By New Times
By Derek Askey
By Mark Deming
By Serene Dominic
By Jason Keil
By Robrt L. Pela and Amy Silverman
By Jeff Moses
By Serene Dominic
I find myself on the corner of Baseline and 51st Avenue — Shimba's directions, she lives in the neighborhood, this place was her suggestion — and there's no bar here. Everywhere I look are new groves of houses and shiny new shopping centers and shiny new drones driving shiny new cars. Am I in some weird Twilight Zone episode? I go west on 51st Avenue and soon, on my left side, I'm delighted and surprised to see an old stucco structure amidst the new growth: the Old Spurr Lounge. Thank God it's an older place, a place that existed when this area was nothing but fields and blight. I park in the back to hide my car from the traffic/cops.
I notice Cath and Shimba's cars — shit, I'm late. I lock up and walk past truck after truck and I start counting 8, 9 . . . 16, and on and on. Turns out this watering hole has 24 vehicles parked outside and I'll be damned if 21 of them aren't big-ass redneck trucks (each one but ours).
The Spurr is a classic Southwest name for an oasis in the desert, and this being the Southwest, it's all country. I walk in the front and I'm blown away (not blown in the good way) — the place is shiny and gutted and new. I feel like I'm in some warped reality show: How to Flip Your Bar! Keep in mind, I have no history on the place (the owners, the age, etc.), but from what I can see, someone bought up the old place, tore it apart, and threw up the cheapest, cleanest shit possible. More likely, the property value went through the roof, so they took a loan — like everyone else in town — and tried to make it "nice." All I can say is they ruined what probably was a great place. I mean, it's clean and all, but still tacky. It reminds me of drinking in a new doublewide.
As you walk in, you notice a poolroom with two tables to the right and the bar to the left. The bar's walls are covered with shiny new industrial steel sheeting, and the top of the bar is raw wood paneling. The result of the shiny steel and wood is an antiseptic place to sup some brews. The bar area has TVs on all corners, and a cool square bar with a super-tacky faux-granite laminate surface.
I spot Cath and Shimba downing Michelob Ultras at one of the many high-top tables, and I quickly order a short bourbon press to try and make the place feel like home. It doesn't really work; the short drinks are very short. My bourbon press is lousy, with too much soda and no lime.
I follow quickly with a screwdriver (mostly vodka) that kicks ass. We hang and I notice that all around, under the bar, are horseshoes bent into purse hooks. This place must be owned by a woman. I also notice some spurs on the wall, and inquire, "If I wear spurs, do I get a free drink?" The bartender takes offense and immediately informs me the prices here are great at $3.25 for well and $2.75 for beers, 50 cents off during happy hour. Then I ask, "Why didn't we get happy hour?" and she tells me, "Happy hour is from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m."
One question: Who the hell drinks from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.? These people must already be happy, because the happy hour times blow! No specials for the hard-working people that come here after 3 p.m.? Once again: WTF. Disgruntled (which seems to be the theme for me in this joint), I go to the bathroom and find a dirtier place with more steel and vinyl walls and a super-bright and loud, wobbly ceiling fan. Pissing in here, you get the feeling you've had too much fizzy-lifting beverage, and that you are going to get sucked up and shredded by the rotating blades. I smile to myself as I wash up.
I'm feeling better, hanging out with two good-looking, smart broads, and I let the place seep in. I like the spurs on the walls, and the old Clydesdales Budweiser fixture hanging over the bar. The place has good fries and tons of greasy food — even chips and jerky. I spy two frozen-drink machines. It's the ultimate tacky, bad-drink choice, so I indulge myself. I order up a frozen margarita (I never do this) and as expected, it is shit. A quarter of the way through, I ask the bartender to nuke it for 30 seconds so I can down it without the brain freeze. Shimba spends most of the time laughing at me for microwaving my drink, and she can sense my unease with the place. She loves the joint. I guess if I lived close by, I'd like the place, too. Actually, the night barkeep is great fun and full of personality, and I even hear her yell at a customer that he'd better drink the damn beer she just gave him. I can't help myself, and start to criticize everything, but Shimba is quick to come to the Spurr's defense, asking, "Where else can you see cowboy hats and real Indians?" Well, it is good that the clientele hasn't changed over the years.
I'm ready to get the hell out of the place, but then all these hot chicks stumble through the front door and head out back. I decide to take a look and follow the gals out the rear door. Turns out the back area is the smoking section, and it's just as big as the front of the place, all walled in with block walls and steel bars. The smoking area is louder and has more of the local flavor; it even has two electronic dartboards to toss off a few. What I love most about the back — besides the hotties — is the tall bookshelf filled with shitty romance novels and what I imagine is country fiction. I'm glad to see a book exchange, even if it's at this country hang. I almost steal a book, but decide against it. I am miserable enough already, without having to submit myself to Dan Brown-style country stories. Come now, I'm in a place that can't spell its own name — "spur" is spelled with one "r." Yee haw!
I guess you can say Laveen has adopted the whole "out with the old and in with the new" attitude. I can deal with old cool hangs and history, like the outside façade, but I have trouble with new-style places and neighborhoods and the like. Good news is that I can put up with a lot, especially if the lot comes with booze, spurs, and hot chicks (hey, let a pig have his fantasy).