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Late night in the city 

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

Page 3 of 4

"Nothing," he says with a pronounced French accent and then proceeds to do some kind of weird dance that scares me a little. It's time to go. Obviously, Uptown is closed and filled with weird motherfuckers.

We head down the wrong street to get to my car. But as we're backtracking to get back to where the vehicle is parked, we spot a long line at the corner of Trade and Tryon streets. What's this? A new club? A hot after-hours party spot? No. It's a damned hot dog stand.

"Street meat," says Libby, a woman who's standing in line. She and her friends headed out at 11 p.m. to check out Suite. As she waits for Kerry to get her chili dog, she says. "Then we left there and went to Alley Cat."

"Where you could at least get a drink," chimes in Heather. The women say they had a good time at Alley Cat, it wasn't that crowded and the vibe was nice. But at 2 a.m., they weren't exactly ready to leave and go home.

"What's next on the agenda?" I ask.

"There's not much else to do, other than party at a friend's house," Libby says. She's originally from New Jersey, and she's not used to everything shutting down at 2 a.m. Besides, when she and her friends go out, which isn't every weekend, they want to party all night long.

"This kind of sucks," says Libby. "We don't go out until 11 p.m., so that gives you -- what -- three hours?"

Heather says, in her hometown, which is somewher in Kentucky, bars don't close until 4 a.m.

"Charlotte needs a 24-hour diner," says Kerry right before taking a big bite of her hot dog. "Right there on the corner."

After 2 a.m., it seems as if food is the only thing really popping in the Queen City. One of the most popular places to eat on Saturday night is the Skyland Family Restaurant on South Boulevard. Its parking lot is usually packed with cars. It's too crowded to get in tonight, so we move down the street to the Waffle House. Out in the parking lot, a CMPD officer stands guard, but he seems to be busier flirting than actually working. Sure hope this dude is off duty.

Inside the Waffle House, it looks as if it's kind of quiet. But as I walk up to the register to order a cup of coffee -- you know, since all of the Starbucks are closed -- a man sitting at the bar leans over and asks, "Have you ever seen a Waffle House fight?"

"No. What happened?"

He says the cooks are mad because the food is stacking up and the waitresses aren't serving the people fast enough. Though he's sitting patiently and has given his order to his server Helen, he knows that it's going to be a while before he eats.

"Wow," I say as I look at the grease collecting in the cooling food sitting on the counter in front of the grill.

"I haven't been to the Waffle House in seven years," he says, watching the waitress scramble to feed the hungry people sitting at the plastic tables.

"What brings you here tonight?"

"I'm hungry as fuck," he says with a laugh. The man, who says he's too drunk to give me his name, spent the night partying at Thomas Street Tavern before heading to the Waffle House for a stomach full of grease.

If he was that drunk, I wonder why the cop outside didn't notice?

When a waitress walks by the register, I flag her down and ask if I could get a cup of coffee to go.

"I have to take care of that table first," she says while grabbing silverware.

Really? Does it take that much to pour coffee in a paper cup? I'm sure she's one of the waitresses who pissed the cook off, so I decide to leave. Why make a scene over coffee? Besides, the rowdy people at the table she was dying to get back to probably gave her enough hell.

Up the street from the Waffle House is a 24-hour Walgreens drug store. Since sex and food is all people seem to think about at this hour, I wonder if Walgreens sells a lot of condoms after last call?

Inside the Walgreens, located at the corner of Woodlawn Road and South Boulevard, assistant manager Kevin sits on a display in the front of the store eating fruit and talking to an off-duty police officer. Both look as if they could use a cup of coffee. It's nearly 4 a.m. and there are two customers in the store. And no, they didn't buy condoms.

"We don't sell a lot of condoms [this time of night]. We sell a lot of candy, frozen food and sodas," he says as he heads to the register.


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