The chipped paint just tells you that Streeters is for real

"He's better than Robin?" I asked. Robin, no longer on duty but still in the vicinity, raised an eyebrow.

Carl seriously considered his answer.

"Yeah," he shrugged, glancing at Robin apologetically.

Jason Crosby

Trace, who'd been pretending not to listen, smiled without looking up from the register. "Oh, whatever," said Robin, picking up the drink she'd just ordered. "I have bigger boobs."

"Indeed you do," I said. Maybe tits get the tips, but they don't keep a job. I ordered another drink and started a tab with Trace, who was fast, amicable, and very cool (despite the flat chest).

Patrons: A 50-ish man in a red shirt took a seat beside me after my companion left to run an errand. He seemed quite intoxicated, but he had at least enough sense to give me a fake name when I informed him that my eventual mission was to write about Streeters.

After he'd insisted on my calling him "Zeke" — "That's my Chippendales name," he said — Zeke eventually caved and told me his real name was Ted.

"This is a great bar," he said. "They open early in the morning — I was here at 8 a.m."Ah, yes, that's a workday.

"You've been here that long?" That's not relaxing after work — that's taking on drinking as a full-time job. I was in awe.

"Well, today was my day off," he said quickly, apparently afraid I would think him a deadbeat (like, no, he doesn't do this every day). "But no, I left, went to a few different bars, and now I'm back here."

"Well, if you've hit it twice in one day, you must like it," I said, deciding not to have another drink. Somewhere along the line, you have to distinguish between "nightlife columnist" and "problem drinker." My companion walked back into the bar, glimpsed me trying to pull sparkling dialogue from a drunk, and wordlessly took a seat.

Ted pointed out a jovial, white-haired man across the bar. That was Bobby Streeter, the bar's owner.

"That guy is gonna challenge me to pool," he said. "Last time we played, I beat him."

"He doesn't like to lose?"

"Well, he doesn't usually lose," he said.

Ted offered a little thimbleful of history: "This place used to be a biker bar, but when Bobby took it over, he turned it into a nice neighborhood bar — a clean place, no fistfights or anything like that. And they don't play too much of that head-bangin' devil music at 100 decibels, like some bars do."

"Devil music?"

Trace clarified the bar's live music policy. "I know some college kids who are in a band," he said. "I have them come in and play every so often. They play heavier stuff."

"Devil music," repeated Ted. "And can you put in your story that this is a great place for women in their late 30s, early 40s to meet a nice guy?"

"She's writing a column, not a personal ad," my friend snapped.

"Look, you're not going to lay me," Ted blurted out. "You think I'm old."

A statement that, while correct on both counts, seemed to leave a minefield in its wake. I started to stammer a response, but then Bobby the proprietor came by and challenged Ted to a match at pool.

"You better beat him," I told Bobby. Ted shot me an icy glare.

As I walked over to witness the pool match, the Bee Gees came on, and both men started dancing with their pool cues. Bobby beat Ted twice. I congratulated Bobby and shook his hand, though I wondered if Ted might have fared better without 13 hours' worth of liquor coursing through his body.

Then Bobby bought an impossible-to-refuse round of drinks. Liquor-soaked now, though still a Magellan 'round-the-world voyage short of Ted's Beam-soaked territory, I decided it was about time to stumble out the door. Maybe the other patrons have all night to imbibe, but I have to be at work in the morning.

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