The place is at the southeast corner of Bethany Home and 16th Street, behind a Starbucks — tucked away like all good dives should be. I park and walk up to the place and see on the wall some long beer prayer that I don't bother to read, but I do read the sign that says "welcome — swizzle in and swagger out."
I'm at the right place.
I beat D there, so I order a vodka press from the barkeep, Mike, who has been here for a decade. Mike tells me that the bar has been around for the past 30 years, and things haven't changed much. I guess you could say they're going for a Margaritaville/scuba-dive (bad pun) look. It looks as if the place were designed by the film crew from Jaws.
The front door has a porthole window, and the joint has rubber sharks over the register, as well as other seaworthy things nailed all over the dark place. I love that there is an atrium in the back left corner, complete with sliding door access to the little plant-thrivin' space, which lets a faint light into the otherwise seedy sippin' hole (love that term). The place has six flat-screens on the walls and a pool table. There's a jukebox full of oldies and an electronic dartboard. It looks to me as though they may have been open for a long time, but they sure have spruced the place up; it's clean and cozy here.
I settle in with a half-dozen codgers at the bar and can't help but feel like I'm on some faraway beach, my frustrations melting into the boozy surf. I know I'm landlocked, but no one else here seems to know it. Everyone is drinking hard.
I note that the TVs are showing women's softball. I watch for a bit. I had no idea how hot the players are! After an inning, I can't take much more softball, so I gander about the place. I notice the "special" board (shaped like a surfboard) reads "$3.00 Maker's Mark." I'm pissed I didn't order one, but when I inquire, Mike tells me the vodkas are $2 until 7 p.m. I've been to a lot of dives, but no place this nice has drinks this cheap. Okay, maybe this cheap, but they also taste fantastic; Mike makes a mean, well-balanced drink. I settle in and watch more hot young ballers and feel as though I'm sitting behind home plate — literally, as the bar is shaped like a pentagon.
D finally walks in the door, thin and as alluring as ever, and I tell her this place is a home run! D orders a Pacifico, and we kick back and reminisce. She has a new man, and she also has the $160 I loaned her through a rough spot. First thing's first: I'm psyched she's paying me in full, and second, I'm stunned she's dating a 54-year-old guy.
Nonetheless, D starts flirting with the barkeep, who tells us he graduated from Camelback High in 1964. D is my age (30-something), and she tells me the old guys are less complicated and up-front with what they want. I have renewed hope that when I'm in my 50s, I can date a 30-something (if I'm still alive).
Hell, most of the folks in this homey hang are twice my age and going strong. Screw the doctor; just come to the Swizzle to self-medicate with a strong drink.
Some classic old-school broads show up and sit around messing with their drink straws. (I start to get the "swizzle" part.) I think of that sugary childhood mouth-watering Swizzle Sticks candy treat. Now that I'm older, I think it's the way the gals talk while working that straw into the dark cauldron of bourbon that makes me drool. I keep looking over and I can't wait for the "swagger" part — perhaps one of them will need a ride.
I feel a nudge, and D goes on to tell me more about her new love and that Cialis is expensive. I quickly put two and two together about dating older men, and I offer the money back. "Nah," she stops me, "not to worry — just made it back from Mexico with a carload." Well, I'm glad to be back in the saddle with D and just living the life of leisure. For the most part.
D goes for a cig, and I hang at the bar. The night shift is on, and I'll be damned: The new barkeep looks like a softball player! I find she is also from North Dakota. I've dated a few girls from the Dakotas, so I refrain from asking her if she thinks any of the players are hot. I'm sad to see Mike retire for the night, but I'll tell you: If a strong drink were the equivalent of a 90 mile-per-hour underhand fast-pitch, then this chick is on the Olympic team.
I choke down my not-as-tasty — but super-strong — drink when D comes back from the smoking area. I chuckle to see she has a new guy friend with her, and he's toting a bicycle tire. I come to find that this dude lost his job for hitting on underage girls, and that the tire comes from the girl's bike he rode to the place. Seriously. You can't make this creepy shit up. He tells me that he once ordered a gin and soda that glowed in black light (that's one strong drink), I think he called it a "Blue Jesus." Shit, from what I've read about Jesus hanging with hookers and lepers, I doubt he was ever blue.
The eccentric bike guy rolls his own cigs and should be on meds. He's 25 years young, and looking for prey. D has to say her goodyes, and sadly, I'm alone with pedal boy. I end up liking this quirky fellow, and we argue about what the differences are between macramé, knitting, and crochet. The bar doesn't have a dictionary (about the only thing missing in this cool place), so the discussion ends and he leaves the full drink I bought for him. Too bad he didn't know D loves the old guys; he obviously wasn't here to love me.
So now I'm alone. A few young girls show up, but I'm too "on my way" to go for a swim in those shark-infested waters. I close my tab and step into the bathroom — I might as well have stepped into an old lady's house. I'm confronted by a nice, clean head with fragrance sticks in a jar of oil, hand lotion, and an automatic flush toilet and automatic paper towel thing. Where's the automatic ball washer? (Hey, let a pig have his fantasy.)
I walk out of the bathroom and stumble upon the owners, a nice couple in mid-conversation with their lawyer. I come to find that they might have to change their bar's name — after 30 years. I guess there's some bed-and-breakfast with the same moniker. I'll tell you this much, I'd love to wake up in this joint for breakfast. Forget towel service, how about a strong bloody Mary, greyhound, and screwdriver?! If only they served bacon. And, really, who needs a bed?