This past summer, I realized that my entire professional life revolves around bars. From working in one to performing in others and writing about them all, my bread and butter is making and taking drinks and entertaining others who are doing the same. Depending on who you ask, it’s a career that’s either sad or totally awesome. Personally, I just think I’m lucky.
There are times when I get sick of (and certainly from) Clubland, but when I look through the year’s columns, well, it’s a good gig if you can get it. I mean, sure, there’s a definite physical toll — I’m only half-kidding when say I’ll probably die of lung cancer from breathing everyone’s second-hand smoke — but I love my various booze-related roles, because even the slowest nights make for good stories and better memories, even when the memory recalls a moment that was a total beatdown.
For example, back in January, my brother Andy was in town, and we ended up at The Chat Room Pub to watch our hometown San Francisco 49ers lose to the New York Football Giants in the NFC title game. It was probably the first Niners game we’d watched together since the 1990s, when I was in high school and he was a little kid. My friend Kevin met up with us. He had on this awesome vintage 49ers Starter jacket that had belonged to his dad, who had passed away not long before the post-season started. For the three of us, that game was less about San Fran making it to the conference championship than it was about getting over individual estrangements –– Andy and I are 10 years apart, and I’d missed out a lot of his life when I moved here. And I know that for Kevin, wearing that jacket meant a lot more than just sporting something that he had inherited from his old man. And then there was this dong who bitched about a dog being in the bar, and we all had a good, disdainful laugh about that.
In the spring, I popped into The Oui Lounge after it had been purchased by local celebrity chef Tim Love and a large cadre of investors, finding, to my horror, that the venerable Bluebonnet Circle carpet bar, with its smoldering atmosphere and storied history, had been gutted and remodeled as some kind of “retro-lounge,” a curious design scheme for a bar that, despite a couple of fires, had remained relatively unchanged since the 1970s. I found, through a steady stream of anecdotes told to me through the summer, that calling Tim Love out for ruining a good thing inspired some hilarious public tantrums. I hear the new Oui has found its footing, no doubt bolstered by the opening of a much-loved Love Shack next door, but I’ve never been able to judge for myself –– I also heard I’d been banned from all Love-owned establishments. Sorry, Dad. This is why you didn’t get a White Elephant Saloon shirt for Christmas.
The summer was fun, though the biggest highlights (lowlights?) for me were two lost weekends in July, during the 10th Annual Fort Worth Weekly Music Awards Festival and the ceremony that followed a week later. Pretty much every killer band in town –– Burning Hotels, Quaker City Night Hawks, Calhoun, Pinkish Black, Telegraph Canyon, The Hanna Barbarians, Josh Weathers & The True+Endeavors, and about 40 more –– played all day one Sunday at eight clubs in the West 7th corridor. For free. Thousands of Fort Worth music lovers came out in force. The ceremony was reserved only for the nominees and their plus-ones. Most of the musicians don’t remember much of either event –– mass quantities of free Bud Light Platinum were involved. A note for future nominees and for 2012 nominees with thick skulls: Though light and refreshing, The Blue Bullet is a sippin’ beer. Treat it like any ol’ light beer, and you, my friend, will find yourself properly “Platinumed” (a term coined by incredibly hungover individuals the following days, as in “Damn, I got Platinumed last night — I puked so hard I woke up the next day with two black eyes”).
The summer heat died down a little in September, but the political heat became insufferable — the less said about the ugly, racist tirades I overheard in a few dive bars, the better. By the time Election Day rolled around, I was looking into rental properties in Vancouver. The worst things I heard were at the Stockyards Music Festival, courtesy of Hank Williams Jr., whose Red State rage-fomenting performance made me feel like I was a part of something far more sinister than a big, loud country music concert. On the other hand, Washington and Colorado voters showed the world they’re totally thinking green, though here in Texas, the pipe dream is still probably, well, a pipe dream. I find it kind of funny, because with more and more cities enacting smoking bans, and more and more states loosening their marijuana laws, Fort Worth will probably be the last place in America where you can still light up in a bar while having to go out to your car to smoke.
The end of 2012 had its share of golden, drunken moments and horrible tragedies. I guess that’s how it goes. Two-thousand-thirteen starts on Tuesday. I can’t wait to see where my career takes me. Don’t worry. I’ll be sure to call a cab. — Steve Steward
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