“Double whiskey coke,” I request as I saddle up to the bar.
An old crow a few stools away cackles knowingly. The bartender, who sports both necktie and neck tattoo, smiles.
“Friend, we don’t serve doubles here.”
I watch, silent and confused, as the bartender makes my whiskey coke — a single, Lancer style. I see the sun rise and set while the bottle of no-name whiskey pours. And pours. And pours.
A quick squeeze on the soda gun changes the color from dusk to dark.
“We don’t serve doubles here. This is our single.”
..sittin on the dock of a bay
Lancer Lounge is not a place you bring mom. If they know your name, cheers, and you might wanna get on that list for a liver transplant, stat. My first time at Lancer was a few years ago. It was a first date. She picked the spot. Had I known what the place was, I probably would have been nervous. About her. Who picks Lancer Lounge for a first date? This is not a story about that relationship, but I will say it went many drinks past that first date, and reached its last call many drinks ago.
Since my first time – and it was not gentle – I’ve returned again and again. Most times I enter the Lancer, it’s my last step and my last stop. The dark, dank, low-ceilinged room is magical and treacherous, a black hole and a bastion.
I’ve got sunshine, on a cloudy day
It’s a Tuesday. I sit at the far end on the long side of the bar enjoying a rocks glass, brimming with dark liquor, and some very quiet, very slow conversation. To my right is a cute server from one of the nearby restaurants. She stares deeply into her whiskey as if it would leave her and never come back. Their intense communion wards off most interruption.
Two boys saunter in. A cute girl? By herself? They flank: one to the left, one to the right. It’s practiced, but not smooth.
“Can we buy you a drink?” asks the one on the left.
“You look like you could use some company,” says the one on the right.
The girl looks up from her drink, ungraciously inspects them, and replies, “Sure. I’ll order.”
Their eyes light up! It actually worked! And then comes the fiery glow of the 151, reflecting in their very wide and very concerned eyes.
Sensing the boys’ bewilderment and unease, the girl quietly murmurs, “thought so.”
She quickly extinguishes the flames, taking all three shots, and returns to her other world.
The boys retreat.
I can’t get no satisfaction
An evening that started at a nearby bar had circled the block in what some might call a “bar crawl.” The somewhat violent extraction from one bar had pleasantly ushered us toward Lancer Lounge. Where one doorman couldn’t be happier to see us go, the doorman at Lancer welcomed us with wide arms and a toothy grin.
The drinks are two for one and it’s nearly last call. Reason would recommend that the four of us just buy two drinks, split the deal, and enjoy the rest of the evening. But who wants to be reasonable? Two for one? Two for me.
With the second drink started and half our crew departed, we take a seat on the ground outside. The patio furniture had already called it a night. Like kindergarteners at snack time, we sit cross-legged in a circle on the floor. We meet our new friends, a few similarly afflicted stragglers from other parties. We make nice. We share.
The conversation doesn’t wither into stories of our professions, nor does it dwindle into tales of our hometowns. There’s no one-upmanship, nor any uncomfortable rigidity. What the conversation is, I have no idea. I’d just had two whiskey cokes. I probably wouldn’t recognize myself in the mirror. But whatever it is, it’s perfect.
2:00am joins the party faster than anticipated and the doorman relieves us of our beverages. The bar might be closed, but we’re not done. So on the concrete we sit and talk and enjoy the early morning. None of us would be able to recognize our new friends the next day, but who cares?
Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone
When I think about the Lancer Lounge, it’s my bar version of a powder stash — the super secret special place locals go to find snow after a big storm, to find the fun stuff after the fun has been used up elsewhere.