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Pony Up

Let me start out by saying this: I love the Silver Pony. In fact, everyone I know that drinks at the Pony loves the Pony. I guess one of the positive consequences of urban sprawl (okay, the only positive) is discovering places that once were considered "out of town." My dear friend Pam found the Pony two years ago. After she was given the keys to her newly built home in southwest Phoenix, she set about doing what girls from Kansas do best — finding the nearest bar!

Well, I've made several trips to the Pony, but it's been about six months since the last pickling, so I'm headed back and this is my first time driving solo. Sadly, this is also my first time without Pam, so here it goes . . .

I think I'm on Dobbins road, heading east toward what I hope is Seventh Avenue — avenue of the Silver Pony. In moments, bright lights from a modest structure beam through my windshield and headlights disperse through spirals of dust. I pull into what must be the Pony . . . it looks familiar and, hell, there's nothing else around. It's around 9 p.m. and I'm making a special late-night outing because it's my guest pig Hot Sarah's birthday. Also, it's a Friday, I don't have to work on Saturday, and I have a full stomach.

In short, I'm raring to go.

While moseying up to the entrance, you can hear music blaring through the doors, which, unfortunately for this pig, means there's a band playing and it's country. Which abominably means I'm going to get awkwardly pig-ugly smashed and wind up sleeping on someone's couch. This lovely country hole is packed with every walk of life imaginable: black, white, Mexican, Chinese, young, old, gangster, cowboy, fat, skinny, deformed (a botched boob job on a 50-year-old) all packed in for my viewing pleasure. I swear this could have been a scene from the cantina in Star Wars — it's a freak show. The only thing everyone has in common is that they love to drink and have horrible taste in music.

Hot Sarah, a few friends, and I find a table near the end of the dance floor — yes, I'm in a place with a "dance floor." Please kill me. The dance/stage part of the bar was added around 15 years ago, probably to accommodate the influx of drones moving into cheap, new, idyllic subdivisions. I imagine the love that went into building this humble small great bar that was away from the madness and the corporate whores. All that has changed with sprawl. The Pony went from a small, cool little dive to over 2,700 square feet of drinking space with two pool tables and a large, long bar. And they pack this place.

In order to stop my nervous sweating (probably from all the cowboy hats), I step out back to the patio, where I actually have a pleasant exchange with a hefty Mexican fellow strangely named Rob. Rob informs me that he's been drinking here for over 20 years, and that his uncle built the patio, which is outfitted with metal security bars. I believe the bars are meant to discourage you from doing meth in the parking lot — as opposed to keeping people from breaking in. It's obvious that Rob and most of the other patrons are regulars. Everyone seems to know each other here. It turns out that going to the Pony is like going to some crazy, dysfunctional family reunion.

Back inside, we feast on a birthday round of tequila shots that taste as if they were made on the premises, but a round of five shots and three drinks is just $29. With the addition of tequila, the band is sounding better and I am feeling a little pig happy. In fact, since two of my girlfriends met their sweethearts at the Pony, I am kind of hoping for some cowgirl romance.

I soon find out that my sardonic wit and pseudo-intellectual banter is rendered useless here . . . country is my kryptonite — or is it the tequila shots? I order a bourbon press ($2.75), which they have no idea how to make. Five cocktails later, I finally give up on the blank cowgirl stares and fall for a dame better than the $2.50 beers. She's hung out on the northernmost wall: a 4-foot portrait of a naked woman in a wrestling stance with unusually large hands reaching out toward something (me). I look around for the glory hole (hey, let a pig have his fantasy), but no luck.

I stumble back to our table to find a bouquet of flowers with a card. It turns out the singer of this band is the smartest guy in Phoenix and it all comes clear why Hot Sarah dragged us to this hick hang — it's got more to do with love then anything else. I guess it always does; some were here for the real thing but most were here for a more serious love affair that takes real commitment — the drink — and, well, it's tough to have a bad time when love is in the air.


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