth or sixth guy who comes by is bursting with pride. "ME?" He yells over the music, knocking over a freshly poured Cape Cod at the same time, "I have four cars! Well, three and a motorcycle." He rattles off the ways he rolls: a starter Lexus and BMW, plus a Nissan 350Z and a crotch rocket. Can't get a loan on a $100,000 Bentley? Get $30,000 loans and go for quantity over quality. How did this guy make his fortune? The trademark vagueness with regard to Homo sapiens douchebagus' employment wins: "I sell computers."

In the end, the only people really attracted by my tank top bait are waitstaff and bartenders, the people who end up suffering when the $30,000 millionaire walks his tab or tips 5 percent.

Wearing the shirt to free sushi happy hour at Steel in Oak Lawn, I get laughs and high-fives from every waiter I pass. "You're in the right place," one whispers. "Look around!" another says, gesturing to the whole bar. Same thing at Cretia's on McKinney. "They never tip," the bartender says.

I was done being honest. Like Dian Fossey and her gorillas, I was never going to get anywhere by causing alarm, so I squeezed myself into a tube dress and parked myself at the end of a posh bar, alone on a Saturday night.

Time: Early Saturday night

Location: Kenichi in Victory Park

Research team members: Self, honoring the great tradition of other women who sit alone at bars, such as drunks and prostitutes

Target: A soft-featured guy with a blue button-down shirt tucked neatly into his slacks; lacks the flash usually evident on Homo sapiens douchebagus, but he's worth a try

I'm drawn in when "John" and his friends order six cherry-something-or-other-hoo-hah shots, the kind of wussy, trendy shooters favored by guys reluctant to fork over $17 for top-shelf tequila when they just need to get drunk enough to talk to a couple of bimbos. But they pay cash—not typical $30k behavior. There is one shot left over. John puts his arm on my chair and pushes the drink toward me.

"Who are you rooting for?" I ask, gesturing toward the television over the bar. Oklahoma's losing to Texas Tech.

"Tech, babe!" he says. "It's my alma mater." I sympathize. As a Longhorn fan, I say, I love to see Oklahoma lose any which way. "Did you go to UT?" he asks. I didn't, I admit. I went to NYU. No football there. But UT's my surrogate team. He rolls his eyes.

"That's lame," he says. What am I doing here all by myself, he wants to know. I'm a writer, I gush. I'm looking for $30,000 millionaires.

"Oh, I used to be one of those guys," he says. "I fucked up my credit bad."

I try to keep myself from jumping off of the barstool and kissing him. A real, live, recovering $30,000 millionaire! Mere inches from me! Just as I am about to ask him about how he came to be the kind of guy who pays with cash instead of Visa, Tech scores. A short, blond sorority-type to John's right cheers.

"GOOOOOO, TECH!" she screams. In no time at all, the only conversation available to me is with the back of John's head. "That's my school!" the girl continues to cheer. Within seconds, he is ushering her out the door, hand on her lower back, and I am left alone.

Results: Pleased with success in identifying former Homo sapiens douchebagus. Important lesson learned. Lose all interesting attributes, become as generic as possible and absolutely do not talk about having a job. These things detract from the $30,000 millionaire's desire to divulge copious amounts of personal information in an attempt to sleep with me.

Finally, with this understanding of what it would take to lock down a $30k-er, I proceeded to my final destination: Mantus and Naked Sundays.

All the elements aligned that Sunday night—valets, velvet ropes and the fact that it was Sunday. Lawyers, doctors, businessmen and anyone else likely to be raking in real millions has to work on Monday morning. Homo sapiens douchebagus' life of never-ending leisure is the ultimate giveaway.

Taking a cue from a favorite Sex and the City episode in which Miranda, the successful lawyer, pretends to be a flight attendant in order to get dates, I keep my story simple. I am new in town. My friends are supposed to meet me soon. Never been to college, and I'm studying to be a hairdresser. Isn't drinking fun? Look at my tiny shorts! Tee-hee!

My cover is almost blown immediately. While I'm standing next to the recently discovered porn screen, planning my next move, a familiar face appears in the crowd. He's several years older than most of the 20-somethings in the room, and he's in the telltale striped button-down shirt and pre-distressed jeans. As he makes his way past me, I narrowly avoid making eye contact.

