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Late night in the city 

One writer searches for life in Charlotte after 2 a.m.

Page 2 of 4

These little after-hours houses are, by the way, illegal. In October 2006, CMPD waged war against them, according to an archived story on www.jointogether.org.

"Some operations are sophisticated, with dance floors and armed guards. But shutting them down is hard; if one house is raided, the party often just moves elsewhere. Investigators also have a hard time gathering enough evidence to justify a raid or making a case. Often, liquor houses don't even get the attention of police until violence occurs," reads a report on the Web site.

"Are you going to the liquor house tonight?" I ask.

The other woman in the group answers for him. "No, because she said she's going home to suck his dick, and I'm going to watch." They break out into laughter as they cross the street and get into their car.

Erica and I head over to HOM, wondering if they still charge full admission price this late. We're greeted at the door by Vladimir Males. Despite the late hour, he's teeming with energy and snarky comments about the drunks walking the street and the ones trying to enter the club. (And yes, it costs us $10 after 2 a.m. to get into HOM. But you can enter the on-site restaurant Feast for free.)

Males says, this late in the night, the people coming to the club are folks who work in the industry.

"We're it," he says. "After 2 a.m., HOM is the only place open." Of course, HOM doesn't serve alcohol after 2 a.m. But looking at the level of intoxication of the people strolling up in this spot, they don't need to serve up drinks.

Based on the size and diversity of the crowd, it appears that anyone who's not packing it up and going home is trying to get into HOM. While we're talking, he sees a few people standing around the door and in a exasperated voice, he says, "Are they fighting?" He ducks in the club and finds that there isn't a fight, just people standing around. Males looks relieved when he comes back outside.

Since most of the people visiting to the club that late are already drunk, he has to weed out the really shit-faced folks planning to come in and start a ruckus. Like the group of assholes walking down the street, dressed in black T-shirts and sneakers. One of these dudes, for whatever reason, decides to slap my friend on her butt.

"Man," one of his drunk friends says, "you're going to jail."

The ass-slapper looks at Erica and asks, "Are you the police?"

"Keep it moving," she replies, her face balled up in a mixture of shock and anger.

"I'm sorry, it's my birthday."

"Keep it moving," she says again.

"I just want to hear you say that it's OK."

"No, it's not OK. Now keep it moving!"

One of the men steps to Males and says, "I'll give you $100 if you let us in."

Males shakes his head. "You could give me $500 and you're still not getting in," he replied.

After the rejected partiers move along, Males shakes his head and tells me that when he's not working, he doesn't like going out. "This stuff is stressful," he said.

I bet.

In the time that we were standing outside of HOM, at least three women hit on Males. One intoxicated chick, who is also celebrating her birthday, walks up to him and plants a wet kiss on his cheek. She also does the same thing to a man who's leaving the club. I'm not really sure if she knew him that well.

After leaving HOM, we head down the street, noticing that Uptown is clearing out pretty quickly. It reminds me of Winston-Salem's downtown, except I don't see any tumbleweeds blowing across the empty streets. Just as we're about to pack it up, we sight a celebrity. And no, it's not Dale Jr. It's seven-foot Alexis Ajinca, a Charlotte Bobcats rookie from France. Damn, he's tall.

His entourage is different than most NBA players'; no one is sporting cornrows or a bunch of bling. The guys with him are short and seem to be seeking companionship from any woman who walks down the street. Ajinca watches with a look of amusement as one of his homeboys gets a woman's phone number. (I'm still trying to figure out who is drunker, the man who asks the woman for her phone number or the woman who gives it to him? He has Saturday Night Fever vibe going -- not really a good luck. I wonder if she gave him the rejection hot line number: 704-208-1658.)

So, what is this NBA player doing roaming the streets of Uptown at 3 a.m.? I couldn't help but ask.

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