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Some R&R

Michael Ratcliff

I still have a headache from visiting R&R Stix in East Mesa. I usually wait a couple of days after I hit a bar to review it (mostly to rid myself of the hangover), but I can't wait to get this place down on paper. I'm feeling like hell, my stomach aches, and I'm not sure I can even keep enough water in my body to keep up with my cold sweats — but feeling like hell is probably a good state of mind for trying to describe this freakish place.

Let's turn back the clock 12 hours.

I roll into the parking lot around 4:30 p.m. on a Tuesday and find a spot right next to the entrance of this bright yellow eyesore. I open my car door and almost step on a half-empty bottle of mouthwash — either a sign of someone taking precautions before driving home, or what I fear in my heart: someone drinking it to get drunk before going into the place (I've heard there is nothing worse than a Listerine hangover). I laugh, snap a phone pic, and throw open the door under the deteriorating awning.

I step inside, where two drunkards are weaving back and forth, belting out the chorus to buh buh buh buh bahd bahhhaaad to the bone! And I realize right then and there that the drunkards are right — this place is bad, but not the George Thorogood kind of bad. I find my crew of seasoned veterans: Larry, Joe, Bob, and Randy (Dave and Cathy are on their way). I usually drink with these guys once a week at a great neighborhood joint, but once they started reading Booze Pig, they all agreed, "R&R is a must!"

The bartenders in the joint are older women who wear bikinis and thongs. Joe, the longtime pro in these here parts, introduces me to Sybil, who is an attractive gal who slings the drinks. Joe tells me that Sybil and the gal who runs the evening shift are the only ones who don't have to wear bathing suits. Part of me is thankful, but the pig part of me feels jilted, dammit. I order bourbon 7, and just like all mixed drinks and draft orders, it comes in a Kerr pickling jar. Bob tells me this is because they're hard to break (in case you try to use one as a projectile).

Bob also makes a point to tell me that Santa must be missing his belt, and points at the bartender. I can't help but laugh my ass off — seriously, Sybil is good-looking, but she's wearing Santa's thick, shiny, black patent leather freaking belt. Can you say ho ho ho?! You'd think it would be tacky, but in the context of every inch of this tacky, disturbing place, it actually works, It's sexy — especially because she has the knee-high boots to match.

Joe's wife calls this the creepy bar, and she's right. This place isn't a dive; it's more like some fetish bar. (Hey, maybe there's a gal dressed in a Little Bo Peep outfit; let a pig have his fantasy.) But I guess creepy is the source of the joint's charm, like getting hit on by an old man with a colostomy bag: You kind of like it. We can all use a little creepy now and then.

The black spray-painted ceiling tiles have dirty old bras hanging from them, and heads of soot-covered stuffed animals poke out here and there. The clientele, from what I can see, and from the slideshow of pictures on the flat screen, is pretty much biker trash mixed with Parrothead flunkies. The LG flips through probably 50 shots of hefty gals with huge, sagging tits. Some pics are of a woman licking her own nips, and some of them are of the same woman's tits laying on someone's shoulders, etc. It's downright nauseating, but funny in a way . . . until you see it for the 20th time. (Someone turn it off!) It's not the nudity that makes this place dirty; it's the actual dirt!

I love that the R&R gives out free peanuts, and I like the homey feeling of being able to throw the shells on the ground. (Teakwood's pulls it off with great success, but not the R&R. I don't think this place has been cleaned in weeks, maybe months.) One gent at the bar has made a little cubby hole for his feet out of mounds of shells, as if he burrowed his way into the bar. Joe says, "That's weird. The cleaning guy, Smiley, is usually around." But Larry quickly chimes in with his Canadian humor, "They call him 'Smiley' because he gets paid and doesn't do any cleaning. I'd be smiling, too." I'm not a neat freak, by any means, but I decide it's better to not look down.

