Because I’m no longer bartending on Saturdays, I can spend my time doing other marvelous things with which most of you are apparently already well familiar. Having two consecutive days to not go to work? I can go to the farmer’s market, sit on my couch and watch The ‘Burbs, and even go out with my friends at night?
Whoa. Slow down, Self. You’re getting over-stimulated.
When I first moved back to St. Louis, Dave and I hung out all the time. I think I’ve seen every Futurama episode at least twice because of him, and he’s the one who introduced me to Arrested Development (I’ve seen the first one and a half seasons, which he thinks isn’t enough but I honestly don’t know how a series could ever top “Mom says it’s too windy.”). He is also the second most adept person at quoting Simpsons references that I know, because no one is ever going to be better at that than Mike Puglisi. Around the time I started working two jobs, Dave and I stopped hanging out as much. We’d have our hourlong screaming phone conversations every couple of weeks and promise to hang out, but it never happened because I was either working or sleeping, and he’d started going to shitty clubs with the Polacks, and I’m sorry but I am not hanging out in those places.
Anyway, the point I was trying to make is that when you’re ready to return to the World of Bars You Don’t Work In, you may not want to meet Dave at some hole-in-the-sewer place you only vaguely remember driving past a few times. Or you may really want to meet Dave there, which I guess is the paradox of River City Pub.
St. Louis people, it’s just south of Syberg’s on Gravois. It has maybe one window in the whole place, which you can barely see from the street because it’s so clouded with smoke and filth. They recently added a lighted sign above the door, which was really thoughtful because previously, the only signs were neons in the window. Due to the aforementioned smoke and filth, they looked like nightlights from the outside.
River City Pub is a pub of Lynchian proportions. The space itself is all wonky and looks kind of like two leaky trailers were stacked on top of one another and the middle ceiling/floor was exploded to make a taller room. The bathroom “doors” are shower curtains with cigarette holes burned into them. It smells like mildew and…is that shame?…and there’s a drain in the middle of the floor that’s been corroding hardcore since 1989. I find myself most comfortable in dive bars, but at River City, I kind of expected to a) contract hepatitis or b) get sucked into a space/time rift.
I knew I was in a weirdo place when I started scoring at darts. I never score at darts. I can’t play any useful bar games. Pool, darts, and Golden Tee are all lost on me. My games are shuffleboard and washers, ooh, and that video game where you match the photos of naked girls to find the differences. I am great at that game. (Look for the hair length, bra strap, and shoe color. Every time.)
The bartender was very friendly, but also behind the bar was a doughy guy who couldn’t serve alcohol because he was the bartender’s underage son. Just hanging out with his mom at work, I guess. When I ordered a club and lime for Graham, I had to tell him how to make it. It was like one of those “how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich” exercises in writing class, where you realize just how many unconscious steps are involved. Okay, Junior, fill this glass with ice. Now take that gun and hold it over the glass, and press the button that says “Soda.” Okay, now put a lime wedge in there. He handed the lime wedge to me. Jesus Christ.
The only other staff member there was Ali Baba, who is apparently a “karaoke legend at this bar.” Which is seriously what someone told me, although I’d already assumed that based on the huge banner on the wall featuring a photo of Ali Baba belting into a microphone alongside the words “Karaoke Legend.”
Ali Baba looked and sounded like an outsourced tech support rep who is somehow allowed to wear a T-shirt that says “I <picture of a truck> Chicks.” I didn’t know how on earth anyone would “truck” a chick, let alone Ali Baba, but I had given up on a lot of logic at this point. Every time Ali Baba sat down at his laptop, he put on his glasses (which were never far away because they were on a string around his neck) and started saying things like “WE ARE GONNA HAVE A GOOD ASS TIME!” and “COME ON, YOU MUDDAFUCKAS!”
I don’t know who he thought he was shouting at, because there were maybe 10 people in the whole bar and only three of them were into karaoke. Two of them – an old dude who was actually really, really good at singing Creedence, and his girlfriend, who was utterly gigantic – were the only singers for about an hour. The third was an older guy in an American Legion cap who I imagined would probably slap me if he saw my anti-Republicans bumper sticker.
Dave and I were at the bar getting beers when I thought the only way this place would get weirder was if a backwards-talking midget suddenly waltzed into the room. Instead, Mr. American Legion got up and started singing a recipe.
Yeah, a recipe. Dave was hammered at this point and I was only a little drunk, so we both squinted at the lyrics monitor and wondered what on earth kind of song was about cups of flour and butter and cocoa.
Oh my god, you guys, and then.
Mr. American Legion started singing “Chocolate Salty Balls.” Perfectly.
He wailed on this song. He sang all the “oh babys” and all the “mmmm yeahs.” He knew every single word of this fucking song and he Tore. It. Up. And Ali Baba was over there in his tech support glasses going “YEAH, YOU MUDDAFUCKAS!” Dave and I were pretty much crying by then, and Graham was doing that thing where he’s trying to laugh and cheer and clap at the same time and it looks like kind of a happy seizure. Everyone else in the bar was totally silent in the majesty of Mr. American Legion and his “Chocolate Salty Balls.”
When it ended, the maybe 15 people now in the bar erupted. I wish I could whistle only a few times a year, but this was one of the times I wished I could stick both fingers in my mouth and let rip (if I hadn’t been in that bar, of course, because ohmygod think of the germs). And Ali Baba, of course, screamed “THIS IS A GOOD ASS TIME!”