Joe’s Bar: Just Drinks, No Food

I was walking down Columbus towards Montgomery, heading for the BART station on Market, making my way home. No real hurry, just meandering. My dogs were barking and it had been a rough day. My audition at The Cackle Factory hadn’t exactly killed. Well, except maybe for my stand-up career, which was definitely on life-support. I needed a drink. A nice midday martini would hit the spot. That’s not exactly my part of town so I started to keep an eye out for a likely watering hole. One with few windows and a bartender with a heavy pouring hand.

Finally, wedged among the seemingly endless blocks of Italian restaurants with clever foodie names, one after another, I finally spotted a blue neon sign that simply said “Drinks!” It pointed down a narrow alley towards a heavy wooden door under a sign that said, “Joe’s Bar.” And in smaller print underneath, “Just Drinks, No Food.” Perfect.

Walking through the door was like going blind. I heard an instrumental piano version of “Fly Me to the Moon,” but couldn’t make out a damn thing at first. As my eyes adjusted to the dim lighting and the room came into focus, I could see it was a small place. The bar, with eight or ten stools was to my left. I felt emboldened enough to take another step or two forward. Along the wall to the right were four or five booths, some of them occupied.

In the booth closest to the door sat a man and a dog. The dog, a mid-sized hound mix, sat upright and attentive as the man spoke passionately, “DiMaggio? Are you serious? If it’s not Ruth, it’s gotta be Willie Mays. 600-plus homers, a dozen golden gloves, a whole-hell-of-a-lot-a base hits and stolen bases. As a perfect combination of power and speed, he’s gotta be number one or two at worst.”

At the very back booth sat what I took to be three attractive women. The woman with her back to me was blonde. Facing me were a redhead and a brunette. What with the distance and the loud piano music, I couldn’t make out what they were saying, but the redhead and brunette seemed to be executing a synchronized tandem face-palm.

When I glanced left I was startled to see a horse, and a sad-looking horse at that, seated at the end of the bar nearest me, talking to the bartender. Next to the horse and standing on the bar itself was a very small piano, the source of the live cocktail music, being played by a pianist who could not have been more than a foot tall. The horse was saying, “Some assholes call it resting horse face. I can’t help it though. It’s just how I look.” The bartender nodded sympathetically as he wiped the bar.

The middle bar stools were taken up by three men. The first sported an impressive pompadour and a lime-green leisure suit. The man in the middle wore a priest’s collar. The third was wearing a yarmulke; he sounded uncannily like Jackie Mason. “I don’t mind most of them,” the Jackie Mason sound-alike was saying, “But the brothel ones? You want I should laugh at that? There’s nothing funny about a man of the cloth visiting such a place. Am I right?”

“Hallelujah!” said Pompadour man.

I’d had enough. “What is this place,” I shouted, “some kind of joke?”

Everyone in the joint looked up. A flurry of nods and shrugs made its way around the room.

The dog said, “No shit, Sherlock.”

I went home and made my own martini.

© 2015 Whiskey Leavins


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