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Because our desert-gobbling sprawl is so huge, I often ask friends and strangers alike, "Do you know of a good dive?" They usually throw out a name I know, so I ask again, "Do ya know a shit hole that you've seen but never had the courage to go into?" This usually yields some great finds, like the Fox Hole and R&R Stix, and some other creepy-sounding places on my list that I haven't crawled into — yet.
What I have found is that the overwhelming response to my first question is "the Palo Verde in Tempe." It usually goes like this: "Yeah, you haven't been to the Verde? Dude, it's the best and oldest dive in Tempe. I went there when I was barely 21. Shit, it was the coolest place, then it became the hipsters' hangout and uncool . . . like, it wasn't a dive, but a place you went to make you feel like you were in a dive, man. I got wasted there for two years straight."
Pig Shit: Katey barfed twice; bring tissues or TP just in case the shitter's full or you need to crack one off; "Dirty Verde" is right.480-968-9221 Think Booze Pig blows? Want to tip him? Write to e-mail link.
I'm generally turned off by popular places, so I never really considered checking it out. But that was well over a year ago, and from what I've heard, the poseurs have all started to swill over at the Time Out, leaving behind the true drunks at the Verde. I sure hope so, because I'm about to head out to meet Katey, my free-spirited bartender from Shady's, who has been drinking since puberty at the Verde (because it's close to home).
My phone chirps. It's Katey: "Cash only!"
Sweet! This journey is getting off on the right foot.
I show up at the place late, a tad after 6 p.m., and Katey and Sam, her hung-over friend and longtime drunken sister, are smoking, covered in sweat and water from the misting system in front of the Verde. We exchange some damp hugs and dive right in. I can't believe the darkness, the smell, and the desperation that old places like this just emanate. It reminds me of Tempe's long-lost dive bar the Sun Club (it had a dirt floor).
The Verde is a block building on the corner of Broadway and Beck, which is between Priest and Hardy. It's an old, industrial part of Tempe, and like some of the older businesses, this place has been here for 40-plus years. It's a watering hole for the working class, and it's next to an old liquor store that would sell you your neighbor's daughter if it could.
I'm at the bar, facing an inked-up barkeep named Heather. If you are drunk, no worries — her name is tattooed on her right arm to remind you. Heather has a '50s pinup style: bright red lipstick, ponytail, and funky, short black skirt. Simply put, Heather is a dream — all mean on the outside and all sweet inside, like a cherry cordial (hey, let a pig have his fantasy). Heather has a heavy hand like the Hulk; her drinks are able to tame the green monster in any of us.
Heather is like a roller derby broad, but she's too hot to don a pair of skates. Damn, before you know it, Katey, Sam, and I are on our fourth round of vodka death. Seriously, if you want a drink that is going to make you forget you're married, or have a job, or live in Hell, then this is the place. After four drinks at the Verde, you can be anywhere on Earth.
At the three-hour mark in this dank place, an Indian dude falls off his bar stool. It looks as though he has peed his pants as well. Turns out, it's just beer (Heather smelled it to make sure). They don't even kick him out; they just walk him over to a seat closer to the ground and give him water.
Then I see a crazy lady in her 40s, wearing a nightie and mascara-painted cat whiskers on her face, playing pool. I swear I can see the steel bars from her nipple piercing through her lace top. Fucking awful.
The two pool tables are occupied by drunkards and are near two coin-operated games, bowling and golf (surprise). There is also a Terminator 3 pinball machine and a dartboard. The highlight of the coin-operated machines (besides the jukebox and salty-nut machines) is a new boxing game, with an inflated bag to hit with and everything. I'm thinking I've seen it all — that is, until I go to take a leak.
I swear I'm in pig heaven. If you are at the bar and looking south to the rear entrance, there is a small hallway with bathrooms at the end. There's a switch on the wall that works a ceiling light labeled "Code Brown." I ask, "What the hell is Code Brown?" I'm informed that there aren't any doors on the stalls, so if you're going to shit, you turn on the light to let the bar know you're dropping the kids off at the pool.
Greeeeeeaaaat. Now every douchebag in a v-neck shirt and too-tight jeans is going to be there this weekend. Bummer.
Still a cool place to catch some local punk bands.
It does seem, however that every dive goes through a poser stage. Except for the Time-out Lounge. That has always been a poser joint.