Loaded guns: The sign outside reads "Arap's Eatin' Drinkin' Darts," and after joking for the hundredth time how we "sure would like to see some darts eatin' and drinkin'," we decided to stop by Arap's Old Gun Shop, at 3866 South Broadway in Englewood.
Inside the smoky lounge, it looked like time had stopped at about 1975--which makes sense, since that's when George Arapkiles bought what had been the Arapahoe Gun Shop for decades. In a nod to his own name as well as to history, the new owner called the joint Arap's Old Gun Shop, even though Arapkiles assured me that when he took over the place, he sold off all the guns, with the exception of a few relics that pretty up the walls. "You can still come in here and get loaded, though," he said.
And that's exactly what the small, agreeable crowd was doing, some doing so while they threw darts (none of which were eatin' or drinkin'). What little light there was seemed to emanate from the many beer signs hanging on the walls, but we still managed to make out the placard above the bar: "Fresh 'N Juicy Burgers" was the announcement at the top, and below it an angry little pistol-brandishing burger man stood next to the words "Ah said 'fresh-cooked.'" On the back of the bar sat an ancient microwave oven invented to do nothing but pop popcorn. Jimmy Buffett--the old rock-and-roller's crooner of choice when the time's right for grabbin' hold of an equally liquor-lubricated woman--alternated with Neil Young on the CD jukebox, the only visible nod to the Nineties. The Buffett must have been played by the gray-ponytailed chain-smoker at the end of the bar who was talking earnestly at a perpetually smiling woman sitting next to two guys talking about something that made no sense.
Of course, these were the guys we tried to have a conversation with. The only things we were able to catch in their barrage of words was that one man's mother had gone to "Arthur Miller's dance school in New York"--that Death of a Salesman guy must have cut quite a rug--and that in his family, "you gotta claim your stake." He also kept claiming my drink, a neat Coca-Cola that didn't seem to faze him, even though his empty glass on the bar had once contained a gin and tonic. Wisely, he stayed away from my fresh-cooked hamburger ($2), a juicy--ah said juicy--patty on an also-fresh bun. Arap confesses that he gets the meat from the supermarket--"As we get older, we like to do less work, you know," he admits--and that the purportedly homemade Texas-style chili ($1.50) used to be homemade but now comes from an outside company that cooks it to his specifications. But it was cheap and it was fine, with tons of meat and beans and a slight spiciness that went well with beer.
My old man came back from the men's room and announced that the message on the chalkboard hanging above the toilet contained a graphic accusation about the mother of anyone who happened to be standing there taking a leak; he had been unable to resist the urge to grab the chalk and make the sentence more obscene. A crack of thunder at that point made everyone pause, and the guy whose mama dances like Arthur Miller yelled, "Hey, I gotta go. I'm a rider, you know." As we all hurried out into the pelting rain, he hopped on his low-riding Schwinn and was gone.
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