Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Elks Club

The Elks Club
I have been to the Holy Land, and it shall forever be known henceforth as The Elks Club. You probably have never been there. That’s because you are not an Elk. And you have to be an Elk, or be tight with an Elk , to get in. I was fortunate enough to be invited to have a drink with the Elks on my last trip to Colorado. Friends, I encourage you all to run out and join this mutherfucker as fast as you can.

I have often wondered what the hell happens at these places, and what possesses people to join them. I assume they wear hats with Elk antlers on them at their meetings, and practiced driving their miniature go-karts for parades. Until know, I couldnt be sure. It turns out, the sole purpose of the existence of the Order of the Elks, that I was able to grasp, is to provide a place for its members to enjoy very cheap, high quality alcohol. Im talking Grey Goose and Tonics for two bucks. Screw the kids with cancer and homes for the poor. This group exists for one reason, to get drunk, and to get drunk cheaply. I have no idea how they can sell top shelf liquor for golden grain prices, but I chalk it up to the mysterious powers of the Elk. Now just wait, before you all take off running for the closest lodge, there are a few things you should know.

Not everyone can gain admittance to this holy temple. First, you HAVE TO KNOW THE PASSWORD. No shit. This is so awesome. Its like when I used to build forts when I was younger and me and my friends would make up passwords to keep the other kids out. Well, just like then, the passwords don't even work. They just SAY you have to know the password, but really, you don't. You can just walk right in. That is exactly what we did. Perhaps I need to explain how the hell we ended up at the Elks Club in Durango, Colorado.

Me, the Kiwi, CMB and some other hippies went on a snowboard trip. While in Colorado, we stopped in to visit some of CMB's inlaws. Of course, they wanted to take us to all the best places that night, and it was announced that we would be having drinks at "the Elks" before hitting the town. And we would be joined by the inlaws-friends as well. Keep in mind, the Inlaws, and all of the Inlaws friends, are in their late fifties to sixties. They will also drink you under the table without ever removing the cigarette from their lips, save to light up a fresh one with the spent butt.

We walk in, and Im not sure who I am supposed to give the password to. There is an intercom at the front door. Of course, the door isnt locked and no one is guarding the entrance. That is because they are all inside at the bar. I guess the password thing is just to fool the Moose Club members. The Moose Club isnt very smart, and I don't think they drink that much.

You walk into the "Lodge" which is just a building located conveniently close to where the Elks work. I was told that a good Elk will get to work at about 2pm, check his messages, and is at the Elks bar by 3pm, after putting in a solid hours work thinking about drinking at the Elks. Inside the Lodge there are a bunch of tables. Apparently, the Elks serves food. No one is eating. Eating just wastes time that an Elk could be drinking. Our snowboard crew isnt exactly made of spring chickens, but at the Elks, our presence alone halved the median age. About 10 snowboarders walk in, unannounced to the Elks, and no one bats a damn eye. I guess they figured that if we were smart enough to get past the whole password thing, we were good enough to drink at their bar.

The bar kind of reminded me of a Hells Angels bar, circa 1960. Its all wood and very smokey. They have a non-smoking section. The non-smoking section is empty. Most people have sweet mustaches, are dressed in jeans, jean jackets, and cowboy or trucker hats. Everyone was smoking a cigarette. Everyone was approximately twice my age. It was just like being at home in Hazard County. Then I was in for the shock of my life.

I ordered two Grey Goose and tonics and three draft beers. Yes, the Elks know their shit when it comes to good liquor. Total bill: $12.00. I nearly fell on the floor. Apparently, I had found the holy land. No wonder the Elks don't have to work, a Mexican can drink all week on one day's wage of pesos at this place.
Some of the other Elks that new we were coming invited their kids, who were our age. Elks and their children have a very different relationship with each other than what I have with my parents. I was sitting at a table of snowboarders, Elks, and Elk children, when one asked if I wanted to smoke some pot. An Elk (whose son was sitting next to her) piped up, "If you do, meet in my car in 15 minutes. I will drive." This woman was at least 58 years old.

