More than any other time of the week, I find myself bar hopping on Sunday nights. It’s not that I don’t go out Fridays or Saturdays (or Mondays or Tuesdays or Thursdays, for that matter), but those evenings tend to be spent working behind the bar, playing a show, or watching other musicians. Sunday seems to be when I get to sort through the week’s highs, lows, thrills, chills, hangouts, hangovers, and alternately hilarious and horrible life decisions. On a lot of Sundays, this translates into driving around town looking for places to drink alone. Obviously, from a research perspective, I should probably search for places I haven’t been before, but given that my Sunday ruminations often get stuck in the mud of Memory Lane, my car tends to take me to places I have visited before but not in a while.
This time, I parked in front of the Whiskey Girl Saloon and walked down Exchange Street to The Basement Bar for a beer and a shot. I stopped going there about a year ago, around the time the bar quit booking bands on weekends. I’m not sure what the booking schedule is now, though about 20 people drank while two members of Spoonfed Tribe played ’90s covers on hand drums and an acoustic guitar. I remember thinking that in light of the popularity of the Panther City Pep Rally, a ’90s cover band extravaganza a few weeks ago, there should have been a lot more people there. Then the duo played “Smoke Two Joints” by Sublime, and I thought I’d just go home and get stoned, so I left.
Nostalgia had already gotten hold of me, though, so I changed my mind at Main Street and North Side Drive and continued toward downtown, parking on 3rd Street and walking into the Red Goose. The Goose was one of my regular haunts way back when I was much more amenable to things like tequila shots, cocaine, and blowing money at downtown bars. As I stared at the Goose’s copper bar top, my mind opened that dusty mental volume labeled “Steve’s Early 20s,” and before long, I was flashing back to a haggard night that started with margaritas and commensurately out-sized plans and ended with me heaving up guts down the street and around the corner from Uno’s Pizzeria & Grill. Fun fact from that episode: It turns out that most taxi drivers are not stoked to pick up a guy who looks like he’s just puked on a sidewalk, but there’s always one who will, and he will also drive you to an ATM because he’s going to scoop out the contents of your wallet like a ripe avocado.
Back in the present, I stayed at the Goose for the duration of another beer and a shot, checking out the second-floor DJ action before I left. Up a flight of stairs helpfully illuminated by red LEDs was the other bar, empty save for a bartender and one customer, plus more unpleasantly haggard memories, these triggered by the music pumping out of the speakers. I don’t remember what it was, but in my mind it sounded an awful lot like whatever my addled consciousness was trying to process in 2002 — the melody and subtext don’t matter as much as the beat, I guess.
As I left Red Goose, I gave a grateful thought to the universe for keeping me alive this long, for all of my reckless idiocy. Then I went to IHOP, where the most reckless idiocy I could stumble into is padded with pancakes. Some friends were there, also doing the post-bar booze-sponge. I stuffed my face with a waffle and hash browns and went home, glad for the chance to continue getting older. –– Steve Steward
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