Maybe it was watching Tommy Lee get tutored by that hot blonde in Tommy Lee Goes to College that inspired us. Or maybe it was just cruising through Tempe the other day and noticing that all the fly Arizona State University chicks are back for fall. Or perhaps we were just lookin' for an excuse to get bent at one of the best Irish pubs in the Greater PHX. No matter how you cut it, Casey Moore's, Tempe's world-renowned neighborhood-college bar/restaurant at 850 South Ash Avenue, has been calling our names.
I call the vibe "neighborhood-college," 'cause not only do the matriculators head there, but so also locals, many of whom have long since graduated or dropped out like Kanye West. Restaurant industry types also congregate at Casey's, as well as tourists, profs, grad students and escapees from AA, who ride their bikes to and from the place to avoid getting sweated by Five-O. This last category includes several New Times staffers, who are oddly absent on this evening, instead of holding up the bar like they usually do.
I'm first to arrive, as my ever-irresponsible, ambisexual lieutenant is late, as usual. I swear that bizzatch won't be on time for her own burial. But that's okay, since I've just made the acquaintance of Gavin Rutledge, part-owner of the joint. Rutledge offers me a little tour of the two-story house, built in 1910 by Mary and William Moeur. It's a classy place, with an old-fashioned homey interior, and a huge, extended patio that wraps about most of the establishment. Rutledge says Casey's charm goes a long way in calming the sort of collegiate rowdiness you might usually expect from an ASU taproom.
"We always train the new crop of kids," Rutledge relates, as he walks me through the main floor toward the stairs in the back. "We weed out the jerks, and they're not allowed back. Also, our prices help some. Four bucks a pint is reasonable for premium beer, but there are cheaper places to drink. And the real scumbags end up going there, which is fine by us."
"What's this I hear about Casey's being haunted?" I ask, as I follow Rutledge up a narrow flight of stairs to a floor occupied by two small dining rooms.
"I gotta tell ya, there's probably more than one ghost in residence," Rutledge explains, turning on the lights, as these chambers are usually dark after the kitchen stops serving dinner. "The one I've experienced is the girl who was strangled by a jealous lover up here in the Blue Room, back in 1966. Classic ghost story: They never caught the guy, and it wasn't her time to go. She's been seen floating around ever since, and I've experienced spoons and forks flying off tables and into the wall. Of course, I appreciate that it's not been a knife instead."
Rutledge shows me the spot in the slanted upstairs roof where eating utensils have taken flight to, and we go into his office where he reveals a series of photos taken previously that display a variety of eerie, spectral lights. In the antique-looking room catty-cornered to the Blue Room, Rutledge points out an area where photographers always capture, for some reason, an eerie, squiggly emanation that you can't see with the naked eye. Sure enough, when I snap a pic with our digital camera, you can see the odd image right below Rutledge's hand. According to him, there have been sightings and strange happenings aplenty other than just those he's witnessed.
Not that I believe in this bunk, but I'm polite to Rutledge about it, and am afterward bending an elbow at the bar, enjoying a pint of Guinness, when I think I see a fearsome girl-ghoul out of the corner of one eye, and suddenly feel a sinister tap on my shoulder.
"Aaaaaaaagh! Help!" I yelp, like Shaggy in an old episode of Scooby-Doo, grabbing onto an imbiber next to me as a supernatural chill eases down my spine.
"What the eff!" cries the Jettster, the owner of the tapping finger. "Whatsamatta, Kreme, you been smokin' PCP again?"
"Uh, nothing," I shrug, with an enforced nonchalance, brushing off the fella beside me and mumbling apologies. "Must've been your new Pam Anderson-like makeup that scared the crapola out of me."
"You're not long for the bughouse, fat boy," swears the J-unit. "Order me a drink, and let's get to work before it's too crowded in Casey's to move."
Indeed, it's almost 11 on a Saturday night, so as soon as I'm over my scare, we get it poppin' like a tub o' Rice Krispies and make a survey of the patio outside. The most original-lookin' fella is wearin' an embroidered shirt and a red-white-and-blue John McEnroe sweatband like he just stepped out of that flick The Royal Tenenbaums. Homeboy's name is Ryan, and he tells us he's through with school, and is now a pilot.
"I'm an instructor," he shares while smokin' a butt and between tips from his pint o' lager. "I fly Cessnas mostly. Tin cans, we call 'em. But it's still a lot of fun, a blast."
