Being a nightlife columnist is kind of like being a sailor: We drink, we drift (from port to port or pub to pub), and our jobs can cause illness (they get seasick or scurvy; I get a hangover). Understandably, then, though I hate seafood with a passion, there's always been something about ships and seas that has enticed me.

Put a bar out there and call it the Wayward Sailor and you'll get my attention, like a distant foghorn or the snap of sails in a crisp breeze. Of course, a place like that may turn out to be, as I discovered on a recent Sunday night, frequented more by toasted Pittsburgh Steelers fans than actual sailors. Yeah, this is Fort Liquordale. Still, the schizoid Wayward Sailor Pub (3045 N. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale) can be more fun than a whole ship full of salty sailors. Or at least just as much.

Ambiance: I go to bars on Sunday evenings to avoid the obnoxious, boisterous crowds. As I walked up to the Wayward Sailor just after dark, I anticipated nothing more than a few old geezers smoking pipes and downing straight whiskey before going home to their boats. But as I drew closer, I became acutely aware of screechy, tension-filled warbling and quickly deduced that the bar was either bursting at the seams with rabid coyotes — or, worse, sports fans.

My fears were confirmed: I had just wandered into a mosh pit of Steelers fans, packed shoulder to shoulder around flashing TVs. Their black-and-gold fan jerseys contrasted sharply with the dusty old seafaring junk covering every inch of the pub's walls. Bobbers, fake barracudas and marlins, lanterns, ropes, nets, wooden boats, and black-and-white photographs hung haphazardly from the walls and ceiling, all surrounding the big wooden bar in the center of the room. I squeezed awkwardly through the sea of warm bodies, scouring the dark room for a chair or even just a dusty corner to stand in. I finally found one lone barstool and clung to it as if it were a life raft in a sea full of sharks.

Just had to wonder: Where the hell were the ancient mariners I was expecting, blowing smoke rings and telling their stories of the sea? What did sailing have to do with the Steelers? Already befuddled, I focused on summoning a busy bartender. Somebody had some 'splainin' to do.

Staff: The pretty blond bartender brought me a Bud Light quickly and, understanding my confusion, sent the big, burly bar owner over to talk to me. Mark Winkler wore glasses, and he had a bald head and white beard. Tie a dead albatross around his neck and he might just fit the bill. He had liquor on his breath and a smile on his face, and he was as jolly as they come.

"So, what are these Steelers fans doing in a sailor's bar?" I demanded.

"Well, I'm a Steelers fan, and my partner is from Pittsburgh, so we watch the game here," he said casually. "This place is pretty diverse. We get the sailing crowd, the Steelers crowd — and since we're so close to Culture Room, all the music fans come here after shows. Metal fans, country fans — sometimes the bands will eat dinner here before they play."

Metal fans? Guess you can't judge a bar by its name — or décor, for that matter.

"But why'd you choose the sea theme?"

"When we bought it, it was a Briny Irish Pub," he said. "In one of the hurricanes, our sign blew down, and we took the opportunity to rename the place."

"Why 'The Wayward Sailor'?" I asked.

"Well, my younger brother is a yacht captain," he said. "My parents' house was always full of my brothers' seafaring buddies. We would joke that the Winklers' home was full of wayward sailors. So we used that for the name of the bar — it's like an extension of that idea."

Well, OK. Enough to win me over.

"Sometimes people assume that since the name has sailor in it — and it's so close to Wilton Manors — that it's a gay bar," Mark added with a guttural chuckle.

"What?!" exclaimed Adam, the guy to my left, who had a narrow, fox-like face and was wearing a Roethlisberger jersey. "It isn't?!" He pretended to leave.

Patrons: The not-gay Adam and not-gay Shawn, who was football-player-hefty and wearing a backward white ball cap, were downing beer and enjoying the game — sort of. Shawn confessed he was not a Steelers fan (but hadn't been run out of the bar yet), and despite watching intently, Adam might have been too inebriated to know the score.