Elk mom drove while her son rode shotgun and packed bowls, the rest of the car was a mix of Elks and snowboarders. The Elks fucking know how to party. Im sure my parents smoked dope at some point in their lives, but they sure as hell never offered to drive me around to do it with them in a car full of their friends. It was on this car ride that Elk Mom told the story of how a friend commented that her sons were much more attractive than her husband. Elk Mom shouted to the car her husband’s response, "well Hell, I didnt Fuck her with my Face." Elk Mom told this story while her son was riding shotgun. I will say it again, the Elks have a very different relationship with their children than my parents and I do.

So basically, the Elks show up early, drink cheap as hell top shelf liquor, smoke a little pot, fuck with their kids, and in general live life the way it should be. Drunk. I love these people, and I hope that one day they will deem me worthy of joining their club.

Friday, November 11, 2005

The Highlander

I was excited about going to the Highlander because I read all these really wonderful reviews of it on the internet, on those sites where anyone can write their opinion, which is usually a good barometer of a place because generally they are honest reviews. After reading them, I expected to find food like the EARL, the imposing facade of the Clairmont Lounge, and the clientele of the Yacht Club served with huge shots, huge beers, and at cheap prices. Basically it was described as the best bar in Atlanta. After having been there, I can safely say that most people are not qualified to give opinions.

Don’t get me wrong, it was a fine place. The food was pretty good, the drinks were in fact huge and cheap, they had pool tables and air hockey, but nothing struck me as being particularly scary, divy, or interesting. Being dimly lit and having bartenders with tattoos does not make a place scary, or even interesting, much less fun. The Highlander is decent, but I fail to see what all the fuss is about. I wish I could identify the intangibles that make a bar feel interesting and exciting, because if I could, I would be rich. But whatever it is, the Highlander did not strike me as having it.

Let’s see what others had to say about it online. Some guy wrote “This bar had me thinking about moving to the ATL. I'm still thinking about moving there, I want to work there that's how much I thought of this place.” It must really suck where this guy lives. Apparently, he is “a northern guy, 30, from Pittsburgh, PA.” Yes, it does suck where this guy lives.

Another genius wrote this, “we always have fond memories from our many experiences there.” Its not a fucking vacation destination, it’s a bar. I usually have no memories of bars except for a headache and a credit card receipt. She goes on, “We especially adore the lack of the Buckhead crowd, as well as the absence of yuppie scum and frat boys!” Is this the 80s, do we even have “yuppies” anymore, isnt pretty much everyone a yuppie know, and so the term is pretty much dead. Anyone who uses yuppie as a derogatory term is pissed off they didnt finish school and are stuck driving a Daihatsu.

From another opinion giver, “The Highlander has one of the best jukeboxes in town.” I wont dispute this, the thing is and 8 feet tall. “The place may look a bit scary, but the people are interesting and for the most part, friendly.” Its located in a strip mall, a well lit one, in the Highlands, and sits behind a Brewsters. The only thing scary is seeing gay men grab each others asses outside in the parking lot. But in the same token, Chris saw to girls having lesbian sex in their parked car, so it works both ways.

“It looks more imposing than it really is, although I wouldn't mind if it were a bit scarier to keep away some of the preppie types that show up, obviously "slumming it." Again with the, “we are poor and shabbily dressed and tattooed so we are scary and cooler than people who take baths” attitude. No you arent. No one cares. The alternative became mainstream in the early 90s. There is no such thing as being an anitconformist in this day and age, because EVERYONE is anti something. Everyone has a tattoo. Everyone listens to punk rock. Get over yourself.
As for the Alphaholics, this was a fine turnout, and probably the most diverse group yet. We have new faces show up at each bar. Unfortunately, I have not been able to drink as much as I did at the first few bars due to factors beyond my control. Accordingly, things have been pretty tame. For this, I apologize to all my Alphaholic friends, and promise to inspire more debauchery at future gatherings. Last night was not my best showing, I don’t even have a headache today. I will do better next time.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Gravity Pub

Tonight is the "H" bar, and we will be heading to the Highlander. But last week, we went to the Gravity Pub, here is what it was like, if you missed it.

