The Recovery Room is a slice of classic dive bar heaven
December is gone and I think I've been drunk since Thanksgiving. For some reason, I decided to celebrate a Greek Christmas with my Jewish friends down in Tucson.
What's a Greek Christmas, you ask? It starts with a huge boneless leg of lamb with mint jelly and homemade spanakopita, and ends with a very long afternoon of downing ouzo shots and yelling Oooopah! I now hate the Greeks and their milky white serum; if I but smell black licorice again, I'm sure foamy lamb acid will flood the back of my throat . . . I can kind of smell it now, just typing this. Is it seeping from my pores? Maybe if I lick my arm I'll get drunk (hey, let a pig have his fantasy).
So it's post-Greek Christmas, I'm in need of an emergency room and I still have the weekend and New Year's Eve ahead of me — not to mention the world's biggest inbred party, which is coming to Glendale soon. I need help.
The next best thing to an emergency room is a Recovery Room, and thank God I'm going there tonight, because I sure as hell need something to settle my stomach. Oddly, I heard about this place from my good friends who have a place in Bisbee, and I figure if they're telling me about it, then it has to be good (Bisbee people are wise).
It's a cold Thursday night in north Phoenix. I pass 19th Avenue heading west on Bethany Home and come upon a white building with a white sign that has a cross (the universal sign for first aid) with a martini in it — this must be the place. The Recovery Room is situated across from a hospital in a building that used to be a KFC in the 1970s. Oh, classic-dive heaven (I hope I can still smell the Kentucky-fried grease).
I park in back, where there's a big lot to hide your car from the cops or the ex. The lot doubles as a makeshift smoking area, with giant concrete ashtrays to drop your butt in before you enter (in this part of town, concrete is tougher to steal). This Recovery hole is still decorated with a giant Christmas tree that almost smacks you in the face when you open the door. The place is pretty big — well, it's roughly the size of a Kentucky Fried Chicken. It looks like Santa and his elves got hammered and went ape shit. There are decorations and lights and fucking garlands everywhere. I guess you could call the place "homey." (I hope they keep the lights up year-round.)
Walk straight ahead and you'll hit the game area, complete with darts, two pinball machines (yes, old-school fun), and a Golden Tee game. To the right, the place goes deep with a short ceiling and a long bar and a bunch of tables with tall stools. The bar area is cozy and I pull up a free seat.
The first thing I notice is how eerily quiet it is; there are just four guys nursing beers, and the only sounds are sparse laughter and machines beeping half-heartedly. I'm surprised to find a roomy pool area in the back of the place with four nice tables where you can shoot away your worries while your wife is pushing out your fourth kid (which you hope is yours). At any rate, the place has a cathedral ceiling and a wall filled with tacky, oversize trophies.
I settle in and Shannon, the attractive barkeep, takes my order of Jack and ginger, and then immediately goes into a tirade on some dude who has apparently been loitering. She kicks his ass out, and I don't blame him for leaving — she's got a huge metal flashlight and appears ready to use it. Hell, the hospital is right across the street, so bring it on.
The remaining guys all start giving her shit for being a badass, but her shift is up and she swaps rags with Lisa, the nighttime bartender. The owner, John, also shows up and moves some stools around; he obviously knows how to run a tight ship, as the place is spotless and the bartenders are both hot (John is a genius), which explains why there are only dudes in the place. Hell, I'd go back just to see Lisa smile again — talk about taking the chill off and warming you up (at least your pants). Shannon had poured an okay drink, but Lisa throws down the best Jack and ginger I've ever had (that I didn't make myself). I stay for a while and feel really welcomed by the locals, all laughs and good bar banter.
The Recovery Room has lots of TVs, but it still has that good old dive-y feel, with tacky ancient faux rock laminate wallpaper. Even the bathrooms look like they haven't changed in 30 years — at least, the walls haven't been cleaned in that long. I spy an old, wobbling exhaust fan caked with dust and no safety cover, which tempts me to stand on the toilet and shove my hand into the whirling blades just for the chance to go to the hospital across the street and relax for a couple days. At least my friends would have a great place to hang while I "recovered." Dammit, just knowing the hospital is so close makes me feel better already. If only the bartenders here were dressed like nurses.
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