"You guys come here often?" I asked.

"I come here after working on my boat," Shawn said. "I come to hang out with Donna. I've known her forever." He indicated one of the bartenders, a pretty, petite woman with dark, cropped hair.

"I called Donna 'Debbie' the first time I came in here," Adam said with an earsplitting, alcohol-tastic laugh. "So now she's been calling me a different 'A' name every time she sees me. But not the one you're thinking."

"That's right, Big Al," said Donna, who had dropped in on the conversation.

"No, it should be Big Ben," I said, indicating Adam's jersey.

"What have you heard?" Adam said, giggling.

"Is he talking about his penis?" Donna asked.

Suddenly, they all focused on the TVs, and Donna started chanting these magic words, over and over: "Jell-O shot."

"When the Steelers score, we all get free Jell-O shots," Adam explained, as if letting me into an inner sanctum of wisdom. In a flash of brilliance, I realized the truth: I'd always loved the Pittsburgh Steelers. I just hadn't known it until that moment.

"The shots are Steelers colors," Adam continued. "The black is black cherry; the yellow is lemon. I hate the lemon ones." He made a face.

"If you get a lemon one, give it to me," I said.

Jell-O shots: I guess the Steelers were sucking so hard that Donna figured a touchdown might not ever happen, so she gave me a delicious, lemon Jell-O shot. A few minutes later, the crowd blew the place apart with cheering, and though it hadn't been a touchdown, Donna decided it was as good a time as any to give out shots. So I had another one, becoming increasingly good at downing them with minimal mess. Eventually, the Steelers stopped sucking, and I ended up sucking down two more Jell-O shots. Man, gotta love those Steelers.

Pittsburghese: An older, wiry gentleman — he was wearing two plastic Hawaiian leis around his neck, one yellow and one black — came up to me and said he'd heard I was writing about the place.

"I stole the leis off the tuna," Patrick explained after noticing me eyeing his neck adornments. He pointed to a big fish mounted on the opposite wall. "Anyway, I'm here to answer your questions."

I had four Jell-O shots crawling around my stomach and nothing investigative to ask, so he led me over to his group of friends.

"Do you know what a jag-off is?" Patrick asked me.

Sometimes the currents can take a nightlife columnist into the mental doldrums, no matter how she fights it.

"What?" I asked politely.

"It's Pittsburgh slang. Go ask the owner." Mark said he didn't know. Patrick was outraged and led me across the bar. He commanded dark-haired Robert and pretty, slender Stephanie to define "jag-off" for me. He then promptly wandered off.

"It's like a jack-off," Robert said. "An asshole."

"I kind of figured," I said, taking the opportunity to scribble in my notepad. In the process, my grocery list fell out of my purse, and Robert snatched it up. " 'Dishwasher soap, yogurt, Draino, tampons, condoms, lube, vibrator...' " Only four of those things were actually on the list. Stephanie sighed exasperatedly.

"Yeah, I'm shopping for a vibrator at the grocery store," I said, snatching the list back. It was about time to bolt.

No such luck. I was stopped by Adam's father, Tom, a friendly, older gentleman who had heard about my quest to define the word jag-off. Adam saw me talking to his dad, and, like an adolescent, rolled his eyes in embarrassment.

"I suggest you try Pittsburghese.com," Tom said.

"What are they doing to you?" asked Jill, an off-duty bartender who was short, pretty, and for some reason way too sober for the place.

"Defining jag-off," I said innocently. Now that his father was a few feet away from us, Adam strutted up and put his arm around Jill.

"This is my wife," he said. She rolled her eyes.

"You've just found the definition of the word jag-off," she said with a smirk.

So, the Steelers won, I learned a new word, had three too many Jell-O shots, and drifted wordlessly back into the night. Yeah, I'd had a crazy, drunken time with Steelers fans, but a nightlife columnist doesn't dock her ship at one bar, no matter how much fun it is. I'll be drifting on to a new liquor harbor next week, and I just hope it's got as many fun, Pittsburghese-speakin', hard-drinkin' folks as the Wayward and maybe a few less jag-offs.

