Going out last night for St. Pat's (and my subsequent hangover/cold) got me to thinking about all the bars I've been to over the years. Not just any bars, but the ones I called home for varying durations and reasons.
Not that we got to go inside Fado last night; there were tents set up in which bands played and beer flowed. It was cold for a street party, but in fairly short order we weren't feeling any of that anymore. The Indulgers played until they looked tired and kinda crabby. But they sounded great, professionals that they are. Poor guys (and girl).
I start at #2 because my parents were definitely the type to drag their youngest along to a bar when I was a child. No doubt #1 consists of some dank place with the best burgers in Tulsa, but it remains a nameless memory. Mom couldn't recall any for sure, but she agreed that they probably did take me to bars when I was quite small.
Bar number 2: Kites, Manhattan Kansas; Kansas State University
I can recall hangin' for a weekend with my brother, more than once, up at K-State. If you needed one word to describe my big bro, it would be "Wildcat." I'm ten years behind him (almost exactly) and so I'd be about ten or so when I went there. Kites was a typical college bar, lots of purple shit all over the place. There are lots of bars in Aggieville, but that's the one I recall. Good burgers too (you'll notice a theme here that good burgers are nearly always a prerequisite for being nominated to Sex's Bar Hall of Fame. Not always, but it helps.) Kites forever fixed the allure of the college bar in my prepubescent mind; however, to my brother's ever-lasting dissappointment I went Jayhawk instead.
My brother just emailed me - I contacted him for research purposes, and I quote:
"As a sidebar , Kites is now back in existence in Aggieville , it is now 50 years old. Also Rusty's Last Chance in Aggieville was named Sports Illustrated's 12th best sports bar in America!
Now you got me thinking about my list! One of my favorites was the Elm Tree Bar in the front yard of the Kappa Sig house, a sort of impromptu place. One night one of the farm boys brought some Rhubarb wine in a milk jug from back home. The next morning I went to wake up a couple of the guys who had 'slept' in the front yard and I noticed that ten billion ants had crawled into the empty jug ...and died. One of my other favorite bars I've never been to is the Dexter Lake Club from the movie Animal House.
You mind if we dance wif yo dates?"
Obviously we come from good, hearty stock.
Bar #3 Speck's, Topeka, Kansas
The next bar is from my high school years. Get into the Way Back Machine, friends, and return to a world where the drinking age is 18 years old and IDs are rarely checked. Fine years, likely never to be again. I know I looked like I was twelve; I still look years younger than I am. No questions though, they just let me in. Standards weren't as strict back then. And yeah, my mom knew I went. No biggie.
I could play pool back in those days, actually quite well. I never bet, but on two beers and some Old Time Rock n' Roll on the jukebox, I could run the table for a few games. Guys with their own sticks got pissed because some sassy, short sixteen year old girl kicked their ass. Of course I always played on slop. I'm a decent liar and have a good poker face when I need it. (After all, I was a teenager. One thing a successful teenager must be proficient in is lying.) Looking back, I'm sure they knew what I was up to, but apparently I was cute enough to get by with it. I always went with guys, and not guys I dated (steady bf in those days). Most likely it was with this guy in high school who was my best friend, or these guys I worked with at Bonanza.
Bars #s 4,5,6,7, "The College Years." Lawrence, Kansas, Kansas University, GO HAWKS!
To place the time frame within the proper context of Jayhawk Basketball: I was at KU during the Larry Brown years, we had a run of something like 50+ wins at our Allen Field House, and Danny Manning led the way to the Championship. (Beer Guys, feel free to correct my memories, if needed.)
#4 The Wheel. My brother helped me move in to my dorm and sat me down with this good advice: "There will be a bar where everyone goes Friday afternoons. Find that bar and you'll have a successful college experience." Just a half block from campus, it was the bar I spent my first Friday afternoon in college, and many, many after. They reliably let underage drinkers in so it was more a froshie type establishment, and the beers weren't the cheapest in town. But it was crowded and fun all the same, a great spot to meet folks. And Pyramid Pizza was just downstairs, hense many Friday Night dinners. What with all the pizza and beer it's a wonder I didn't gain more than five pounds that year. Ah, to be so young and metabolic again.
#5 Johnny's. Good burgers. Seriously good. A two-sided bar- actually there was more to it than that, but one "side" was the motorcycle townie guys. Nice bunch of guys actually, if you felt like slumming over there at the bar. Motorcycles always filled the front sidewalk of this bar, and took all the best parking places besides. I used to ride my bike down there on Friday Nights. It was definitely The Friday Night Spot. Also a great place to bring the parents when they came to town.