This man is the founder of a social club called The Beautiful Room, a group of people assembled after their photos are approved by the founder and it is established via a phone interview that they enjoy drinking and bragging about their cars. There is a monthly fee. I wrote about the group last year when I infiltrated their ranks in another immersive field study of local assholery.

If Dallas is the land of douchebags, this man is their king.

To my relief, I don't think he recognizes me. Last time I saw His Highness, my hair was long and red, not short and brunette like it is today. I am terrified because the man knows my true identity, but also overjoyed. Spotting the king is like hitting the Homo sapiens douchebagus jackpot.

Time: Very, very early Monday morning

Location: Mantus; inside, near their wall of white pleather booths

Target: A short, five-o'clock-shadowed guy wearing a T-shirt I estimate at approximately 2.5 times too small. I "accidentally" bump into him while climbing over an ottoman.

"Oh, excuse me!"

"No, babe, it's fine. You're looking good tonight." He smiles and gives me a little "Cheers!" clinking his glass with mine.

"Oh, thanks. I'm waiting on my friends. I've never been here before! This place is really nice!" I babble.

"Oh, it's the only place to be on Sunday. I'm new here too." This is Justin, and he recently made the trek north from Austin. I tell him I was at Kenichi on Saturday, trying to keep the conversation safely in booze-and-bragging territory.

"That place is good," he says. "I know the owner, like, really well. I'm going to go broke eating there!" He laughs a little too hard. "Not really, you know."

"Right," I laugh, a little harder. What brings him up from Austin?

"Software," he says, vaguely. "I sell software."

"Oh, computers are fun!" I offer. What brings me to town? "I'm going to be a hairdresser. Hair school." He grins, wrapping his arm around my waist.

"You know what would be a sexy date? You give me a haircut, and we'll share a bottle of wine."

"Wouldn't that be a dangerous date?" I ask. I don't mention the fact that his receding hairline didn't leave much cutting to be done.

Before I can determine if we're going back to his place or mine—$30k-ers almost always insist on the girl's place—King Douche appears right over Justin's shoulder as if he's about to interrupt our conversation.

"Well, it was nice to meet you. I'm going to have a cigarette!" I squeal and head for the patio.

Results: High likelihood of Homo sapiens douchebagus, considering his apparent friendly relationship with Douche Vader, vague "software" reference and name-drop of the Kenichi owner.

I flee potential outing by the Czar of Assholery by chain-smoking Camels in Mantus' underground porch. My feet are aching, and I've got a case of the caffeine jitters courtesy of four Diet Cokes. A drunk guy named Juan tries to woo me after I ask him for a light.

"I saw you over by the porn earlier," he says. A veritable Don Juan, indeed! We talk for a few minutes, and he tells me he's a medical student. "Probably surgery. Something like that." He's too far gone to be milked for $30,000 millionaire info, though he's a likely candidate.

"What's your name again?" he asks, flipping open his phone to take down my number. Seconds after I take leave of him, a guy in a loud, purplish button-down shirt asks me for a cigarette. This one "used to be a jewelry designer." Today, he sells furniture. He's got the day off tomorrow, he mentions. Nothing to do tomorrow morning. Nowhere to be. Hint, hint, hint. I stop caring if he's a $30,000 millionaire or just a garden-variety douchebag. I stomp out my smoke in mid-cig and make for the valet stand. It's almost 2 a.m.

While I'm waiting for the valet to bring my car, I reflect on all the field interviews conducted over the past several weeks. Taken together, these guys equal just about one stereotypical $30,000 millionaire, but I never managed to turn up the total package in one guy. Dismayed, I shift back and forth on my heels and try to calm my aching head—until fate gives me one last wink.

The couple in front of me—a guy in a white button-down and loafers, girl in a sexy top and jeans—walk toward a black sedan as the valet pulls up. It is a BMW. The valet climbs out of the driver's seat, and the guy gives her a nod and a set of finger-guns.

As they speed away, I catch the silver lettering on the back of the car: 328i. Bigfoot disappears into the brush.

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1 comments
jamiewatkins333
jamiewatkins333

Absolutely love this. I spent a bit over a year in dallas starting over at age 38 with nothing, thanks to my ex. I actually was the single girl at the end of the bar that was going to beauty school, and too naive to know that I was classified by where I sat. In hindsight, that explains so much. Those formative months mean so much, because that was when I learned to truly live. Thank you for the reminder, and I always enjoy the dallas observer's content. Please keep it up.

 
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