Gravity Pub

The coolest thing about the Gravity Pub is the downstairs. To get there, you have to kinda walk back into the kitchen like you belong there, look to the right for some stairs going down into what appears to be some dank cellar, and head down the rickety stairs. There are no signs pointing you in the right direction. Well, there may be one, but its not real clear if it is a real sign, or one of the many that were stolen from other establishments, like “Warning, No Life Guard On Duty.”

I showed Cathy the downstairs, she had no idea it was there, despite having been to Gravity several times. But when we went into the kitchen and came to the stairs, I saw a sign that said, “Downstairs closed until further notice,” and it was a real sign this time. Of course, we just ignored it and went on down, its not like it was locked or anything, and the lights were on. It looked normal to me, pool table, fooze ball, graffiti covered walls, random juke box, leaking sewer pipes. I did not really see a reason for it to be closed. No raw sewage or anything.

Back upstairs, I asked the bartender, the one that Chris thinks is pretty much the best bartender in Atlanta, and she said that the fire marshal shut it down until it was brought up to code. Code. What the fuck, the place is a dive, there is nothing up to code. And the downstairs is a cinder block cellar, what the hell is there to bring up to code. The last thing a place like the Gravity Pub needs is to be “brought up to code.” To quote Booger, “Who decides the standards?” Unfortunately, just as in Revenge of the Nerds II, Nerds In Paradise, the answer is, “why, your democratically elected leaders...of course.” And so you cant hang out downstairs anymore, at least not without violating the fire code, but I don’t think anyone is really checking.

Either way, the upstairs is great even without the downstairs. Its never crowded, there is good beer on tap, poured by a hot alterna-chick bartender/owner, and there are plenty of dart boards. Its fine if you don’t roll your own darts, or hand carve them like an Indian, or whatever these Dart Dorks that try to hog the boards, with their dart gloves and all, like to pretend is cool. You can just get them from the bar, for free. Im not good at darts, especially when drinking. Which is the whole point of the Gravity Pub. The people there arent trying to look cool by pretending they don’t care if they look cool, like everyone at the EARL. Its not a fashion show, where everyone tries to “out scene” each other. Its just a funky old bar with dart boards, good music, and a secret “closed, but only if you obey signs” downstairs. You should stop in sometime, its my favorite bar in EAV, and probably Atlanta.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Earl

We went to the Earl for the "E" bar. I was sick as hell, but fought threw it. I could hardly get two drinks down, and didnt stay more than an hour, so nothing crazy happened because I could not really give it much of an effort. I kinda just stared in a dazed at a football game. But anyway, here is my review of it. Tomorrow we go to Fuzzy's ,and Im on antibiotics. Normally I wouldnt give a shit, and would drink myself silly, but I have an important game on Saturday that I must save up for. I cannot risk being sick and missing the worlds largest outdoor cocktail party...

The Earl is probably East Atlanta Village’s most well known bar. Its not exactly a dive bar, not exactly a hipster bar, not exactly a restaurant ,and not exactly a live music venue, but it is all those things at once. The Earl anchors East Atlanta Village. Without it, the village would not hold its designation as “hippest neighborhood in Atlanta.” That is what Creative Loafing calls it, not me. I call it home.

The Earl has arguably the best bar food in town. Its only competition is the Vortex. The Vortex has a stranglehold on the best burger in town, and I love it. But the Earl has the edge in overall bar food. If you did not get here early enough to eat, you just dropped the damn ball. Expect the typical fried fare, burgers, fries, and even hotdogs. You wont be disappointed.

Thankfully the Earl is one of the best bars we will visit during the entire alphabet. It has live music, good food, and interesting people. Most lean towards the hipster set with a dash of rockabilly thrown in as well. Pratt said it best, “Most of the people here look like they havent bathed in a month.” This is probably true, but it is a look they are going for. Only a handful truly had not bathed in a month.

This is the EAV, so expect plenty of tattoos, dyed hair, and studded jewelry. The Earl, and the EAV with it, has become the defacto alterna-destination now that Little Five has gone suburban. But with it comes the feeling of realness, without any of the cheesiness you find in the Highlands and now, even L5P. You just get a good feeling when settling in to the bar here for a drink. Its like the people there are more serious about drinking than what kind of car they drove to the bar in.