#6 The Bull (Bullwinkles) Another Friday afternoon hang-out, once we outgrew the Wheel. Just down the street from the Beta House, this is where these smartie-pants all hung out. Not the friendliest bunch of guys, but at 85 cent cans, often free if you were the only ones in the place, The Bull was hard for a destitute college student to resist. Teensy place, built in booths, and ants on the walls. I recall once my friend and I went in there, and the bartender said we could drink free until another chic came in. The place filled up with Betas and we drank free from 1 pm until we left at 6 to go shower to go out that night to Johnny's. Ah, good times. Lean, but fun.
#7 Hands down, my fondest college bar memories are from The Hawk though. Thursday Nights $1.25 Barrels (about two beers worth), but they were strict about IDing in the later years (appreciated once we were of age). I got my Barrel when I was a freshman, the year of the drinking age change. It got to be remarkable that it lasted so long, most people bought one every year and they tended to break, you know. People would stop me just to look at my Barrel when I was a fifth year, and marveled that I still carried it to the bar. I bought another one and it broke, so I went back to Old Faithful (circa 1985) and it served me well lo those many years. Today it enjoys a relaxing retirement on my desk, holding my pens.
Thursday Nights at the Hawk. Attendance mandatory, unless you had a test on Friday.
#8 The Dark Horse Boulder Colorado. When we moved to Colorado we didn't go to bars as much, and when we did it was mostly micro-brew pubs. We became beer snobs and gained 20 pounds. But the one regular bar we went to always was the Dark Horse. I think I like this bar so well because it reminds me of Johnny's - a townie/college bar. It's located near the dorms, but plenty of locals hang out on one side of it. Again with the delish burgers, and awesome curly fries too. There's crap hanging from all over the ceiling - big stuff: like a sleigh and a lifesize plastic horse. I can't even think of it all. And there's writing all over the walls too. When my son was six weeks old, finally let out of house arrest (he was born in December and the doc wanted him kept indoors and away from the colds going around) the first restaurant we ever took him to was the Dark Horse. He just stared with those ginormous blue eyes of his - for an hour he stared at all the stuff in there. We still take the kids there pretty regularly, and it's cool because now we're playing air hockey with them and The Lad eats a whole burger of his own. Those college guys also make a mean grilled cheese: Monkey's favorite. Fireplaces, sticky floors, and Tuesday Night Tricycle Races. What more could you ever want from a bar?
#9 The Pub - Connor O'Neils, Boulder, Colorado
Anyone who reads me knows this pub. It's my home now: I know the band, I know the bartenders. The Pub is home to the best green salad on the planet (don't know why, but it is). Great food, great atmosphere, and Stella on tap. My brother, the one who'd lived in England, said it was the first Stateside Stella he'd had. I can't imagine life without the Pub. Monkey asks to go there, because she knows she'll get cherries for going potty.
#10 The Lariat - Grand Lake, Colorado
What can I say? Local bar, filled with hardworking mountain men and tourists. Also will serve to be inspiration for a story - right now it's just an idea in progress; and difficult to work out since I'm starting with the theme. It's like working backwards - usually I write and the themes emerge. I guess I'll just have to return to do more "research".
Dew Drop Inn No list of "my" bars/pubs would be complete without this honorable mention: The Dew Drop Inn, a pub off in the woods near Wargrave, Berkshire, England. I sat in this ancient pub in the middle of the woods with my other brother (he lived in Britain at the time) and I could imagine that two centuries ago highwaymen in cloaks rode up on horseback to find local news, a pewter mug of ale, and a warm bed. In fact, I kept glancing toward the door, fully expecting to see some enter, the shoulders of their cloaks covered in a dusting of snow. It was an odd night, an odd experience, and proved to be the inspiration for my recent series. I was only there once, and someday (hopefully) my readers can discover it for themselves in my third book. (the book, incidentally, which I am currently revising and is keeping me from posting as much. Sorry 'bout that. Work calls.) Cozy with all the English Pub requirements: low beamed ceilings, darts, fireplace, curtains on the windows, matching cushions on the chairs, and a friendly landlord to boot.
Why are these places important to us? That is - trusting I'm not alone in this affection - or would it be affliction? Bars have been home to some of my fondest memories. People watching abounds, the beer is cold, and the food is generally great. There is something else about them though; beyond the scamming and the drunken haze. I know I've written this before, but I think bars are little enclaves of opportunity. All I really know for sure is that I rarely to go to a bar and have a bad time.
So Happy Weekend. Lift a glass, hopefully in your favorite bar, and perhaps think of me in my bar; across the country or even the world. I'll be thinking of all of you and doing the same.