Professor: And have you been to the Water Trough?
Patron(s): Oh god. Is that the one with the horse picture in front?
Professor: Yeah, yeah.
Patron(s), chuckling: Shit, that place is awful. Like with the Space Room-there’s just nothing there. Like at the Space Room they have one beer on tap and it’s like, Budweiser.
Professor, laughing: totally. The Water Trough, it’s like the original dive bar, man.
And so I knew where to go this week.
The first thing that one ought to know about the Water Trough is that the concern patrons have here about what some other human thinks of their bar is about the same that Americans have for George W. Bush’s post-presidential political career.
The second thing that one ought to know about the Water Trough is that the jukebox selection is awesome. MC5, Queens of the Stone Age, Willie Nelson, Supersuckers, Rolling Stones, Sonic Youth, Al Green, Judas Priest’s Sad Wings of Destiny. Fantastic. Now, nobody’s using that jukebox but I’m always heartened when at the least there’s the presence of a good jukebox. There’s potential there for goodness.
And perhaps the last thing that someone ought to know about the Water Trough is that it’s a completely different place to be in without the smoke. This bar has no windows, just wood paneling and red carpet, and the ceilings are low and black so when smoking was allowed the environment could feel pretty claustrophobic. Like the desperate strains of a shitty Vegas casino, coming in here felt like the act of someone who wanted to inhale death and exhale sadness.
By god I loved it just a little bit for that.
Now? Now I can come here and comfortably hang out. Play shuffleboard, pool, darts. The bartender is nice and pours a full Mt. Hood Ice Axe, something appreciated by a man on a budget. The brew is a bit sweet for a pale and leaves a slick coating in my mouth that is unwelcome but not horrific. It’s reasonably good and gives me non-Widmer or Hamm’s options. I’d have another one if my budget allowed.
If the PA system wasn’t hooked into the classic rock station, I think I’d come here more often. I really don’t need to hear ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ ever again. The chairs are beat up and just a wee bit uncomfortable. There are pictures of dogs playing pool on the wall. There’s an antiseptic-ish scent that tried to kill the years of smoke in the walls that hasn’t quite worked. The bartender is gone for minutes at a stretch to step outside for a smoke.
That said, I really like the camouflage this bar gives me. I don’t have to go outside or acknowledge the outside world in any form if I don’t want to. The TVs are set by the bar and small. The focus here is on playing games or perhaps just relaxing at a table. The mood is low-key, and if you bring your pool game I’d bet it’s even welcome. There are days, though, when a fellow just wants to hide. When the sight of the sun hurts, when the moon looks down and makes you feel ashamed. Your woman done you wrong, you done your woman wrong, your dog bit you, your car died, your boss found that pic of you mooning someone, shit just ain’t right!
This is the bar to hide out in, lick some wounds.
The Water Trough is a shelter from those outside influences that would try and expose your wounds or just harsh your mellow. Coming back here for The Local has convinced me that I ought to come here more often and I think if you’ve been put off by it you ought to give it a chance. It’s got a general vibe of non-aggro which is exactly what you hope for when you need to hide.
Sure, the beer selection isn’t terrific-but that isn’t why you’re here. Let it be your band-aid so you can get back in the ring, baby.