By Natalya Jones
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By Jesse Scheckner
By Michael E. Miller
The club life isn't all sex and glam. It's also expensive drinks, sleazy swinger dudes, uncomfortable clothes, self-doubt, and unpredictable music. Of course, I love the super-sexed, Mai Tai-sipping meat-market mating dance of youth bar-hopping. But sometimes I just want to listen to music from before my time, sip beer, and buzz pleasantly while I contemplate life with people who have at least five decades to think back on.
I heard Hollywood dive bar G's Place (201 N. 21st Ave.) was hosting a Grateful Dead-inspired jam band, and I figured that'd be a great soundtrack for me to marinate in booze to. Squeezed into stilettos, buzzin' on $20 cocktails, and trying to avoid eye contact with the local ladykillers? Maybe next Friday. Tonight I'll take chipped tables and cheap beer.
Ambience: A band called the Wheel was fronted by Angie, a bookwormish-looking gal with glasses and long dark hair. She was backed by a troop of seasoned musicians, who helped her pack G's with riff-tastic Deadhead anthems and ultra-long jam sessions. The place is small, and that night sparsely populated; the band played a few feet from where I — and actually, any other person in the place — was seated. Conversation was impossible while the Wheel was playing, but luckily they needed plenty of smoke breaks. G's has a pool table, some booths, tables, and a bar area, accented by hanging Christmas lights. A note near the jukebox commands that "all TVs must be on sports channels (Plasmas)." Planets had been painted whimsically on pale blue walls, where wind chimes and dolphin-shaped wind spinners mingled with the beer and Copenhagen ads. Listening to Grateful Dead tunes while sipping a cold beer and studying the random-ass décor, I began to wonder if I was actually on acid.
Drinks: I quickly realized I wasn't on acid — I'd just had three beers too many. Bud Light costs $2.50 a bottle, and the bartender replaced my empties so fast I didn't even notice until I'd knocked back four of 'em. But I've been to places you can't get water for $2.50, so I was happy to indulge. And apparently the Angie felt the same way. After several songs, the band's bassist, Jon, gestured toward an old man in a pink shirt who sat perched at the table in front of mine. "For the next song, a friend of ours is going to join us," he announced. "C'mon up, Jeff!" Like an uncoiling spring, Jeff launched from his seat to join the band at the front of the room as Angie slipped away from her microphone. She turned to the bar, ordered a beer, and plunked down in Jeff's spot to enjoy it.
Jeff brought back ghostly images of Jerry Garcia — ghostly because, let's face it, I've never seen the original Jerry. But Jeff rocked.
Bartenders: Shelly, the lean bartender, wore a black tank top cut to reveal the heart tattoo on her razor-sharp right shoulder blade. She looked like a no-nonsense sort of dame, fed up with life's shit, who wouldn't bat an eye at breaking your Bud Light bottle into shards and amputating your nipple if you pissed her off (I didn't skimp on the tip, just to be safe). Shelly still managed to be motherly — assuming your mother encouraged alcohol consumption to the point of obnoxious inebriation. She slid new beers into my hand with delicate ease. And when I ordered delicious French fries from G's food menu, Shelly sweetly brought me two little containers of Ranch dressing for dipping. And another beer, in case the one I was drinking was getting low (it wasn't). A pleasant change from flashy party clubs where you have to grab the bartender by her belly ring to get a drink.
Bathroom: The bathroom is an essential feature of every dive bar, because when you drink a lot of inexpensive beer you inevitably end up checking out the can. Plus, a trip to the bathroom temporarily shielded my bleeding ears from the damage music causes when it ricochets off too many cigarette vending machines. "Close the bathroom door when in use — no sneak peeks," read the sign on the door. I locked the door and turned to face the tiny one-person bathroom. Calming in its own ugly way, it had peach tile that ran up the wall to chest-height and lime walls that ran the rest of the way up to the ceiling. Thankfully, the place was pretty clean and smelled like canned freshness.
Customers: A friendly-faced collection (though apparently they have to be told to shut the bathroom door while peeing) wearing T-shirt and baseball caps, the patrons joked with the bartenders and ordered beer after steady beer. While the band was outside smoking, I talked to two men seated at the bar. Joe had rock-star length grey hair and small, narrow eyes. Blakki Wayne was a glam-metal cross between Steven Tyler and Severus Snape. He wore tight red pants and chunky chains around his neck (usually tangled when he wakes up in the mornings, he said). Blakki kept his slippery shoulder-length black hair stuffed under a bolo hat with playing cards — two aces and two eights — tucked into the brim.