Who says you have to wait until the sun goes down to have a good time?
At 7 a.m., my good friend and Day Drinker play date, Ronda, pulled alongside my car in the Ox Sports Bar parking lot, tucked behind a Circle K on 32nd Street. We were trying to yawn ourselves awake. Ronda had the good sense to bring a bag of doughnuts to keep our impending breakfast brews company and spark our senses with a little sugar. We were still wiping the sleep out of our eyes as we walked through the front doors of the Ox, barely noticing the U.S. flag, softly waving to and fro signaling the start of another day in America.
Inside it was cozy, clean and warm. Expectedly sports-bar-like, but more toned down: pool tables bathed in the soft glow of overhead lights, dart boards surrounded by trophies of local teams and players, and TVs -- lots of TVs. Thankfully, they were all turned down, giving us time to get to know the only other person in the bar -- and the one behind it -- Denay.
Denay looked like Pippi Longstocking -- if Pippi had been on the lam for the past 40 years. She had a large, toothy, mischievous smile, twinkling eyes, a few freckles; and although her hair was long and blondish-white. But if you closed your eyes, it was red, parted down the middle and . . . Whee! Pigtails were flying off her head. Oh, Pippi, please take us on one of your crazy adventures.
Denay gave us our first round of Bailey's and coffee. Okay pours, not the best we've had. The mugs were white, emblazoned with "USA" graphics and "God Bless Americas."
"Here's to Day Drinking and doughnuts!" we toasted. Our American mugs clinked.
Denay told us she was 51 years old and semi-retired. She worked a string of go-nowhere gigs before landing at the Ox. Her shift is three days a week, always in the mornings. She enjoys her job. Her boss leaves her alone and she likes the regulars.
She said she needed to get a couple pots of coffee ready for the crew she called "The Breakfast Club." They come in every morning to shoot pool. It used to be an after-work affair, but since most of them have lost or changed their jobs, it's mostly a daybreak diversion.
We go outside for some fresh air and are almost run over by a red, beat-up pickup truck with an American flag sticker on its side, hastily pulling into the parking spot in front of us. A large, full-bearded man sits behind the wheel, and a dog that looks like Petey peers at us from the passenger-side window.
The big, bearded man is huffing as he struggles to get out of the car. He approaches us, head tilted downward, exposing a shiny, red "RUSH" logo emblazoned on his black ball cap.
"Mornin', ladies," he says politely. "Can you tell me how to find the Black Canyon Highway? I'm lookin' for the Southwest Gas Company."
"Can we pet your dog?" we ask excitedly, making our way to the open window.
"I wouldn't do that," he calmly warns us. "Breeze doesn't much like strangers."
"Oh," we say, disappointed, and then ask, "everything all right?"
"Those sons-of-bitches at Southwest," he says, defeatedly shaking his head. "I'm on hold for 20 fuckin' minutes trying to get a question answered. I finally said, to hell with this, I'm goin' down there to talk to one of those assholes. Now I can't find the fuckin' place. Jesus Christ."
We point him in the right direction, wish him well, and wave goodbye to the super-cute dog we can't pet.
Back inside the Ox, the bar has filled up. The Breakfast Club is playing pool and drinking coffee, and there's a dude with -- what else? -- an American-flag skullcap playing video poker. We change up our drink orders: a Bloody Mary (spicy with lots of olives) for me and a Greyhound for Ronda.
"You want A-1 sauce and blue cheese in your Bloody Mary?" Denay asks.
"You should have it. It's good." Her smile would make us believe anything. She mixes the concoction in front of us and tells us that one of her regulars brings in the blue cheese for his own Bloody Mary's, but this morning, she's going to share it with us. Love Denay. Good people. I take a sip. Whoa. Yummy. Like liquid steak. I take a long, meaty pull on it.
We hear a voice next to us. It's coming from a man in a paint-splattered shirt, drink in one hand, and the other pointing at the televisions.
"Hey, how come people buy these fancy TVs and stereos if they can't see or hear no good anyway? Now, I'm the old guy in the room, and an American, and when I grew up, we didn't need a color TV to tell us what colors things were supposed to me. You see a black and white tree - you know it's green. A waterfall - you know it's blue. I'll tell you who proved that black and white is more beautiful than color - Samuel Adams."
"You mean Ansel Adams," we reply.
"What? Oh, that's right. Ansel Adams. Wait, was Samuel Adams a president?"
"No, that was John Adams. Samuel Adams is a beer."
"That's right. God, I hate that shit. You know what gets to me? Thieves. Dirty, rotten thieves. I'm sittin' in Kitty's and this guy walks in with a bunch of batteries he just stole from the Walmart across the street. I told him to get the hell out. He asks me what I'm gonna do about it. I tell him I'm gonna pick up my phone and call the cops, that's what." He gives us a so-that's-that nod.
"We love Kitty's!" We say. He's not paying attention.
"Goddamn thieves. You know that Walgreens down the street? They kept on having problems with shoplifting so I wrote 'em a letter. Told 'em I was a taxpaying American citizen and I'm not gonna pay any more money for their products if they won't hire a security guard to stand by the front door. And do you know what?"
"They got a security guard. A random one. Never know when he's gonna be watching the door." He takes another swig of his drink. "Another time, I was watching TV and an Applebee's commercial came on that looked like it had O.J. Simpson in it. So I wrote the company. I said, I'm an American citizen and I don't want to watch commercials with people who look like O.J. Simpson in them. And do you know what?"
"They pulled the commercial off the air." He waits for our reaction, and then sees we're still listening. "Another time, I heard a Taco Bell commercial playing rap music. So you know what I did?"
"Um, did you write them a letter?" we ask.
"Damn right I did. I said, I'm an American citizen and I don't need to hear no rap music over a commercial for Taco Bell."
"Did they pull it off the air?"
He takes another drink and swirls the ice around in his glass. "I don't know about that one."
We offer up a proposition, "Maybe we should have you write some letters for us - they seem pretty effective."
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He grumbles, "You don't want me writin' no letters for you. When I write letters, I mean what I say. I got rights. I'm an American. I'd write Obama right now but I don't want to get thrown in jail."
He finishes his drink and gets up to leave, "Well, gotta go. Gotta help Grandma. She needs some new sheetrock at her house."
We wave goodbye, and the three remaining American citizens sitting at the bar, Ronda, Denay and me, talk about shopping.
The Ox Sports Bar 3209 East Pinchot Avenue 602-955-0943