Sunday, April 26, 2009

formerly despised, a modern trend wins over, if only for one night

One weekend recently, on impulse, SAM and I stopped at a low rent dive bar. Not to be confused with our favoritest-ever dive, The Horseshoe Lounge, located just south of downtown. Yes, the one that inspired Austin songwriter, Slaid Cleves, to write this song.

On this particular night, it was the first evening since giving birth in a very long time where all three kids were out for the night. Ahh.

The seriously cheesy dive we visited shall remain unnamed. It's former name, I learned, was "The Stumble In" but let's call it Bubba's, because that's closer to it's actual name. Bubba's is a slight downgrade from
Giddy Ups, in case you ever have the pleasure of visiting deep south Austin.

We've lived in our house for almost ten years. Though Bubba's is within walking distance, we have only visited a couple of times. Stayed for one round each, as I recall. Largely due to sour smell eminating from run down industrial grade carpeting. That cheesy.

So on this night, as soon as we walked in, I remembered exactly why this has been a one-beer stop. Giant screen TV's. Loud 70's heavy metal rock screaming playing in the background. Ozzy Osborne, no less. The music? Forgiveable. It is a bar. The seven giant screen TV's? Not so much.

Bubba's is merely one in a string of establishments we've patronized lately that features TV everywhere you look. The electronic equivalent of torture waterboarding. For instance, a year ago we tried out a new wing bar. I lubs me some hot Buffalo wings if they're done just
right. The wings? Edible. Barely. The twenty five plasma TVs thundering down from every direction? Obnoxious.

Last summer? Similar tale. Family trip to Washington, DC. Time to kill before flight out of National. Find a large Irish themed eatery in a cheery neighborhood. Hostess leads us upstairs. Immediately we are assaulted by no less than 50 flat screens showing sporting events from every corner of the globe. Only now do I see the posted signs bragging their record number of flat screens. Time is critical. We take our seats. Thankfully the monitors are silent. Still, my family doesn't converse so much as recoil from furtive glances at each other's exposed nostrils.

Has it come to this? Can we not eat a meal or drink a beer without a television lunging down at us from their high perch like vultures awaiting road kill?

Back at Bubba's, we stay for another round because a band comes onstage that is surprisingly good. Southern rock with the right dose of slide guitar.

During the band's intermission, we turn and see that the giant screens start playing a round of trivia. The game where participants pay for the little blue consoles and vie for the highest score.

Every now and again I get a pleasant whiff of something. Is there an air freshner squirting up above? Cover for sour carpet smell? A quiet guy in a blue collar work shirt sits next to me, alone. A blue console sits before him. I start a conversation and lean in. Nope, not air freshner. It was his deoderant I was smelling. I wonder if he would be offended or flattered if I asked what brand because I liked the powdery scent. Instead I ask him about bar stool trivia protocol. Can non-paying neighbors participate or should tightwads keep our mouths shut? He says he welcomes any help he can get.

The game begins.

Country originally founded by prisoners?

D. Australia!

Author of "The Warden?"

C. Anthony Trollope!

Istanbul was originally known as?

B. Constantinople!

Which city is located below the equator?

A. Sydney!

Our newfound gaming partner is thrilled and blown away. He had never heard of Trollope. (I had recently started my first ever Trollope novel). Or Constantinople (asks us how it's pronounced). His score skyrockets to the top. Wins the round. Now I know how Jamal felt in Slumdog Millionaire. We high five and decide we are best buds for life.

But, sadly, it was all downhill from there. Our moment of glory was over. We're of little help in the next round. It's time to cut out. We say our goodbyes. He thanks us, and then yells, "Hey! Give me your phone number? Next time I play, can I call you?"

Ok, so jumbo screens have their place. But only on trivia night.


Jason, as himself said...

But I agree about all the tvs looming. Especially if they're loud and I'm not interested in what is on.

g said...

Damn, I love dives and it's been a while since I've been to one.

But you're right about the TVs.

Alison said...

