Who says you have to wait until the sun goes down to have a good time?
"I used to like St. Patrick's Day, back in the '90's."
That's what Ron, the morning barkeep at Pat Murphy's, tells my day-drinking gal-pal Ronda and I when we pop in for pre-St. Patrick's Day brews at Pat Murphy's. Ron's scurrying around the bar, lifting huge sacks of potatoes over his head, and running through a lengthy to-do list in preparation for the next day's booze fest.
"I've worked St. Patrick's Day for eight years," Ron tells us. "It'll start getting busy around four or five o'clock, then, after seven, this place will get nuts."
Ronda and I look at the St. Patrick's Day countdown clock over the bar. We're sure it feels more like a doomsday one to Ron. We dig some money out of our wallets for some mornin' music. The juke's rejecting our dough. That's when we meet Morgan, a tanned, clean-cut, looker. He's sitting about four stools away and exchanges our crumpled cash for some crisp dollar bills.
Morgan's good people. Hailing from West Virginia -- with the accent to prove it -- Morgan tells us he's been in Phoenix for a little over a year, and is currently on a three-week suspension from his job after failing a piss test.
"Were you clean?" Ronda asks.
Morgan nods, "Something's wrong with me," he explains. "The lab told me I need to get it checked out, and my company's not sure what to do with my case."
"What's that patch on your sleeve?" I ask.
Morgan turns his head to look at it, "Oh," he says apologetically, "It says, 'Affliction.' I used to like that brand until everyone started wearing it. I had a girlfriend who bought me a bunch of Affliction stuff, then wanted some money for it. I told her, 'Hell no.' I've never paid $65 for a pair of jeans, and I'm not about to start."
Ronda orders up some cheese fries for our breakfast while the three of us discuss the genius of The Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique. There's a woman with short, blond hair, glasses and sporting a brown cotton twin-set playing a bar-top video game. She could have passed as a corporate smarty-pants, but we find out she's a dart pro who used to play on a Masters league and the 11 o'clock barkeep at Pat's. Kelly's her name. Ronda and I think we've heard talk of her at our previous visit to the Ox Bar. Cool. We ask her about playing darts on a Master's league.
"It was great until I fell down a flight of stairs," she tells us. "Now I just play on some of the dart leagues around town."
No-nonsense. We like that. We go outside for some sunshine.
"You ever been to Berkeley?" An old dude with crazy gray hair and a few missing teeth asks us. His girlfriend's sitting next to him with a smile on her face that never disappears. We tell him we haven't.
"You look like you're from Berkeley," he tells us. "You've got your own style -- most folks here look all the same."
He tells us he hates Phoenix. We ask him why.
"Everyone told me this was a cowboy town, and I haven't seen a damn cowboy since I came here 18 years ago. Plus, it's too hot. I want to move back to Berkeley as soon as I can sell my house."
"Were you in San Francisco a lot?" we ask.
"Hell, yeah. I'm an old hippie. I love San Francisco. If you don't like gays,or lesbians or strange people, you should get the hell out of San Francisco. Diversity. That's what it's all about."
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"Do you listen to Decapitated?" I ask pointing to his T-shirt. "I don't know a lot of old hippies who do."
He laughs, "No! This is my son's shirt. I just grabbed it this morning 'cause it was clean." He gives us another once-over, "Yeah, Berkeley. You girls look like you're from Berkeley. It's a compliment, you know."
We thank him and go inside where our cheese fries were waiting. They were terrible. Pathetic grease worms with nuked cheese on top -- we finished the whole plate. Kelly was behind the bar now, talking to Morgan. Ron was still running around checking off items on his St. Patrick's Day to-do list. The doomsday clock ticked on.
Pat Murphy's Pub & Grill 3215 East Thomas Road 602-522-0669