Contact the author: Tara.Nieuwesteeg@BrowardPalmBeach.com.

Shawn confessed he was not a Steelers fan, and despite watching intently, Adam might have been too inebriated to know the score.

As country singer and fellow Texan Kevin Fowler says, "The lord loves the drinkin' man." Of course, rock-ribbed conservatives and nuns might want you to think otherwise, but even they have to concede that there are more than a few similarities between pubs and churches. Like-minded people regularly gather at both for feel-good rituals. Pubs have jukeboxes and beer; churches have choirs and communion wine. Bar patrons get glassy-eyed with booze and slump over on their stools, while worshippers get glassy-eyed with boredom and slump over in their pews. Some will tell you that churches are the way to Heaven and pubs are a one-way ticket to Hell, but I say that's just splitting hairs. If the spirit (or the spirits) hit you in this troubled world of ours, you'll be a better human being for it, damnit.

When I got wind of the Stained Glass Pub, a 36-year-old neighborhood booze-and-food joint, it sounded to me like the ultimate bridge between the enlightened and the inebriated, and my soul heard an urgent voice saying: Get thee to yon drinking spot.

Ambiance: Instead of depicting angels descending from Heaven, or the Virgin Mary in prayer, or something equally holy, the mock stained-glass painting that covers the roof of the Stained Glass Pub shows a modest sunset scene, with ocean, trees, and spots of red.

The building is irregularly shaped, and patio tables with umbrellas are scattered around its front door. I walked through the big foyer, expecting a cathedral type of atmosphere inside, but the Stained Glass Pub is (holy Mother of God) Tiki-themed. The octagon-shaped bar was covered by a thatched roof, patrons dressed in their SoFla football-watching best perched on light-wood bar stools, and neon beer signs blinked from the walls. A "special-of-the-day" blackboard begged patrons to consider having their Christmas parties at the bar; a digital jukebox sat unused in the corner, and, from numerous TVs spaced throughout the room, I could hear Hank Williams Jr. asking viewers if they were "ready for some footbaaaaalllll."

My companion and I grabbed a spot at one of the blond-wood booths and scanned the scene. For a Monday night, the place had a decent collection of Floridians in search of a buzz. But I, the spiritual seeker, was disappointed: Aside from a few scenes painted on glass in the surface of the bar, I detected no stained glass. Could the Pub be wrestling with an identity problem?

Drinks: Chris, our dark-haired bartender/server, eventually wandered over to take our order. I asked for a Stella Artois and a side of French fries. When he returned to deposit my light, frothy brew upon its respective coaster, I narrowed my eyes into slits and popped him with a reasonable question.

"So, why is this place called the 'Stained Glass Pub'?" I asked. "I see no stained glass."

"Well, there used to be stained glass," Chris said. "But then Hurricane Wilma came in and blew it all off." Oh. Talk about your act of God. The frowning church biddies must have clucked all the way to the hen house when that happened.

History: Chris must have felt the need to further satiate my curiosity, because he sent Kerri Tucker, the blonde, pixyish owner, over for a word. Kerri buzzed with enthusiasm and Long Island attitude, and swung through topics of conversation like Tarzan swings through jungle vines. 

"I've only owned this place a year," she said. "But it's been around since 1972. I bought it off three siblings, who'd owned it for many years before."

"So tell me about the place," I said.

"Oh, there are stories," she said. "One woman married a man she met while sitting in seat #65. Seven years later, she divorced the son of a bitch, came back, sat in the same spot, and said she was hoping to meet someone new.

"I've also heard a story of a married couple who came in, got drunk, went home, got frisky, and conceived a child," she continued. "They held the baby shower in our back room.

"We have eleven VIPs who have been coming in for at least 18 years," she said. "They get really good discounted drinks and they come in almost every day."