Of course, there is plenty of PBR to go around to all who feel that it is necessary to drink PBR in a slightly shady bar. I am on a personal crusade to end this ridiculousness. There is no reason not to enjoy the beer you are drinking. Order the good stuff. Beer is more than a means to an end. Good beer gets you just as drunk as shitty beer, its just more fun along the way.

I was scared that EAV, being so deep in the hood, might scare off our less adventurous alphaholics, given that people are routinely held up at gunpoint in the Village, carjacked, robbed, threatened, and what have you. But that just adds a little flavor to the night out. Of course, its probably safer than Buckhead. I did not get a final count, but we had a lot of regulars and many some timers, and it is safe to day we had well above 20 show up to what was the probably the largest outing yet. By far the most fun bar we have been to, setting aside the Clairmont, which is an experience that cannot be compared to anything else.

So please, if you are ever in East Atlanta, by all means stop in at the Earl, you will find good food, interesting people to look at, and a well poured pint, without attitude. What more could you ask for.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Village Pizza

Village Pizza seems a tad confused. Its not in the EA Village, its in Cabbagetown, like its owner, who migrated over from Grant Central Pizza, which itself is in the EA Village, but itself is named after another neighborhood. See, confusing.

And the pizza is pretty good. A generous slice comes with little grease, and is made with fresh ingredients. How do you compete with that. Its new, and tucked away in Cabbagetown, so finding a table is easy enough. However, I heard that there was no beer served yet. So I called:

Me: Do you serve beer
VP: No, but hopefully early next year we will.

Me: So is it cool if we bring our own? (note: its legal to bring your own if they dont have a liquor liscence, Im a lawyer, trust me).
VP: Well, I thought it was, but then I was told that you cant. And we are trying to get our liscence, and I dont want to screw that up...but, if you bring beer, just keep it on the DL, pour it in a cup, and it will be cool. Just keep it on the downl low. Like, dont leave any bottles on the tables, Im trying to get my liscence, and if I get busted, I will hate you forever.

Me: Uh, ok man, thanks.

So, if you want to drink, you can, but its a bit of a hassle, and you run the risk of being hated forever. Of course, that is nothing new to me. There are tons of people who hate me. Like the lawyer who once threatend to beat my ass in a deposition, but when I said fine old man, bring your shit, he ran away, while calling me a pussy. WHILE HE RAN AWAY. He hates me forever.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Dixie Tavern

Thursday brought us to the letter "D" on the alphabet as the Alphaholics are four bars in to drinking their way through the entire alphabet one bar at a time. Dixie Tavern was chosen, even though it is OTP as hell. I used to live OTP, now I remember why I moved into the city. I was skeptical of the Dixie Tavern. I always thought of it as a dive bar full of suburban rednecks. Dive bars a fine, rednecks are funny sometimes, but the suburbs have no redeeming qualities at all.

What surprised me most about this bar is the clientel. For the most part, they were reasonably attractive girls, just out of college. What the hell. Why did they decide the Dixie Tavern, located in a strip mall, sandwhiched between car dealerships, in the middle of suburubia hell, was the place to go. Im not sure, maybe it was the live country music. Country music is awesome, as long as it was made no later than 1983, or, if later, was made in Texas. This was neither. This was the shit you hear for three seconds on the radio before saying, "what the fuck is this shit" . Apparently young college girls like it, because they were there in droves. And by college, I mean the outlying technical colleges, junior colleges, and the four year schools where you dont have to apply, you just show up the first day and sign up. Of course, these are the colleges also favored by strippers, so it kind of makes sense.

The bar itself is a fairly spacious space, they have decent pub food, and a nice selection of beer on tap. Dive bars do not have Octoberfest beer, or Purple Haze on tap like the DT. Of course, they did have the requisite $2 PBR, which everyone except me felt compelled to buy. PBR sucks. I refuse to drink shitty beer just appear ironic, which is why 99% of people drink it. The other 1% are kids who really dont have any money, so every dollar saved is half another PBR. College educated professionals pulling in even half of six figures need not drink PBR.

