At the time of my departure chez John the poll consensus was to find another bar. Which sucks, because I haven’t found another bar in this town with the right combination of tables where I can set up my writing and being slow in the afternoons. Montana Ale Works is closed afternoons, or it would be the obvious choice. So, find another bar I must. A laptop on my back, I made my way into the light of day with a vague recollection of John mentioning a bar across the street from The Cannery. That would do nicely. Down Main Street I trundle, moseying along until I’m across from The Cannery.
I saw no bar. Most of you who know me are probably assuming the bar was right in front of me, and you’re probably right. Probably there was a giant flashing sign shouting “BAR! BAR! BAR!” but I didn’t see it. I continued. It was a few blocks before I saw the red neon in the shape of a cow skull that announced Crystal Bar. The neon in the window proclaimed that they had all the standard domestics on tap. Like there was any doubt. I crossed the street (safely, at the corner) and pushed into the bar.
It was exactly what you would expect from a bar identified with a red neon cow skull and a sign proclaiming this to be burger night. It was mid afternoon and the seats at the bar all appeared to be taken. There were a couple of pool tables lying idle and a few slot machines, but no tables where I felt good about pulling out the technology. The few tables were large and crowding the slots. There were peanuts on the bar, and shells on the linoleum floor.
At the end of the bar, near the burger cooking station, was one empty stool. There was an unfinished drink in front of it. I moved that way, since that’s where the standing space was. One woman at the bar turned to me and said, “She’ll be right back.” Presumably the ‘she’ was my new bartender. I bellied up to the bar. “Have a seat,” the woman said. “Is someone sitting here?” I asked. “No,” another patron said. “You are!” said someone else. Message from everyone: “You are welcome here.” I took the stool.
While I waited for my beer fulfillment, I looked around. Above was baseball – Cubs vs. Astros. I hate the stinkin’ Astros. It’s not about the team, it’s about their ridiculous stadium. Somebody in Texas needs to be slapped. But I digress. The TV was over the beer fridge, which was covered with the usual collection of bumper stickers and hand-written signs. Prominent among the signs was this gem, hand-lettered in red El Marko: WE DO NOTSELL MIKES HARD LIME DOWNSTARIS!! PERIOD!! Yes, “fucking” was underlined twice.
Eventually my bartender returned. Caroline (rhymes with gasoline) was spitting acid and lighting fires with her eyes. She had been talking to her boss, and I guess it didn’t go to her satisfaction. I found myself in The Land of Disgruntled Employees ™. The woman sitting next to me, the one who had led the way in making me feel welcome, had recently quit the bar for the fourth time. She knew what to do. She bought Caroline (rhymes with gasoline) a shot. The next bartender, whose name is not Jersey, showed up early and was dragooned into covering for Caroline (rhymes with gasoline) for “a few minutes”. Not-Jersey graciously agreed to cover and then grumbled for the next half-hour while waiting for “a few minutes” to expire. She was grumbling to the burger-cooker, a pretty girl whose name was probably not Allison. Probably-not-Allison shared a general disgruntlement with Not-Jersey about some other person (We’ll call her Bill) who was supposed to be working but wasn’t. Or something like that.
Probably-not-Allison doesn’t like working with sauerkraut and wanted to know why she needed to scoop pickled cabbage from the big jar into a tupperware container. No one had an answer, but if she didn’t do it, she was going to “get a note.” There was general agreement that getting notes sucked. Eventually Caroline (rhymes with gasoline) returned and Not-Jersey ran off to change before her actual shift started.
So while I sipped a particularly unsatisfying Kokanee the staff and former staff had a long discussion about Bosses and the girl called (by us) Bill. The rest of the bar was pretty cheerful, right down to the drunk husband of the woman who had quit for the fourth time, who accosted a Korean tourist to get him to go fishing. Communication was tricky, since both parties were having difficulty with English, but it was good-natured. Eventually drunk-husband-of-four-time-quitter learned that the Korean tourist was traveling with three pretty girls. At that point drunk-husband-of-four-time-quitter was trying to get Korean Tourist and Harem of Korean Tourist to play pool. In the end, they just settled for a group portrait.
The final note on the Crystal Bar, John reports it’s the only place he’s even been where the bartender (reliable sources say her name is Madame Curie) didn’t know how to mix a margarita. Also, I moved on to Sierra Nevada and pulled through just fine.