Paxon Lounge

by Tim Gilmore, 2/1/2019

cont’d from Patrick Allen Herald’s Old Stomping Grounds

When she met him at Paxon Lounge in 1990, she had no idea he was awaiting trial for sexual assault. She certainly didn’t know he’d soon start murdering prostitutes. “He was real nice,” she said.

Patrick Allen Herald was a regular at Paxon Lounge. Three years after that cold, rainy October night, he’d be arrested for cashing a stolen check at the bar. He’d been arrested for rape one month before. Later that night, he’d leave her for dead in a ditch by Trout River.

Paxon Lounge stays dark, eddies and clogs with cigarette smoke. Just like 1985, ’75, ’65, just like it was when it was Edgewood Heights Lounge in the late 1950s.

from a 1965 Jacksonville city directory

Up front in the package store, everyone buying a bottle is black; everyone behind the black curtain that leads to the bar is white. It’s not “separate but equal,” a straight-backed man named Hump tells me at the bar. “It just fell out that way tonight.” Hump hiccups.

Joe Stampley’s 1974 country song, “Whiskey Talkin’” plays behind the din of conversation. Pat Herald used to black out and wind up, dressed as a woman, in New York and Nevada. If liquor was Herald’s only problem, he might have used Stampley’s lyrics as an alibi: “It was whiskey talkin’ to her, Lord. / I swear it wasn’t me.” In 1994, the State of Florida sentenced Patrick Allen Herald, not whiskey, nor Dilantin and Phenobarbital, his anti-seizure medications, to 25 years minimum.

Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist Randall Hall told Spin magazine in April 1999 that Paxon Lounge was a Jacksonville redneck bar “with a two tooth minimum.”

In an October 9, 1999 story, “Randall Hall Rocks the Paxon Lounge,” for the Music Industry News Network, Rick Grant said if you have to ask where “the Paxon” is located, “then you don’t belong there.” (At the end of the story, he said “the Paxon” stood “next to the Dollar Store.”)

“Yes, ‘the wild night was calling,’” Grant wrote, quoting the 1971 Van Morrison song, “and the Paxon continues to be one of the last bastions of no-frills, real rock’n’roll—now featuring the Randall Hall Band in this quaint Jacksonville party palace.”

Bastion no longer, palace never, in early cold 2019, Paxon Lounge features no live music and nobody here remembers a little-known serial killer named Patrick Allen Herald.

“Hey,” says Hump. “I cain’t even remember this mornin’.” Ain’t it funny, he shrugs, how “nobody got time to waste,” but “everybody anxious ’bout losin’ it?”

I’m a much better listener than speaker. I let him continue. I let him believe his talking means he’s in control.

“We ain’t even got time to begin with,” he says, “not ’til we’re dead. Only people got time is dead people.” He says it again. To give it more depth. Only people got time is already dead.

He’s bought me two fingers’ sour mash. I knock ’em back. “I disagree,” I say. “We’ve got time. All they’ve got is eternity.”