God, I love them…
I’m not talking about your Applebee’s or T.G.I. Friday's
or any other chain of sterile restaurants where the servers are all clad in some ridiculous mind numbing uniforms and bartenders can’t pour a shot without looking over their shoulder for fear that they might be busted for buying somebody “one on the house”.
I’m not talking about the places where the walls are covered in fake or folksy memorabilia that offer “kids menu’s” or half priced appetizer specials designed to bring in families with their screaming bundles of joy to share with the rest of the world. Where the selections on the juke box are just about as bland as their burgers and the advertisements on television show nothing but a bunch of smiley white toothed mid twenties something or others that look like they belong in an ad for Calvin Klein or some other designer product.
And no, I don’t want to hear about today’s specials. Thanks anyway
No, I prefer to do my drinking closer to real life. I'm not talking about strip clubs or so called gentlemen's clubs where the drinks are watered down and expensive as hell or where you have to pay through the ass to get a lap dance. I'm talking about family owned establishments where the clientele has become somewhat of an extended family. I'm talking about neighborhood joints where the bartender and waitress (we still call them that) knows what to pour before your ass hits the seat. Where they scowl at newcomers who linger too long when asked “What would you like to drink?” and the customer responds as if they are contemplating the fate of the universe. I like places where the owner isn’t beyond buying you a few rounds even though it isn’t your birthday and will let you carry a tab if you’re in between paydays and a little short on cash. Where the bartender will write down your damage until happy hour starts so that you can get a good price. Where during the season they run a weekly football pool where everybody has an equal shot at winning and if they do they buy and tip heavily and if you're so inclined you can lay off a bet with a local bookie.
I like the places where the walls are covered with pictures of local legends both present and past and where if you don’t show up for a week or two they start inquiring about your health and sending out get well soon cards. Where they ask about how your wife or kid(s) or husband is doing and really are interested in the answer without following some pre-ordained script.
To quote a line from the television show Cheers, I like places where “Everybody knows your name” and if they don’t and you fit in with the regulars they soon will.
To me, there’s something about character and loyalty about so-called dive bars that extends both ways between the staff and the patrons that delves deeper than profit margins. It’s the place where I feel secure knowing that somebody has your back if some unanticipated trouble should arise when somebody gets out of line.
Perhaps an article in Playboy best described a dive bar as something like this.
”A church for down-and-outers and those who romanticize them, a rare place where high and low rub elbows — bums and poets, thieves and slumming celebrities. It’s a place that wears its history proudly.”
So if you’re ever in the neighborhood, feel free to look me up and we can tilt a few back and have a couple laughs along the way.
The first round is on me.