Who says you have to wait until the sun goes down to have a good time?
On Sunday night, my hubby and I watched the exhausting, mediocre, and hipster-gimmick fest (500) Days of Summer. We spent the remainder of the evening on the patio, drinking cheap wine, reminiscing about Lloyd Dobler and wondering if we had reached the point in our lives where watching 20-nothings fall in and out of love was akin to putting money in a vending machine and not getting our Cheetos - no payoff. Time to call my good friend, Ronda, ex-co-proprietor of the recently departed Ruby Room and Day Drinker play-date, and go to a place that kicks it old school. Time to go to the Swizzle Inn.
There's something satisfying about standing outside a bar nestled in the corner of a strip mall at 10 a.m. and watching the Starbucks psychos across the parking lot get their caffeine fix knowing that, within minutes, your cup o' joe will contain Carolans Irish Cream Liqueur (the bottom-shelf version of Bailey's), and you won't be rushing to make that corporate "brainstorming" meeting. Your only job today is to read the "Beer Prayer," lovingly painted next to the entrance of the Swizzle on a painted-over window. We read, we prayed, we entered.
It's still Christmastime at the Swizzle Inn.
Silver garland, lights and shiny bulbs are hung over once-nautical décor. A Santa's hat and beard are slyly placed over a shark's toothy mug. A bizarre triangular enclosure in the corner features a Christmas tree stuffed inside its glass walls. Garland and ribbon hang from paneling and doors, and a poster of Santa Claus surfing in swim trunks proudly proclaim, "Merry Christmas, Dude!" Add a woman with a vacuum cleaner playing SilverStrike (read: bar bowling), and a drunk old man sitting at the bar attempting to read the newspaper with his baseball cap nearly falling off his head, and you've got one serious case of Christmas-Trippy.
We order up and tell the bartender, who ends up being the owner, too, that we like the lights. He tells us it took five people and six hours to do all the trimmings. Guess he's getting the most from it.
In no time, sitting at the bar, appears to be every friend you can remember your Dad ever having over for garage beers: Dale, Burt, Ted Knight, Barney Miller. They all know each other, know each other's families, pick on each other, and are in the same football pools. The current bally-hoo is last night's Cardinals playoff game.
"Those goddamn Cardinals," says Burt. "Dale and I were at the game last night. The goddamn Safeway stores passed out these banners that said 'Defense' on one side and 'Touchdown' on the other. People we're standing and holding them up the entire time - you couldn't see a goddamn thing. And then it took us an hour and a half to get home. Dale tried to call Emma but she just said, 'Fuck you!' and hung up on him."
We order two more coffee and Carolans. Good pours. Damn good pours. And cheap, too. We're starting to feel right at home; like the first Thanksgiving when you finally move from the kiddy table to the adult buffet and get to hear conversations about the best movie ever made (The Bridge on the River Kwai), young people today, and how Home Depot royally screwed up a paint order. The back door was open, Etta James was playing on the juke, someone had brought in a bag full of oranges and nectarines for the taking, and we all started to play Who Wants To Be a Millionaire.
Question: In the nursery rhyme "One, Two, Buckle My Shoe," what is the action after seven and eight?
Us: "Lay them straight!"
Ted Knight: "You girls are crazy. It's 'open the gate' - it used to be 'lay them straight' but they changed it."
Barney Miller: "You're a damn fool, Ted. Those girls are right"
Cue cheering, then jeering.
Outside in the smoking section, a 5-foot-by-5-foot area populated by four ash buckets, two of which were giant cooking pots, Dale is talking movies again.
"I don't like Brad Pitt," he informs us, "not because he's colored, but because he's not a good actor."
"Wait, not Brad Pitt. What's that guy's name? The colored actor?"
"That's the one. I don't think he's a good actor. I'll tell you who the greatest actor of all was, and he could sing, too: Frank Sinatra."
We'd be remiss in talking about the Swizzle Inn without mentioning the women's restroom, or, more aptly put, the powder room. It's been mentioned before, but it bears repeating. When you open the door and put the pool table, dart board, and stickers that read, "Jesus Loves You, Everyone Else Thinks You're an Asshole" and "I'm trying to see your point of view, I just can't get my head that far up my ass!" you walk into a far different place. A pretty place. A clean place. A place where you want to spend time. A place adorned with potpourri sticks, hand lotion, powder room stools, and a tampon basket - with regular- and heavy-flow mouse rockets. It's like when a guy moves in with you and you give him "his room" in the house to display his collection of Star Wars figurines and dragon posters. Clearly, a woman decorated this oasis, and clearly, no man has ever set foot in it.
Back at Christmas at the bar, we order our third round of drinks. The topic has moved to dating and how young kids today are hooking up on the worldwide interweb. We can't help but poke at little fun and fire back with one-liners about horse and buggy rides, porch swings, and taking a gal to the "talkies." Our new friends take it in stride. The bartender is cutting limes, we're eating oranges, and all of us start playing along to a second round of Millionaire.
Cue Johnny Cash on the juke.
Cue men of honor.
Cue missing our dads.
Swizzle Inn 5835 North 16th Street (602) 277-7775