On the American dive bar and Irish Carbombs

Saturday, 30 October 2010



The American equivalent of the English pub is probably the 'dive bar'.

I headed out (sober) to meet some friends on Polk Street, the more trendy, clubby bar area of San Francisco's Tenderloin, and walked into a venue full of pissed-up, halloween-costumed twenty-somethings.

 Within 40 seconds of entry I was confronted with 2 people that I wanted to bludgeon in the face; a lass who physically shoved me out of her way so that she could avoid soundwave interference as she screamed "REBECCAAAAA!", at her friend, (presumably named Rebecca) and a bloke dressed as a bottle of ketchup who wrapped me in an Anaconda embrace, before looking me in the eyes, realising I wasn't one of his friends, effecting an expression of disdain and then staggering off towards the toilets.
I saw one of my friends in the corner of the room, made eye contact and smiled politely, before turning on my heel and leaving the bar.
A few years ago I may have rued the social consequences of such an action, today those consequences pale in comparison to the prospect of being stuffed into a cramped fuckhole with only a narcissistic club beat and the company of douchebags to compensate for the inflated bar prices.

I still had a need to 'get out of the house', so on the way back I resolved to plunge alone into the neon dive bar (The Nightcap) which sits on the upper corner of our street.
There was no door security. I entered and took a pew at the bar next to a hispanic-looking man in a Giants cap who was drinking out of a red can.
A sign above the bar read: Bar prices may change depending on the customer's attitude.
"Gonna need to see your I.D, man."
A skinny, early-thirties bartender flexed his wrinkled, hassle-lined forehead as he strained to read my driving license. He turned a battery-operated mini-torch onto the card, which seemed to light up the gloomy bar that had previously only benefited from the red and blue glow of 'Budweiser' and 'Miller Light' neons. He was heavily tattooed with italic writing.
"What can I get you?"
"Have you got Guinness?"
"We've only got Guinness in a can."
"How much?"
"Five bucks. But I could pour it into a glass for ya and give you it for four - I don't give a fuck tonight."
I dropped the extra dollar onto the bar after he had given me my change.
"Do you own this place?"
"No, but I run everything around here so I may as well do."
"Are you the manager?"
"No, but I'm the life and soul of this shithole."
Some people started loudly arguing at the pool table behind me.
"Hey! Don't start shit in my bar!"
The Mexican bloke next to me piped up and asked if I knew Chicharito.
"He's a very good player, people love him in Mexico, playing for Manjester United."
"Hernandez?"
"Si! He is called Chicharito because it's his father name, and his grandfather name before."
The bartender counted out three dollar bills and dropped them on the table in front of the Mexican.
"For the jukebox. Let's hear some music; just play one song for me - Thin Lizzy; Dancing in the Moonlight."
He placed two pint glasses on the bar in front of me.
"You're about the only mellow guy in here tonight- do you know what an Irish Carbomb is?"
"We've had experience with those in England."
"Pint of Guinness, shot of Jameson Whiskey, shot of Baileys - but you gotta drink that shit quick before it curdles. Wanna do one with me, on the house?"
We dropped the shots, glass and all, into the pint of Guinness, and started to chug the thick, sweet liquid. The bartender finished in approximately 4 seconds; the Mexican guy was cheering and cackling behind us.
"Keep goin man! Don't worry bout him, he drinking 10 of those a day, man, snacks them down like frankfurters."
"I gotta stop drinking though", the bartender said as he wiped froth from his mouth, then nodded towards a brown-haired girl who was trying to coax conversation out of a drunk old man at the end of the bar. "I gotta get my girlfriend back, and I'm a serious dick when I'm smashed."
I drained the concoction and placed the glass back onto the bar. The Mexican guy erupted with joy.
"Fuck, man! Well done! You're one cool cucumber, man!"
"Want another guinness?"
I was unsure whether this one would be on the house or not.
"Yeah."
"5 dollars."
Before he could pour the drink out of the can, the arguement at the pool table erupted into shouts. He ushered the disagreement outside, pointing his finger at one guy in particular.
"All of you stop being dicks, and YOU take your little drug dealer friends out of here."
The excited, jabbering voices carried on outside, before being silenced by a loud crackling noise. The bartender shook his head and glanced out.
"Has that fucker got his stun gun out again? Welcome to The Nightcap - the cop's favourite nightspot."
He left the bar again, presumably to sort out any casualties with his dive-bar brand of jaded, no-nonsense efficiency.
His ex-girlfriend took over behind the bar, immediately having to summon some hard nosed authority and bawl at a man that was weilding a pool cue as though it were a baseball bat.
"Hey, come on! This may be a sketch place but you don't have to be so fucking sketch."
She raised her painted eyebrows at me as if to say 'this place!'
"He got me this job here, but I still kicked his ass out on the street when we broke up."
"That's brutal."
She poured herself a shot of whiskey.
"Maybe, but he drinks too fucking much."
She gazed at me with her big brown eyes and smiled, chinked her glass against my pint, drained it, and wrinkled her big bulbous nose before swallowing.
"You should come in tomorrow night - i'll be dressing as a French Maid."
"Maybe."
The bartender was staring at her malevolently from the front door.
"He has a jealousy problem", she explained.
He finished his smoke and walked purposefully into the bar, clicking on the lights on his way.
"Time to drink up now people. You too fella- finish your Guinness."
As I drained it and slid off the stool, he slipped me a small plastic container which housed a red vodka jelly portion.
"He's not interested in you anyway, he's got a woman."
His ex-girlfriend smiled.
"Night."
"See you again."
I walked down the street and took the jello shot to my woman

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