There are TV's lining the wall, and a few projectors. I get the impression that this would be a good place to watch a few games, if, you know, you lived in the suburbs. I found it funny that the guys behind the bar, at a place called the Dixie Tavern, were not the rebel-flag-patch-on-sleeveless-denim-jacket wearing, Copenhagen spitting, civil war re-enactors you would expect, but a bunch of guys from New Jersey that seemed to have come straight out of Orange County Choppers.

All in all, it was probably the most fun bar we have been to, with the exception of the Clairmont. The Clairmont is an experience in and of itself, and cannot be described in terms of "fun" or "not as fun." The DT was packed out with young girls, there was a live band, though not exactly my style, apparently appealed to some because you had to squeeze through the crowd to get to the bar. We had a lot of new faces show up, and though i dont have the offical count, I am sure it was the most we have had yet. It strikes me that, for a lot of people, the suburbs are considered close by, and not some strange far away land that takes forever to get to, as I view it, which may have helped our cause.

If I ever find myself trapped OTP, and in need of a beer (and really, when am i not in need of a beer), I would definately go back. Next week, my favorite bar, which happens to also be in my hood. The East Atlanta Resturant and Lounge. You my know it as The Earl.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Clairmont Lounge

When I walked into Clairmont Lounge, the our "C" bar for the Alphaholics Anonymous weekly meeting, I was shocked. Like most people, I could not believe what I was seeing on the stage. But its not what you think. This was not my first time, or even my 20 th, so I was not taken aback by meth-addict-rotting-teeth-bruised-ass 50yr old hookers on the stage. I was shocked because there was only about two strippers out of ten that looked like homeless crack whores. The rest of the girls could easily be found in your average low rent strip club. On every previous trip, the average age of the strippers was 55. But now it appears to be closer to 25. If it wasnt for Sophie, the late sixties great-grandmother (whose life story once made Rikki cry), it would be tough to shock the uninitiated with the obsenity that is seeing most of the Clairmont strippers nekkid. These new girls, while by no means hot, were actually watchable without clothes on. It was the first time I have ever considered getting a table dance from a stripper at the Clairmont, but in the end, it still wasnt quite worth the $5.

At most Atlanta strip clubs, you cant dance with a tattoo. It has to be concealed or covered with makeup. The Clairmont has apparently become the defacto bar for the set because they let anyone that can stand, dance. There were quite a few punk chicks with tattoos and piercings, because that is pretty much the only place they can get work. If what I saw was typical, the Clairmont might have taken one step closer towards mainstream. Of course, by mainstream, I mean the girls no longer jump off the stage mid-set, once they have earned enough dollars, to run outside and score some more crack. Mainstream means there are not so many cellulite riddled, black-eyed depraved drug addicts (though they still have a few), but rather more girls with spikes protruding from their lips, half their head shaved like Sinead O'conner and the other half dyed pink. It is less, and more, but has a long way to go before it becomes . Either way, the clientele there still has its fair share of hopeless lonely old men, homeless bums exchanging their spare change for PBR, frat guys ordering Amstell Light, and hipsters drinking High Life because they like the look of the label. Which is to say, the Clairmont brings together all walks of life, and everyone generally has a good time laughing at each other (and the girls onstage).

A lot of people are scared of the Clairmont, but that is just stupid. Its not scary, its just dirty, but also a hell of a fun time. It had been a while since I had been there, but we all agreed that we should return more often. The thing I like most about the Clairmont is that it is what it is. It doesnt try to be a shitty dirty dive bar, it just is because that is the way it always has been. Sure a lot of other places are dingy and dirty, but only because the owners are going for that vibe. It has an authenticity about it that is not tarnished by being listed in magazines and newspapers and "Best Dive Bar in Atlanta," year in and year out, whatever the hell that means. The women behind the bar have been there for years, as have many of the strippers. It's the only place I've ever been too where the girls come by after dancing and thank you for tipping them. Hell, half the time I got a thank you, I didnt even tip.

Our group this week was probably the most diverse yet. We had a former Gold Club dancer, a laywer, a few yuppies, a Girl Scout troop leader, a couple of gay guys, and some hippies. I have seen a lot in my short time on this earth, but I have never seen a gay asian guy tipping a great-grandmother four times over for flashing him her grey haired beaver...until yesterday. Im ready to go back next week, but instead, we will see you at the Dixie Tavern.