I'm afraid to say that where I live, there is a huge lack of character based dives. We live by the beach in a fairly provincial region and the bars are upmarket trendy and filled with people who've just come in from a surf or holiday makers or weekender tourists down from Brisbane. Frankly, I'd like a dive to visit, but yeah tv's everywhere? Depressing.

phd in yogurtry said...

jason -- just last night, small mexican restaurant nearby. walk in, loud tv in the corner. WTF?! I wanted to get up and leave.

g -- me too. give me a dive bar anytime.

alison -- no fan of upmarket trendy, either. give me rustic atmosphere, low prices, and authentic characters occupying the bar stools.

Margo said...

I think that's great you and SAM go to dive bars. The teevees everywhere has gotten nuts. My allergist's office where I spend hours every month - has 2 flat panels on the wall - both... playing FOX NEWS!

stephanie (bad mom) said...

So many questions - how was Bubba's food? Did you give blue collar guy your number? And whaddya have against Ozzy?? ;D

phd in yogurtry said...

margo -- ouch. new allergist, maybe?

stephanie -- we ate elsewhere beforehand AND I don't believe they serve food, unless olives count. I did not give blue collar my number. I was protecting hubby from a future as a trivia widower. As for Ozzy, I have a few chosen songs on my mp3 player, actually (Changes is one) but I steer clear of the screeching, acid rock number they had playing.

Andrea Frazer - Pass the Zoloft said...

I agree. Whenever we go to a sushi restaurant, it's the same deal. Food is great. But the strip mall is so gross. But it would be worth it to me if it weren't for the distraction of the flat screens. Why are other people more important than our conversation? If I want TV, I'll stay home.

Madge said...

i do get tired of the t.v.s having to be everywhere in restaurants and bars... it's so annoying.

and then i find myself watching.....

Fragrant Liar said...
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blognut said...

I wouldn't be able to tolerate all those TVs. I can hardly stand the TVs in my house.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

The one that is sending me over the edge is the tv screens at gas stations--can I not have a moment's peace?!

apathy lounge said...

Awww...that guy wanted you to be his "lifeline"! Not!

bernthis said...

Can I just say that I used to stand up in bars like that. TV's running full blast and me trying to make these folks laugh., nightmare

Nora said...

I am about ready to move to Austin to dive-bar hop with you, TV's or no.

julie70 said...

Wanderful tale: for me the noise is even worse then the tv's which, in most of London's pub are confined to one part and I could go to some other.

But sometimes, I love to hear and see the audience cheer together with beer in hand: participate in something like they were there.

Still have a nostalgia for Budapest's café's (as they were before) with someone playing a real piano in softly. Usually they also were very good.

Tit for Tat said...

Ah the irony...........Written by someone who spends some time in front of a screen on a daily basis. You know why they invented alcohol, it makes everything look better. ;)

Helena said...

I can't stand TVs in restaurants and bars. What's the point of going out socialising when all people do is watching telly?

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Anonymous said...

Oh yes, I hate places with TVs and avoid them.

My favourite bar in Aber had horrible carpets. I remember once sitting there for ages, and people kept bringing me drinks and when I went to get up my foot was welded to the carpet - I couldn't shift it. Someone had to pull at it.

I stopped going there when my children were crawling as the floor was just too disgusting for even my lax mothering instincts.

Anonymous said...

People sitting at a bar by themselves probably like having the TV on.

Dr. Deb said...

Sounds like fun.

imom said...

The pub we frequently only has a couple of tvs and they are not very big, thankfully!

The trivia does sound fun though. I know lot's of useless stuff, I'd probably be good at it!

Jocelyn said...

This why I like you so much:

You can make room for Ozzy playing, but you understand that tvs in public are wrong, very wrong.

Reinvent Dad said...

I'm so afraid to go into dive bars anymore...seriously, I think I'm going to never be heard from again.

Sandy Andrews, PhD said...
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Therapeutic Ramblings said...

Maybe it is because I live in a place flooded with tourists, but dive bars are one of the few refuges from the out-of-towners....and I welcome their overt prefer to locals and general indifference to people passing through.

ps. Supposedly those bar games are really popular up north, when people stick to one back because of the frigid cold.

dkuroiwa said...

*sniff sniff*...i'm having a hard time commenting as i am so totally overwhelmed with a tidal wave of homesickness *sniff sniff*

one of the big family restaurants here had a HUGE tv on the wall, but, the customers complained and they took it down. bars here don't even have tvs....sports bars do, in "the country"? nope....i think there's a dart bar but they have dart competitions on (i wonder if espn carries that?!).