Part 5: Chaser? I Hardly Know Her
If you’ve read this far, you’re probably expecting a scene at Kelly’s where I get my comeuppance. A Seth Rogen-esque escapade where the kid gets in over his head – a coming of age story where the absurdity of the attempt leads to hilarious, abject clusterfuckery. Well, I’m going to spoiler that right off the bat. Aside from two brief moments of panic, my first foray into Kelly’s Bar and Grill in quest of Girls! Girls! Girls! and bourbon, as a sixteen-year-old, couldn’t have gone better.
On my third attempt to enter Kelly’s Bar and Grill, on a bright, hot Sunday afternoon, getting to the parking lot was old hat. As for the hard part, actually getting out of the car and heading into the building, I decided on the band-aid ripping method – no time to think or second-guess, just do it — it had worked at 7-Eleven for my nudie mag purchase, it should work here.
The next thing I knew I was opening the heavy wooden door and stepping inside. And that was the first moment of panic. Of course I was familiar with the concept of walking inside from bright daylight and needing a minute for my eyes to adjust. This was next level though. The moment the door closed behind me I went blind — simultaneously my other senses were assaulted on multiple fronts. The sound of thumping music – the Oak Ridge Boys’ Elvira (don’t laugh, it thumps at the right volume), mixed with the clinking glasses at the bar. There was a good twenty degrees instant temperature drop due to the air-conditioning. An aroma I would later in life come to think of as Dive Bar Smell wormed its way up my nose. I could taste the cigarette smoke. Immediately a flight instinct began to well up in my gut. But I stood, rooted to the spot, until my eyes began to adjust. Probably only a few seconds, but it felt like, well, a few seconds more than that. I began to make out my surroundings. I was in a little alcove, entry type of space. There was an L-shaped partition between the door and the main room. I regained my resolve, standing there until I could clearly read Camel on the cigarette machine. Then I rounded the partition.
Kelly’s Bar and Grill opened up before me like a thing out of scripture. The glory of the Lord will be revealed, indeed. The bar was to the left, the stage to the right. There were a dozen or so wooden four-tops in between. At that time of day, on a Sunday, there was only a smattering of patrons. And what about the fabled Girls! Girls! Girls? There was one on the stage at that very moment. When I first caught sight, during one of the “oom poppa, oom poppa mow mow’s” she undid her halter top, holding it coyly against her chest. Then, with consummate grace and perfect timing, “high ho Silver, away”, she tossed the garment aside and did a little shimmy. There I was, in the door not a full minute and I’d already seen boobs. What a day, what a glorious day.
I was anxious to put my bar-ordering research to the test. I had decided I was going to be a bourbon drinker, and I was excited about it. Bourbon seemed to have lots of cool history, and rules, and tradition to it. Kind of like baseball. This piqued interest was based on a couple of things. First was a Playboy article called, “What Kind of Whiskey Drinker Are You?” Turns out they really do have pretty good articles. And second, according to Connie, I had two choices, Jack or Jim Beam, and I kept hearing his voice, “ Everybody fuckin’ drinks Jack.” Even then I was a contrarian. If I’ve got two choices and most everyone goes for one, you can bet I’m sure as shit going for the other. Road less traveled and such.
The woman I’d seen on her smoke break yesterday turned out to be the bartender. Her name was Angel. “Hi hon!” she greeted me like a cross between an middle-aged diner waitress and a high school cheerleader. “You came back!”
“Yeah,” I smiled. “I had forgotten something. Had to, you know . . .”
“Well, I’m tickled you came back. What’ll ya have.”
Without missing a beat I said, “A shot of Jim Beam, please.” I delivered the line as though I’d practiced in in front of a mirror, which I had, but with a great deal of charm. As sixteen-year-olds go, I was a charming motherfucker.
Then came my second brief moment of panic. Before turning away to get the bourbon, she said, “You want a chaser with that?”
Aw, fuck! Chaser? What the fuck is a chaser? Connie didn’t say anything about a chaser. Playboy sure as shit didn’t either.
This panic was just as brief as the first. Angel, saved me by quickly following up with, “We got Bud and Bud Light on draft. Bottle we got MGD, Miller Light, and Lowenbrau.”
“Yeah. MGD sound good.” Smooth, like butter. I noticed a guy at the far end of the bar had an empty shot glass and a full beer in front of him. Got it, order of operations sussed out. And just like that I was out of the weeds again and ready to settle in.
I’d had a clandestine beer or two in high school, but that was my first whiskey. Thanks to Playboy, I had some tips on how to take my first sips without coughing it out through my nose. In the decades since, I’ve developed a bit of a thing for it. Bourbon in particular. They call me Whiskey, after all. My tastes have evolved, become more sophisticated, I guess you’d say. Both in whiskey and beer. But to this day, I have a soft spot in my heart for, and will never look down on, MGD or Jim Beam.
© 2020 Whiskey Leavins