"Ever buzz the tower?" I wonder.
Ryan chuckles: "We quote the dialogue from Top Gun a lot, but never buzz the tower. Cessnas are too slow. Wouldn't be the same effect, you know? I learned to fly over in Deer Valley. I'm from Denver, originally. A travelin' man."
"There are a lot of things you can do, being a pilot," I say. "So what're your career plans?"
"Oh, I dunno, Hooters Air, maybe," says Ryan, smiling. "Actually, I want to fly corporate stuff all over the world. I don't have the money to travel, so I want someone to pay me to travel for free."
"Are you a member of the 'mile-high club'?" the J-girl inquires lustily.
"Yes, I am," he replies, proudly. "Her name was Jenny, and she was very good. You know the whole 'Let me take you up in my plane' thing? It works."
"Man, I gotta start taking lessons," I comment. "Say, how'd you do that, anyway, in a freakin' Cessna?"
"Autopilot, my man!" he says, winking.
"You wanna get some, Kreme?" Jett asks of me, as we move on from Ryan. "Forget about pilot school. Just do as I say: Talk to more drunk chicks."
"Drunk chicks, eh?" I respond. "Hell, let's go find some!"
As luck would have it, there are three squalies nearby, though how faded they may or may not be is up for grabs. Their names are Annie, Sarah and Angie, but Sarah is the trio's spokesperson.
"What're you lovelies doin' at Casey's this evening?" I query, doin' my best to act chill.
"Drinking water," answers Sarah, a bangin' blonde with a cute upturned nose. "Are you recording this?"
"Well, we love to suck wieners," says Sarah, out of the blue.
"Hmmm, and what does drinking water have to do with sucking wieners?" Jett has to know.
"It's lubrication," she smiles, while taking a sip, amused by her own outrageousness.
"Seen any you like this evening?" I ask.
"Do you have a wiener?" Sarah questions, looking deep into my eyes.
"A-babababab-b-b-b," I stutter, unsuccessfully trying to get out the word "absolutely."
"Ignore him, this is what happens whenever he gets near a female," clucks the J-unit. "Are you girls students -- of anatomy, perhaps?"
"Actually, I am Deutsch," says Sarah, in a fake accent.
"You mean, German? Then what you want is the Wiener schnitzel, eh?" says Jett.
"Ja, Wiener schnitzel is good," she laughs along with her pals.
"You're crazy! I can't believe you're just drinking water," says Jett.
"Well, we were drinking margaritas before, over at Z'Tejas," Sarah admits, switching to a Southern accent for no good reason.
"Those are strong -- especially the Chambord margaritas," I butt in, finally regaining my composure. "They only allow you three of them at Z'Tejas, then they cut you off."
"And then we ordered something else," Sarah tells me. "Now I'm having water. I have to get up at 8 in the morning to go to work."
"Whew, good luck at that!" exclaims Jett, dragging me off, then whispering in my ear. "Now, if you catch one like that when they're kicking everyone out at closing time, then you've got a chance at hitting pay dirt."
"If anyone should know, you should, Jett," I say. "You've heard of Six Degrees of Separation? When you're involved, it's more like Three Bedsheets of Separation."
"Har-de-har-har," she lets drop. "Whoa, check out the eye candy."
Indeed, to our right is a whole table of dimes, and of course, Jett, being her switch-hittin' self, dives right in without a thought for me. As she squirrels around amongst them, rubbing up on each in turn, I chat up this bearded bloke named Steve standing next to me who's trying to explain his new business venture.
"It's www.poserFish.com," he says, handing me a card. "It's a betting network."
"What, like an online casino?"
"No, totally different," he explains. "On my site, two people can bet on almost anything. Like the size of the Deep Impact crater, where that spacecraft slammed into the side of a comet. Or whether Barry Bonds will play this year. We also take bets on sporting events."
"Anything you won't take a bet on?"
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"Well, we did refuse a bet on whether or not they'd find the body of that teen in Aruba," admits Steve. "I thought that was a little creepy."
"Hey, I've got a bet for ya," cries Jett, bumping into us.
"And what would that be, Porthole?" I ask, using my pet name for the Tara Reid of P-town.
"That you break into a sweat the next time you slip on your Pumas," she cracks. "You know it, tubby, that's one bet you're always gonna lose."