"I'd come in every day for discounted drinks," my companion muttered.

"And back a long time ago, they used to have the bartenders wearing short skirts and low-cut shirts," she said. "Maybe I should bring that back." She laughed and pretended to unbutton her pink sweatshirt, which was zipped up to her chin.

"I'd definitely come in every day for that," my companion said.

If anything besides cheap drinks can get my friend into a bar, it's exposed female thighs. But the only bartender I'd seen so far was our bearded bartender, Chris. He was a handsome fellow, but imagining him in a sexy Catholic school girl get-up? Not pretty.

"Chris told me the stained glass was destroyed in the hurricane," I said.

"Oh, yeah," she pointed toward the large front foyer. "It used to be right there. It was gone by the time I bought this place, but I've seen pictures, and it was beautiful: Huge stained glass picture of wine goblets."

Charity: "Lisa Mueller, one of the place's previous owners, is doing a Pampered Chef party here," said Kerri, her tone becoming slightly more serious. I'd never been to a Pampered Chef party, but I knew that any time my mother went to one, she'd return with everything from fancy Tupperware to extravagant onion-dicing equipment.

"Some of the proceeds go toward the North Broward Children's Hospital."

"Oh?" Chalk up another similarity between churches and bars: charity work. You don't even need stained glass when you have chipper chicks selling serrated knives for sick kids.

"The hospital is amazing — you see these kids wheeling around in their wheelchairs, covered in bandages, but still smiling. And kids you see one day might be gone the next." Normally, I come to bars to forget the woes of the world, but Kerri wasn't having any of that.

"Also, we do a drive here at the bar — we'll take anything, clothes, cosmetics, whatever — to donate."

"Wow, that's really good of you," I said. " 'Tis the season, I guess."

"The other day, someone dropped off a beautiful, green velvet dress," she said. "It's a size 16, and that's good — that way, a smaller kid would be able to get it on over all her bandages."

I've never met such a do-gooder bar owner. Maybe Kerri doesn't even need stained glass to be saintly.

Customers:  Marilyn wore a loose-fitting floral shirt, and long strands of her shiny white hair cascaded down her back. I watched her walk in and hop up on a bar stool, making her look tiny on her perch and almost childlike. Joe, a younger man with cropped dark hair, sat next to her as she sipped her drink.

"So what's so great about this place?" I asked.

"Good friends, good food, good booze," Marilyn said, without missing a beat. "What else do you want from a bar?"

"No, it's actually because Chris is hung like a pony," Joe mock-whispered, pointing at the bartender. "That's why people come here."

"What?" Chris asked, sauntering over.

"He says you're hung like a pony, and that's why he comes in here," I said.

"Oh, stop, you're making me blush," said Chris, fluttering his eyelashes.

"No, that's not why I personally come in here," Joe back-tracked. "That's why the girls come in here."

Marilyn rolled her eyes. "Good friends, good food, and good booze. I've been coming here since 1977."

"Before she was even born," Joe said, thrusting a thumb in my direction.

"So, you remember the stained glass?" I asked Marilyn.

"Yeah, it was beautiful," she said. "When the hurricane hit, I came over to this place every day I didn't have electricity. I needed to get my morning coffee somehow!"

"Coffee?! I'd have wanted vodka!" yelled Joe.

I crawled back over to my booth and found that my drink had been replenished, compliments of Kerri. My companion, while waiting patiently, had nearly a half-drink head start on me. As I watched the Christmas lights on the bar alternate — red and orange blinked to blue, green, and yellow — I changed my mind. I don't need my pub-crawling and praying to overlap. I didn't want to say good riddance, stained glass. But, shoot, religious grandiosity has little to do with the good folks of the neighborhood who just wander in to wet their lips. If Marilyn's been coming in since 1977, the Pub — with its tiki roof, its upbeat staff, and, yes, its penchant for spreading charity — must be doing something right.

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