Local Wire

Caged Heat

I'm sad and I feel like crap because a close friend is moving away. That calls for some goodbye libations. I'm lonely enough in this conservative, transplant-filled, call-center-laden convection-oven Valley, and my only respite (well, aside from cocktails) is my close friends. The bigger this Valley swells, the more it seems we get flooded with cookie-cutter homes and cookie-cutter assholes. So it really blows to lose a good friend, especially when it's so hard to find someone you actually like in this godforsaken desert town.

At any rate, I'm here at Jake's-O-Mine with three guest pigs, Dave, Cathy, and Sammy, who's found a new gig in Dallas. Sammy — our Gucci shoe- and Cartier watch-wearing supermetro corporate-logistics whiz kid — is moving to fucking Texas. I can't think of a better place than Apache Junction (a.k.a. "Ass Jacket") for a proper dive send-off. Thank God the locals don't know anything about GQ or Nordstrom's, otherwise they'd realize that Sammy is wearing roughly the equivalent value of their trailers. Good thing our lawyer, Cathy, is here. Just in case.

Stepping across the threshold of this place, I can't help but think of other medi-O-cre creations, like Bac-O-Bits and Bit-O-Honey (yes, I'm thinking of synthetic bacon and a shitty cardboard honey bar). Squeal like a pig, I must be dreaming. Jesus, mediocrity is king at Jake's, and I imagine Bac-O-Bits on many of these folks' dinner tables, couches, and hidden laps. (Come to think of it, I bet Bac-O-Bits are great on a bowl of popcorn.)

Cathy and I belly up to the gorgeous, filthy, graffiti-tattooed sunken bar and order up a round of Jack and gingers — $6.50 for two stiff ones. Meanwhile, Sammy and Dave find a nearby table with a naked photo-hunt video game. I'm sure we won't be seeing them until the cab shows; Sam will try to keep up with Dave's drinking pace, and Dave will try to keep up with Sam's gaming skills. No doubt we'll eventually hear all about how Sam went drink for drink with Dave (always a losing proposition for Sam).

At the back of the bar is an open door that reads "party cage." It's the new smoking area, post-ban: a chain-link cage, probably 15 feet by 10 feet, with a swamp cooler in it. Yes, a swamp cooler! Even though I quit, I enter the cage and get the joy of sitting in the moist blast of air that smells like fetid fart water, and I can't get the image out of my mind of bongwater flowing over cooling pads and the resulting air blasting in my face . . . What rare illness will I contract here? We turn the thing off and make some friendly banter when in walk two very attractive, young girls . . . Exactly what are they doing here? Surely, they must have just put their children to bed and sneaked out the roof vent of the RV.

Misses Crystal Meth June and July are pretty quiet until Cathy mentions to someone that she is a public defender, and, as if on cue and in tandem, both ask for her card. Losing interest and at risk of infection (girls and swamp cooler), I flee back inside to put the bar john through its paces. The bathrooms in this place are surprisingly big and somewhat clean, but once again, more graffiti! People like to write in this place. I wonder if there's a pitcher-of-Bud-and-Sharpie promotion I missed. While I'm doing my business, I read, "Rod, where are U, please suck us all." I laugh out loud, take a phone pic, and hightail it back for some more Jack.

The sunken bar is the key feature of this place and I love it. Basically, the bartender's head is at drink level and she almost has to reach up to give you your drink. It's the same idea as an orchestra pit at the theater, and I feel like the bar is my stage. Hell, yes, it's our stage to act out on, free to do whatever the fuck we want. Cathy and I power through three rounds of Jack and even buy a round for the two bearded guys next to us, each of whom could easily win a Kris Kringle look-alike contest. But I wouldn't sit on their laps. Lord, no.

It isn't hard to make conversation in this place, especially with Cathy, whose booming voice and gorgeous gold eyes transform these degenerate misanthropes into giddy high-school boys. Cathy has the floor for this show, and the men all love her. And since the attention is off me, I have time to soak in the scene. Jake's-O-Mine is actually pretty big: two pool tables on opposite sides of the bar, a Cranes-R-Us stuffed-animal machine, a dart board, and, in the middle of the bar, a dance floor with a jukebox and stage. I guess this is the only real "rock 'n' roll" bar in Ass Jacket — rumor has it, the place "jams" every weekend. There is even a machine to buy smokes and plenty of snacks to munch on.

Back at the bar, Cathy is in a serious conversation with Dave, and she is pretty spooked. I guess after we all left the party cage, Cathy was left with some guy with facial lacerations who made the comment that if the door accidentally shut, no one would know she was out there. Dave, concerned for Cathy's safety, and being a loving, nonviolent man (and naked photo-hunt champion), as well as the leader of our Jack Daniel's drinking team, takes control and herds us toward the door.

The tab with the barkeep is $110, and I offer her a $35 tip if she can tell me whether there's anyone named Rod around here. She tilts her head to the side like a puppy, then calls us a cab. I stumble outside to meet the crew, and it is clear from the looks of the guest pigs that this place is guaranteed to make you feel like a genuine Piece-O-Shit, and, well, sometimes that is exactly what one needs to feel when saying goodbye.