 

Not only is the bar dirty, so are the bathrooms. In the bar, you have the nasty-ass brown, stained bras and thongs and other shit hanging from the ceiling, but in the bathroom, it's actually worse. Apparently, it's a ritual to see who can hock a loogie and make it hang from the ceiling while taking a piss. So I'm standing there exposed, nose plugged, and doing my thing when I decide to look up.

Never look up — not in this place; above my head is a wall splattered with dried mucous trails that dripped from the top down to where they stopped their crawl. The winners are hung tight in frozen form, like ancient stalactites dangling above my head. Good God, I hope they're loogies and mucous — I'm not going to fathom what else could travel that distance (sure know mine couldn't).

At any rate, back at the bar, it's now clear you shouldn't look down and you shouldn't look up — just straight ahead at your drinking buddies. This isn't a place you hang out in, it's a place you get trashed in. You come here for one reason: to get fucking plowed, lambasted, dank-ass crooked.

You'd think you'd come here for the pool tables — like the "Stix" part in "R&R Stix" suggests — but it's not so. I've seen a lot of pool tables in a lot of bad places, but usually there's an unspoken request for the green felt and the rails. Never set a drink on a pool table or put quarters under the rail (or pour a full pitcher of beer in the corner pocket, like my brother did at the Hambone and nearly got us killed). The pool table and its green deserve a certain respect, a respect for the purity and sportsmanship of the game. Akin to golf, where you respect the course and replace divots and don't get the carts stuck in the sand traps (hypothetically, of course). I digress.

The pool tables at R&R are the lousiest I've seen, which is good because the uneven table and the crooked stick probably help my game. Two of the four tables have worn red felt with Jack in the Box advertisements on them — sacrilege! The other two have enough holes in the felt that you'd think you were driving on a Chicago street. I think the goal here at R&R is to get soooo drunk you don't notice the tables. God knows Cathy doesn't, because she just kicked Dave's ass for the second time in a row.

One thing the R&R did well was wall off the front patio, which faces Main Street. But if you go outside to light up, make sure you find a dry spot — because between the aggro misting system and the scrap-yard swamp cooler, it's wetter than a blonde with fake tits sucking on a cigar at the Phoenix Open. My buddy Stu, for example, is out here for a smoke and looks like he just jumped in a pool, standing against a cinder-block wall in front of the place. Most of the foot-level blocks have been smashed in or, as Cathy points out, were possibly the victims of a drive-by. Thank God there's no blood (at least not anymore).

Re-entering the bar damp and scared and keeping my eyes straight ahead, I see a thing of true 1970s beauty. Beyond the long bar with baby blue vinyl rail cushions (obviously bought cheap because not all the parts match), the bar front is black. I can't tell if it's paint, but it looks like all-season black carpet, and every four feet or so, it has a row of glass blocks that go from the floor to the bar, like support pillars, and these glass pillars light up and flash in green and orange and yellow hues to the beat of the music. Now, this flashing bar of rainbow colors is a feast for the eyes in this downtrodden place. That's good, because there isn't much to feast on other than the strong-ass drinks. In fact, I'm a little pissed off that my drink is $5.25 for a well. I order another screwdriver and watch her pour away, then ask, "Don't you think $5.25 is steep for a mixed drink?" While still pouring, she says, "Every pour is a double — you have to make a special request for a single." For the first time, I see eye-to-eye with someone in this place.

Ultimately, I'm glad I'm here with a great crew of folks I can trust — friends who've got my back. And Joe is like a kid in a candy store, pointing out the eccentricities of the place. "Notice the giant thong on the bar mirror," he says. "Check out the video driving game — they should put a Breathalyzer on it." And on and on.

 

I have to admit this place has some great parts: It has a pay phone and a pinball machine, darts, and some very cool, swinging Western-style doors to the bathrooms. Yet, it still leaves you feeling odd. You want to wash your hands or go rent Bambi and drink chocolate milk, because walking out of this place you just feel creep. On second thought, maybe I'll just go home and down a bottle of mouthwash.


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