With the exception of especially festive nights, when I do shots, or sushi outings, when sake is just what's happening, I pretty much drink beer. There are a number of reasons for this, a major one being that I'm lousy at pacing myself. What I mean is, if there's an alcoholic beverage in my hand, I'm drinking it. I'm not putting it down while I talk with my friends; I'm not letting it get warm because I've forgotten it. I'm drinking it in long, regular gulps.
Pacing is a particular concern when I drink during the day, like I do after waltzing through the reflective, privacy-glass door of Welcome Inn (3759 Chestnut Place) just before noon on a Tuesday. Just before this, I did my stomach and tolerance a favor by stopping for a dirt-cheap grilled-ham-and-cheese sandwich at the Butcher Block Cafe down the street. But still. I need to be careful.
So I order a $2, twelve-ounce frosty mug of Bud and grab a stool at the end of the bar. I'd have the whole place to myself if it weren't for the bearded guy with the milk crate of personal belongings doing crossword puzzles in the corner. A middle-aged bartender is on the cordless phone, pacing the length of the bar back and recounting with foul-mouthed enthusiasm a story that she repeats to me in full detail ten minutes later. A story that goes like this: She and her husband own a two-bedroom rental property in Green Valley Ranch, right? And the motherfuckin' low-life tenants of this property haven't paid rent in two months, right? So they go over there last night to confront these sons of bitches and are told that homies are about to roll up with motherfuckin' shotguns to bust caps in both their asses if they don't leave. "You get your shotgun, honey, cuz we ain't going nowhere until we get our money," the bartender tells the tenants. "Kiss my ass, bitch," one of the tenants responds. "Lord knows there's plenty of it for all of us to kiss, with some left over for the neighbors," the bartender shoots back. As might be expected, this last comment does little for negotiations — so little, in fact, that the tenants begin shooting firecrackers at them from across the street. So the bartender and her husband call the police, and while they're waiting for the 5-0 to show up, one of the tenants starts burning little bags of drugs in a driveway garbage can. When the cops arrive and ask that tenant for her ID, she fakes like she's going in the house to get it, then hops in her car and speeds away, prompting a high-speed police chase.
"I should probably just sell the place so I don't have to deal with this shit anymore," the bartender says to me when the story is finished. Yeah. Probably.
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Four mugs and less than an hour later, I'm busy demolishing high scores on the Megatouch video screen next to me — dutifully typing D-R-E-W into high score after high score on the sparsely populated ranking pages — and half-watching Double Impact on the corner TV, when the bartender's two kids walk in, plop down at the bar and ask for Cokes. The little guy can't be more than seven; he eats chicken nuggets. The girl is maybe seventeen and argues with her ma about doing laundry. They both make easy conversation with the two regulars now seated at the bar and treat the place like a second home, grabbing bags of Doritos and beef jerky from the swivel-tree stand next to the Jager machine. Two guys in phone-company work shirts come to tear the payphone from the wall, and a Coors rep shows up with more banners and cardboard Broncos-schedule displays to add to the already claustrophobic decor of NASCAR clutter and ten-year-old softball trophies. Other than this activity — and the televised sound of Jean-Claude Van Damme having soft-core sex on a fishing boat — the bar is quiet. But I'm buzzed, so I decide to leave. "Be safe, honey," the bartender calls to me. "See you soon," I respond before walking into the buzz-intensifying sunlight.
In this case, "soon" means four hours later, when my buzz has worn off and I return for happy hour. The kids are gone, but the bartender remains. "You're still here?" I ask her. "Back already?" she retorts. I grab the same stool, order a 34-ounce Frozen Belly Buster of Bud (the bar's pride and joy, always $3.50) and go back to shattering records on the Megatouch, this time half-watching the Rockies lead the Brewers in the top of the ninth. I'm halfway through my Belly Buster when the daughter strolls back in. She gives me the same "You're still here?" look I gave the her mother seventeen ounces ago and heads down the bar to talk with her mom, who's throwing dice with a customer. The girl stays only a minute or two; as she leaves, she pats me on the arm and says, "Well, goodbye, whateveryournameis."
It's Drew, I think to myself after she's gone. Just ask the Megatouch.