Oh happiest of Happy Fridays. Sure, I was on vacation Monday and Tuesday, but I’ve packed a week or more of work into the two days I’ve spent back in the office and more more lies ahead. Yeesh!
As I rolled into work on my morning commute, I thought “today’s a real good day for a Happy Hour” which got me to thinking about all the bars I’ve visited in my little life.
Which got me wondering about what are the best (and by best, I the biggest dive) bars I’ve been to.
- The Grant & Green Saloon (pre-renovation, when it was still a blues club), located conveniently at the corner of Grant and Green streets in San Francisco.
It was in this dank, cave-like (it was painted black), seedy SF joint that I first saw the irrepressible Johnny Nitro & The Doorslammers.
I still can’t believe I used to go to this place *by myself* Ah the
stupidity courage of youth.
One main feature of this dive was the bathroom. The ladies was located at the end of a weird dark hall. The door had a questionable bolt latch. The toilet tank was held together with a metal strap. The broken toilet seat was patched with heavily road worn gray duct tape. When you sat, first the tape would stick to you, and then the seat would give way a bit.
When your business was done, you’d stand, and the seat came with you. It stuck to your leg just long enough for the seat to shift back together and pinch a good amount of thigh skin between the broken pieces. It hurt like a sonovabitch and I’d come away with a welt and left over adhesive from the tape. Curse words were uttered.
Also, the boys loo at the front of the hall would stop up with some regularity, so when it was busted, the drunk boys would lumber to the end of the hall and shake the door to the ladies room. Regulars knew if you shook the door hard enough and long enough, that weak bolt would give way and *surprise* you’d be caught in a squat facing some drunk lumbering boy.
I learned to pee really, really fast. Also, I’ve never been one of those girls to go to the bathroom with friends, but I did at the G&G. It helped to post someone outside the door to keep watch. (the door was too far away from the toilet to be able to both hold the door and do business).
Despite all of what’s gross about the G&G, I saw some of the most amazing live blues there. I was actually heartbroken when they fixed it up, painted it white and put in new plumbing. It’s never been the same since….
- The Saloon just down Grant street from the G&G, in San Francisco
Oh the Saloon. It contains what can only be called a “funky smell”. Sunlight never hits the inside of this place, and that’s probably for the best.
Established in 1861, it’s San Francisco’s oldest continually operating bar. The Saloon holds some history. Legend has it the local firefighters saved the building from the fires that raged after the 1906 earthquake due to the prosperous brothel that operated on the upper floors.
There are plenty of stories about young men having their fill and stumbling out onto the foggy San Francisco night, then waking up on a boat out to sea. An unwilling member of the ship’s crew and unable to return to port for months or years at a time. The colloquial term for that is Shanghaiing.
All of that history invades the place, and you feel it. There is still live blues seven days at week at The Saloon (and two bands a day on the weekends).
It’s strange, smelly, filled with weirdos, and a tiny dance floor (but the bathroom isn’t so bad). I’ve had some of the greatest nights of my life inside that place. The timbers jump when the base player thumps that thing.
It’s fantastically beautiful. And Fresno alley just outside the door is a place filled with all sorts of shenanigans (including photography, the light there is awesome).
- The Alive just over the border in Juarez
I couldn’t find any links to information about this place, other than wistful memories from many a person who was there back in the day.
The Alive was actually underground, you had to navigate this long, steep ramp to get into the place.
Just an aside….does it seem like a good idea to YOU to be in an place when you are 18, in a foreign country, underground, drunk and there is only ONE entry/exit? Ah the
stupidity courage of youth.
This was a place for cheap Coronas, thumping dance music, and a bathroom that I can hardly even describe. There were no lights in there (probably for the best). With my walnut sized bladder, I did my best to hold it for as long as possible. Once, I went in there (couldn’t wait anymore) and I slipped into a stall. SOMETHING was moving on the surface of the water in the toilet. It was alive. I have zero idea what it was and it scares the sheeeit out of me to think about it now.
I held the door handle for my life and leaned back, doing the best I could to be the farthest possible distance I could get from the seat and still hit the water. I prayed that door handle wouldn’t give way. I prayed whatever was in the water wasn’t bitey. I prayed I could just get this done and go home.
I survived and emerged unscathed. It took three tequila poppers (some called them slammers) to get over the trauma.
Then I danced and tried to forget.
I used to have such fun in Juarez. The danger made it more interesting, I suppose. Of course, these days it’s ill advised to slip over into Juarez. Too much awful business going on there. I’m afraid The Alive is an experience that is long gone (and maybe that’s for the best).
- A bar attached to the Steven’s hotel in Carlsbad
At least I think it was the Steven’s Hotel. This was a bar that was located on the backside of a hotel on Canal Street in Carlsbad (it’s been soooo many years since I lived there.)
I don’t actually think this bar exists anymore. I can’t seem to find any record of it from a Google search.
To get to the place, you had to ascend these steep metal stairs. Going up wasn’t so bad, coming out was a bit treacherous once you were a little wobbly in your shoes, and especially if it had rained a bit. People slipped and bobbled down those stairs in droves. A big pile of borrachos at the bottom of the stairs. I wish I was kidding.
The bar hosted Pot Ash miners, local cowboys, and us college kids. This was something of a volatile combination. The plate glass windows were replaced by plastic after too many fights in the bar kept smashing the glass. You couldn’t get beer in a bottle or glass. Only cans and plastic cups held drinks.
The mood was weird, and tense. But the beer was cheap and whatever half ass local band was playing would getcha dancing. And hell, it was somewhere to go and something to do in Carlsbad. So ok.
I had some odd, yet fun times there. Strange spot and strange people.
- Cowboys bar in Las Cruces
Who knows what this place is called these days. At NMSU in the 80’s and 90’s this was THE place to be.
A band called Easy Money used to play there. The lead singer was named Toby Keith. They were a pretty good band. The lead singer was a complete arrogant ass. Nobody liked him, and now he actually is somebody. (I still think he’s an ass)
At one point they introduced a special where on Fridays, if you bought a pitcher of beer, you could eat as much pizza as you wanted. Big mistake. Hungry and broke college kids can eat a LOT. And if we all put in a dollar, we could get one, maybe two pitchers of Coor’s Light. So there.
That promotion didn’t last long.
I danced until my feet hurt many a night at Cowboys. God I loved that place.
All night drinking and dancing, then after the bar closed, a group trip to Village Inn for late night pancakes. Why do pancakes taste so damn good at 2 am?
Sadly, I won’t be at ANY those places tonight. Instead I’ll be at the Red Couch Saloon where The Good Man tends bar.
He knows which wine goes best with Cheetos.
Happy Friday everyone! Enjoy your night.