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Dive In

Mike Maas

On a recent Thursday afternoon, disgruntled by the heat, Phoenix drivers, and the smell of my pants, I drop my Boston terrier, Murray, at home and high-tail it to a small bar in a strip mall marked by a fuzzy neon orange-red glow.

I arrive at the Dilly Dally ready to drink.

You enter the Dilly Dally the same way you leave — stumbling. You sort of feel your way in as your bloodshot eyes adjust to the cool darkness. My vision comes around just as an older gentleman weaves his way into me and bellows, "Hey, are you my cab?"

"Hell no!" I bellow back, knowing I am home. Better yet, I know I'm on "assignment." And what better bar to start this little mission than this one. Let's just say I've logged some hours at the Dilly Dally. In fact, I've spent more time here than at the swank gym where I've had a membership since 2001.

Let me back up a little: I like to drink. Actually, saying "I like to drink" may be a bit of an understatement: I love to drink. I have one of those minds that won't shut down and, well . . . drinking shuts it down.

For example, on St. Patrick's Day, my first order was a 22-ounce green beer, a Guinness, and a Jameson on the rocks. Now, I don't always drink like that. (Hey, it was a special occasion.) I do, however, believe you can have eight drinks by 8 p.m. and still function normally the next day. I call this "eight by 8," and I particularly love joints where I can do this for under $30.

There's a place for everything, and a dive bar— a really good dive bar, like the Dilly Dally — is usually that place. I'm talking a year-round-Christmas-lights, cash-only, pickled-eggs-in-a-jar type of place. I love the old lighted beer signs with moving scenes in a bar with no windows, bloodies with pickles instead of celery, and — most of all — cheap, strong drinks.

I like bourbon with real ginger ale, not Coke and 7-Up mixed together. I like my screwdrivers light yellow, not orange. I go to dive bars to drink, not to get laid, but to fall in love . . . with old men and ancient bartenders who grab money from messy stacks that dwindle right in front of me (with no worries about anyone stealing it or for that matter sitting near me).

I like a place where everyone forgets your name. I am a booze pig.

The name first arrived — and stuck — back in Beloit, Wisconsin, during my college years, when my friends and I would wander the underbelly of that small butthole town searching for the perfect bar like a pig trained to find those mysterious truffles that grow only in a certain town in France. Like those pigs, sometimes we found ourselves buried in shit by the end of the night.

So, if you're looking for the haps on live music and karaoke and pool leagues and shiny fucking happy, then you've got the wrong guy. If you want a dive bar that smells a lot like my grandmother's Pall Mall-filled living room (or at least used to, before that damn smoking ban), get yourself to the Dilly Dally, the first dive bar I'm reviewing as Booze Pig.

The entire joint is about as big as an Olympic swimming pool, but it has the essentials: a jukebox, a cigarette machine and a 30-foot-long bar. The newest addition is a Playboy pinball machine that belts out porno-soundtrack moans that can be heard all over the bar. Great fucking ambiance.

In the back, there's a quarter pool table and two small bathrooms. The men's room door has a curtain in front of it, or you'd be able to see directly into the women's room. The men's room is great because it's a one-shooter toilet like you have at home. No idle piss-chat here, you can actually talk to yourself in the mirror while you unload. Between the bathrooms in the back is a door to a courtyard where you can smoke or drink 'n' dial in privacy to a new girlfriend and try to pronounce your love to her (I did it here a year ago — stay away from the gin).

The drinks are served up quick and strong with no-bullshit attitude and silent efficiency by Jaime, the younger of the Dilly Dally all-female bartending team. Jaime is quick to brush off lewd comments, and it's rare to catch a smile, but when you do, it's worth it.

I'm joined this evening by two gorgeous young dames, one whose favorite color is "sparkle," and the other who's so psyched about being an aunt that she's freaking out. She needs a drink, and now. Both are enjoying their first foray at the Dally, and I'm thrilled they followed through as planned to meet after drunken bowling.

We start with some scary-looking, but ultimately tasty, warm nuts from an antiquated machine behind the bar. Only 50 cents! (I have to fight the urge to stand on my chair and pronounce my love for salty, warm nuts.) Down to the drinks: Auntie has a double Captain and Coke and has to ask for a soda back. I drool over my beautiful bourbon and ginger with lime; the well is Jim Beam. Sparkle kicks back with a vodka soda and gets lost in her Alice in Wonderland state of mind. Topics range from marmots to the downfalls of male facial hair. I'm impressed that neither one of my guest pigs is carded. Add pigtails (no pun intended) and these girls would be ideal candidates for barelylegal.com. I'm fully aware that everyone in the place must suspect that I'm either a drug dealer or have a huge . . . liver. Just goes to show you what the power and allure of a great dive bar can do.

An hour later, we finally hit our stride, with the drinks coming fast. Too fast for one gent who falls off his stool like he was hit by the great Ali. From what I've seen, Jaime just may be the next heavyweight champ. Someone calls a cab for the guy on the floor and we fondly say our goodbyes and wait for our driver, sitting outside on the curb beneath the orange fuzzy glow.


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