"That's not Shiner Bock, is it?" I inquire, studying the chalkboard above the beer taps advertising $3 Shiners. Unfortunately, no — it's Shiner Black. "A stout?"
"Not that dark," responds Jen, the brunette bartendress at Wyman's No. 5 (2033 East 13th Avenue). "Wanna try it?" Why, yes, I do. She pours me half a shot glass, then waits for my reaction.
"Kind of bitter," I say, while smacking my tongue against the roof of my mouth, "but I'll consider it when happy hour's over."
Wyman�s No. 5
Right now I'm drinking half-price pints of Smithwick's — courtesy of Wyman's 3 to 7 p.m. happy hour, when domestic drafts are $1.50, micros/wells are $2 and imports/house wines are $2.50 — with my elbows propped up on the western leg of the U-shaped bar and an elderly iBook glowing dimly down my nose. Behind me are a foosball table, a pool table, a Silver Strike bowling game and Big Buck Hunter Pro, but I'm not here for hopscotch. The goal this evening is to get some work done. And drink beer.
Smithwick's number one goes down in four or five easy gulps, as premier beers are wont to do. Number two proceeds a smidge more slowly, though it, too, vanishes with purpose. By the time I drain the last drop, my watch reads 7:02 p.m., which means it's time to switch to Shiner. But Jen is gracious, and asks if I want one more Smithwick's at happy-hour price. Yes. Yes, I do.
As Jen delivers number three, two guys in windbreakers come in, belly up a few stools down, and ask if they can get a specific game on the TV. "I think it's Channel 738," the one in the red and blue tells her, and he's right. It's the Angels/Royals game, the Angels down 2-0 in the top of the third. They both order frosty mugs of PBR or Coors or something equally pale in color, and start talking baseball. The one in the yellow and green spots a bottle of Jergens behind the bar. "Can I get just a dab of that?" he asks, before rubbing it on his lips.
I focus on my work for a while, disappearing number three and ordering number four at full price because my tastebuds seem to have found their mate for the night. I also request the $6.50 Smokies and Hot Tots from the appetizer menu (though I almost go with pizza), adding a side of ranch to complement the spicy mustard sauce. For the past fifty ounces or so, a portable XM radio console has been streaming the '90s Alternative station — featuring artists such as Cake, Soundgarden, Cypress Hill, Pearl Jam and Oasis — but when Henry Rollins starts getting all Black Flag aggro and a few customers grimace, the male bartender at the other end of the U changes the station and stops on live Jimmy Buffett.
Seconds later, I'm outside with a lit cigarette. Three dudes decked out in ponytails, dreads, blue bandannas and other Korn-stoner garb discuss going to their vehicle for a minute. "We should go check out that car situation before going back in," one of them says with a Butt-Head-like heh. They all nod in agreement and walk off.
Back inside, I'm earlobe-deep in tater tots and ranch when a middle-aged woman around the corner gets my attention. "Excuse me," she asks. "Is the Internet working?"
"No, unfortunately not," I respond.
"Jen told me they usually have it, but it's temporarily down," I offer.
"Yeah, no. It's never working," she says with a laugh. "They had it, like, once last summer, and that's it."
I shrug, turn back to my computer and overhear red-and-blue windbreaker switch it up: "I'll go with the Shiner this time," he says while peeling down to a short-sleeved collared shirt.
"It's Black, not Bock," Jen warns.
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"Whatever's $3," he responds. "I'll give it a go. I don't think I've ever had it."
As she's pouring, Jen glances over and notices me fervently staring at the chalkboard. "What about you, Hot Tots?" she teases. "You want one of these Blacks?"
Thought: I'm almost too buzzed to keep working.
Answer: Why, yes, I do.