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Snap Out of It

Morgan Bellinger

You ever have one of those days that just drip self-loathing and want? Since the doc told me to quit drinking, I've had many days — and nights — when I realized, "Hey, I think I really fucked up my life." Phoenix seems to breed many of those dreaded evenings, and I like to shake them off by going to great, old dive bars that will lift my spirits and make me realize I've got it pretty good, even though I've ignored my doc's advice and still hit the beer and wine pretty hard. It's time to find a new old dive, and I've spied just the place on the west side called The Snap Lounge.

I ask my good-looking pal Kool-Aid along for the trip, and her first words are, "Am I going to get shot?"

My response is, "I sure hope so. It would make for a great article."

Moments later, we're on the road to an old block building with ancient green cactus caricatures outside and script saying plainly, "Cocktails." This place has got to be good (in this town, older is better). The "Cocktails" sign just serves to teases me; I cringe knowing that in an hour, I'll just be full of wheat and barley and pissing all night.

It's near 7 p.m. on Tuesday and The Snap Lounge has a traveling pool league going on, so we aren't the only visitors to this side of town. This place is pretty big and packs in a lot of stuff. There are four pool tables up front with a DJ booth and a huge rectangular bar in the back. There's an abundance of TVs (seven), four touch video games around the bar, and even an electronic dart game.

Kool-Aid loves the fact that she will never have to worry about finding a seat at the bar, and thinks the touch video games are saviors for women who want to drink alone and not talk to guys (I get it now). We find a few empty spots, and since I'm not used to drinking beer (and Kool-Aid has a small bladder), we opt for seats near the bathrooms.

The first thing I notice is how uncomfortably high the bar is. Ergonomically, this has to be a huge faux pas, but of course — like most things related to boozin' — you'll put up with a lot just to get a drink. I order a small pitcher of weak beer and Kool-Aid gets a leather-brown looking 7 and 7 and, damn, that looks like a strong drink. Fuck, at this point I'm fantasizing about slamming booze right from the bottle, that brown liquid cascading over my beard. Kool-Aid thinks I'm going crazy.

Hell, I'm not going crazy. I'm sane but I want a drink, not beer. I feel like I'm watching soft porn just sitting here drinking beer — dammit, I want the fucking video booth, a $10 roll of quarters, and no open-toed shoes (let a pig have his fantasy). Sadly, I drink my beer, acutely aware of my fatty liver, and watch a solitary old man drink his beer and listen to the relentless drone of crappy country music seeping from the glowing box next to the "clean sweep" crane game in the corner. I feel like that old man at times — absorbed deep into my beer, not alone for the moment but not content either.

I'm low and Kool-Aid has the gift, so she buys a beer for the old guy and gives me a buck and sends me to the crane game to win her anything. I come back empty-handed and head straight to the bathroom. The bathroom is cleaner than an operating room, and my lungs feel like they're being disinfected or pickled by the formaldehyde-scented air in this place; nothing could survive in here for very long (which probably explains why there's no graffiti). It's insane-asylum clean (metaphorically, of course), as if they use this space to harvest organs or something. Fucking creepy. Kool-Aid checks out the women's bathroom and she reports that the walls are pink, probably so you can tell right away if you are in the right bathroom. And with the crowd at The Snap Lounge, color-coded is probably a good idea. I think I'm beginning to like this flavor of Kool-Aid, even though she's never read one of my columns.

The crowd is mixed. There are about 40 bustling forms, half playing pool and the others pounding drinks at the bar. Most can barely get money from wallets because they're so smashed. Surprisingly, there are quite a few women, and a few are on their second round of some peppermint shit, which Kool-Aid says is a cheap Rumple Minze rip-off. At least I'm not pounding that crap anymore, but I'd love to join them for one drop of that 80-proof fuel.

The fact is, we are two of the only five whiteys in the joint; I feel safe knowing this, but our tattooed and dangerous-looking bartender informs us this place is a Native American bar. "Native folks like to get messed up and don't think so well in the head," he informs us. He lifts his shirt to show a Medical Support wrap protecting his recently broken ribs from when a patron hit him with a bar stool.

When Kool-Aid asks whether he pressed charges, he lets on with a big smile and says, "Heck no, I'm not that way . . . and I got him real good," he chuckles. "Real good."

Despite this place's being a little dangerous, we both decide this trading post is pretty awesome, if you like life in the big city. Hell, the nice old guy drinks here — it can't be all bad.

I like The Snap for three reasons:

• I hate karaoke, but the karaoke area near the pool tables is equipped with cubby holes that are filled with antiquated jingle bells and maracas and chime triangles and tambourines and a sliding flute and even a goddamn trumpet; at least you might get a chance to see a chick blow something in this place.

• Behind us at the bar are the restrooms, and the whole wall has a railing that is thick brass, exactly like the one below the bar you'd put your feet on. This railing is a tacky touch, but what makes it extra special is that it goes up to the top of the door opening on each side, framing the restroom entrance — I'm talking serious support, so you don't fall while trying to walk.

• There are old beer posters on every wall, but the wall behind us has a desk lamp that is poised above a frame to highlight some "bar art." The desk lamp is bolted to the wall with a big piece of bent metal and duct tape. And if that wasn't enough, it has a white string holding it from the ceiling. It's tacky and definitely on the losing end of some drunken MacGyver/Jack Daniel's experiment.

I'm full, sober, angry, and I've beer-pissed five times. It's time to go. After a last survey of the place, I notice that the awkwardly rigged desk lamp is accompanied by a ceiling fan that's missing a blade and is slowly limping/oscillating. I kind of feel like that fan: Not all there, but I'm still doing my job.

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miles
The Snap Lounge

1516 W. Camelback Road
Phoenix, AZ 85015

602-222-3551


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