Tag Archives: dive bars

Whatever you say #40

Rolling Rock

With a great deal of trepidation, I have walked into Smokey’s. I don’t know anyone. I’ve never been anywhere close to it. It looks grimy, dark and god only knows what’s going on inside.

Why am I going here?

Because if I can’t attempt things that are hard, then why work this theme at all?

On the main TV, the US is playing Japan in women’s fastpitch softball, finals. US is up 3-0.

So it’s worse than I thought, because of all the sports I cannot stand, baseball is the one that I am not only most uncomfortable with, due to finding it savagely boring, it’s also represents one of those barriers for me into the world of the normal.

Baseball, though it may not quite have the status is once did, is still an iconic American sport and to be an American is, in part, to know things about baseball.

Except the last time I did anything that resembled baseball, I got hit in the nuts. And while football to the groin will always be football to the groin, baseball has always resembled a dense, boring mystery that I had to pretend to know about and absorb by osmosis, faking my way through masculine rituals and all the other bullshit that comes with sports that I suck at (which is pretty much all of them) growing up and now getting old, I never hesitated to take a shot at baseball when I could, in part to dissociate myself from the kinds of obsessives that I can’t talk to (though have plenty in common with) and in part because sports obsessives tend to view me with distain-though they have plenty in common with nerds.

So everything I know about America’s Pastime I have learned through absorption from my Mom and my brother-in-law.

And I shimmy up to the bar and ask what a man in a coat advertising plumbing services from across the street is drinking. Which is how I end up with a Rolling Rock, watching women’s fastpitch.

In Smokey’s there is one pool table, a pinball machine that hasn’t been turned on in I don’t know how long, as bar stools sitting in front of it and what appears to be a small water heater sitting on top of them cut off the possibility of playing the machine, and every single wall seems to be part of the definition of cheap. Fake brick around the lights, cheap walls from the 60’s, splotty paint and plaster covering various holes: I wonder for a moment if Smokey’s was ever a nice tavern, where the locals came, celebrated and went back to their homes.

Now it seems a little sad, surviving on a crew of people I do not understand…but are friendly to me. I fake baseball knowledge, I watch plays and I listen. Guys with unlit cigarettes hanging from their lips chat and are OK with me talking to them about the game. The young punks who come in to play video poker have smiles for the old guys at the bar, under their tough veneers and edges born of being poor.

I could stay here and have another. The bartender even asks if I want another, and I have the feeling that if he didn’t think I was alright, he wouldn’t ask. But I have to go; the theme demands it and honestly, I’m just glad that things didn’t play into what I was afraid of.

It’s a good lesson for not letting my scares run away with me. Go, check it out. Be nice. Have a beer. Listen. You might just enjoy yourself, internet pundits be damned.

The Local: Bar of the Gods

I walk in to Busta Rhymes‘ Gimme Some More. It’s the kind of place that fearlessly bleeds hip-hop and punk rock.

The BOG used to be a dive but I’m not sure it qualifies anymore. The back room became a kitchen, they expanded eastward and now there are windows letting in natural light. The bathrooms are no longer supremely cramped locations you have to walk a maze to get into. There’s a back patio with heat lamps and shelter from the rain. It has, in a word, upgraded.

bog ceilingThen again, the tables are longer than the seats, awkwardly sticking out into the walkway, the walls are emo black, I’m pretty sure the floor tiles had some kind of color once and there isn’t a non-muted source of light. The windows have large thick velvet curtains to stave the sun away. It hasn’t strayed too much, is my point.

The BOG is a place that likes the dark. If you can see clearly, something is off. It also likes it loud; the music causes everyone to shout even when talking about really boring things. Hard to appreciate that in a bar. I think this place is at it’s best when the sonic level is just a bit lower.

There are a few really interesting things about the BOG though; first, the food is really good. Surprisingly so, really. Chicken strips that are really lightly breaded, meatball subs you can get with bacon, secials like roasted red pepper, white bean and artichoke heart dip served with some veggies and pita bread; just the kind of stuff that I want with my Ninkasi Double Red.

Second; it’s the only bar I’ve been in where someone actively doesn’t like me. There’s a woman I see sitting at the bar sometimes and she seems familiar but I do not recall her. And that’s the weird part; as far as I know I haven’t interacted with this person. I don’t know her name, I only know her because she’s in the ‘hood. When she looks at me though, her eyes hope something bad happens to me soon. So I don’t try to talk to her.

Fortunately, she is not here tonight. I do not know how I may have offended her but maybe it’s for the best. Everyone needs a nemesis, even if it’s a low key one.