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Tequila makes my clothes come off." "Drink more whiskey, fix my swamp cooler." "Los Angeles, we can smell you." These and a hundred other six-word memoirs, all scribbled on neon-colored note cards by patrons of the White Owl, fill a small box resting on the southern edge of the bar. Next to the box sits a well-thumbed copy of SMITH Magazine's It All Changed in an Instant: More Six-Word Memoirs and a Sharpie pen that invites other drunks to wax philosophical. I'd join in, but three $7 pitchers of Budweiser into an eight-pitcher Sunday evening, I mostly feel like "Laura," who signed her name beneath "I'm not creative enough for this." Or maybe I feel more like the defiant scribe who scrawled, "Screw 6 words: She's so emo, her tattoo is a picture of herself crying."
321 E. 45th Ave.
Denver, CO 80216
Region: North Denver
Portulaca Cafe Gone, White Owl Now. This six-worder at the bottom of the box nicely explains the Globeville neighborhood's newest watering hole, purchased by classic-drink and two-wheel enthusiasts Brooke Kline and Aaron Scott in 2008. Though the transition from sixty-year-old Slavic speakeasy to hip, nu-dive bar was one of near-total transformation — and though some Globeville lifers still sit across the street at the Sidewinder and lament the Portulaca's passing — Kline and Scott left well enough alone to maintain an old-school ethos and earn the respect of former regulars.
They also breathed some much-needed fun-filled life into a slice of Denver known more for its McDonald's and on-ramps to I-70 than its nightlife. On the wall next to the hundred-year-old wooden back bar hangs a framed copy of the infamous Johnny Cash middle-finger photo with the words "Cash Only Please" typed on top. Another photo of Harrison Ford as Han Solo rests on an adjacent shelf; a black-markered message on a piece of masking tape warns: "Aaron's Picture Don't Touch!!" Over the past eighteen months, the Owl has hosted movie nights, karaoke nights, open-mike nights and guest-bartender nights (known as Rumble Seat), as well as Valentine's Day alternatives, bingo nights and meat raffles. Yes, meat raffles.
Natalie, our bartendress, sharpens a tin case full of artist's pencils with a kitchen knife and sketches on a large pad of paper between mixing rounds of the drink of the month: Kitty Voom Voom Sidecars, made with brandy, triple sec and sour. Natalie is Kitty Voom Voom; she tells me it's less of an alter ego than a silly nickname her sister bestowed. Either way, the cocktails are delicious. Later, she makes us a nice little number with Absolut Brooklyn (a limited-edition red-apple and ginger flavor), ginger ale and cranberry. She also opens the game room (billiards and darts) and pint-sized back patio (seating and charcoal grills) for us even though she'd already closed it down for the night. "Didn't expect to see you guys in here on a Sunday," she admits. "Glad you came."
While delicately balancing my weight on a half-broken folding chair out back, I notice an unintentional six-word memoir at the corner of 45th Avenue and Grant Street, a sign explaining, "Traffic Signal Under Study For Removal." Later, staggering around out front, waiting for a cab, I finally come up with a few of my own, all love letters to the Owl:
Natalie, your sketches are really good.
Thanks for getting me drunk tonight.
And for keeping the bar open.
And for making Globeville your home.
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