Monday, January 28, 2013

The three best places to drink in South City

I figured I'd give you a run down of where to drink if ever you find yourself in South City. While this is in no way a comprehensive list of all the finest establishments one can get blasted at, it does represent a fair number of people I know and their favorite hang outs. At least, that's where I see some of them.

Number three: The Hideaway

Reasons why you should drink here: You'll probably be the youngest person in the bar.

Reasons why you shouldn't: Smoking is allowed, single females are mostly retirees who outlived their husbands.

Situated next to a retirement home, The Hideaway lounge on Arsenal near Hampton was a haunt of mine for a year while I lived in the apartment buildings staggering distance away. At the time, I was in my early twenties and the bartenders were generally busty women in their forties. The owner certainly has a type.

The drinkers were mostly pensioners and retirees from the nearby home. Often you would find yourself inside next to fathers and sons getting slowly drunk, or the old gang meeting together to talk about wars or politics or how Obama is ruining everything and we're all gonna die.

The other great thing about this place is the blind piano player and the occasional karaoke from the owner as he does his best crooner impression with a drink in his hand. This is a bar that longs to transplant itself back to the days of Sinatra and Crosby, and there is no reason not to enjoy that.

Sadly, it seems the place has been discovered in the last few years, and the clientele has gotten a bit younger, but the novelty of the place wore off the people you mostly want to avoid.  It's an occasional hipster hangout, but I haven't noticed too much of a problem with it. There are much trendier places to be better than everyone else in.

Last time I was there, my friends and I were able to get a table, talk at a reasonable level and get table service from the bartender. You won't get that in too many places.

Number two: The Silver Ballroom

Why you should drink here: Pinball, decoupage band flyers bar, great atmosphere, bartenders and owner, everyone you know is probably there tonight, you lame ass.

Why you shouldn't drink here: Smoking allowed (Though well ventilated), can be loud and packed weekend nights.

I can't say this is the opposite of the Hideaway because most of the drinkers at The Silver Ballroom are probably in their late 20s to early 40s. If you've spent time in the city drinking at bars, you probably know a few people here. If you used to drink at the Hi-Pointe, then you already know about this place and can skip to #1

Other great things you may find there: Australian meat pies and bands. Occasionally a band playing a show in St. Louis will come into the Silver Ballroom before or after a gig. You can tell who they are because while they look lie everyone else, they are generally gawking at everything in the bar. I stood in line for the bathroom with the front man of Puddle of Mudd. I imagine they like the place because they look like everyone else at that bar and aren't treated different by the people. He was a cool guy, but my bladder was not liking the decision to have that fifth rum and coke.

And if you are a fan of pinball, this place has you covered. About twenty pinball machines with occasional rotation in and out (depending on how well a machine is doing or if a really cool machine is purchased).

Finally, the music: You're going to hear Ace of Spades and Where Eagles Dare at least five times on any given night. You're welcome.

Number 1: My couch

They get excited because drunk me likes to wrestle dogs
Reasons you should drink here: Mix drinks are always heavy pours, no smoking inside, lots of TV shows or movies to watch, wireless internet, fun dogs.

Why you shouldn't drink here: Because you weren't invited. Seriously, I have a gun.

As great as any bar is, drinking at home will always be the best. The drinks are cheaper, the atmosphere is whatever you want it to be and you don't have to drive anywhere. Some people are worried that drinking at home on a Tuesday with your pets is a sign of alcoholism. Some people have never truly understood a good weekday evening buzz before bed. You get the buzz, you take a shower, you grab your book and you conk out around 10:30 and sleep like a log.

As for the worry about alcoholism, I stopped smoking and don't take any mood or mind altering prescriptions. I feel I can have one vice a few times a week without worrying about the dark path alcohol is leading me down. Like kissing my wife, playing with my pets and reading books with reckless abandon.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Dogs in Afghanistan: The Drop

I love my dogs. I have a German Shepard mix and a Lab mix. They are adorably goofy and scare the hell out of strangers, which is what you look for in a dog in South City.

I was not always this keen on dogs, however. Being raised with cats trained me to regard household animals as they do me, occasional furniture that can feed me in a pinch. When my wife and I bought a house and moved in together, I began to live with a German Shepard. Then we got the Lab mix and he became my favorite animal that I don't have an eventual cooking plan for.

But there was a time before. A time in Afghanistan when I was 20, friendless and constantly on guard.

There are three stories involving dogs in Afghanistan I will eventually tell on this blog. I will do this through lego and photoshop while drinking rum.

Story 1: The Drop.

So this is me

Wearing eye pro and everything!

I am a journalist for the Army. You can tell by the camera in my hand. During a humanitarian mission I was covering in Afghanistan, a man brought by his heard of camels through a dried out river bed near our position. Generally, we would go out into the middle of what seemed like nowhere and setup shop. People would bring by their animals and themselves for medical attention.

So yeah, here comes a guy with a bunch of camels.

Imagine this, but in what amounts to a really deep ditch
Being the photographer that I was, I decided to climb down the embankment to the other side of the river bed to take photos. I needed to get the same shots of the same camels from the other sideIf you are a photographer, you will understand why it makes sense. Each side was about ten feet down of loose dirt.

You know, maybe it wasn't an actual dried out river bed. Maybe it was just a weird ditch that was really deep. I don't have the actual photos. This was a time when I didn't truly understand "backing up data" as some may call it. I think I only came out of Afghanistan with about thirty photos. Thankfully, important ones survived. 

Seriously, it was the god damn wild west back then
Anyway, as I stood there taking photos, I hear a barking in the distance. Here comes a giant dog barreling directly for me, ready to protect the hell out of whatever the people around there had to protect, which amounts to mostly dirt and opium.

Phoenix would like me to clarify that she is a
very good dog and is only here as a stand in.

But hey, that dog was way off in the distance. I had plenty of time to make a leisurely escape back across the ditch. The camels had moved out and I attempted to maintain my composure.

Now, it's important to note at this time that Afghanistan was pretty loose in 2004, especially when it came to Civil Affairs missions with the local populace. There was a laid back atmosphere to the Americans. Keep in mind, this was way before IEDs became a thing to worry about.

I tell you all this because it sort of explains why I was running around without my body armor and my weapon, the M9 pistol, shoved down the back of my pants. There will be some Soldiers who will say that was irresponsible, but don't worry, I kept it on safe and rarely had a round in the chamber.

So as I slide on down one side, trot across and start to climb the other side. Before climbing, I casually turn and HOLY SHIT THE DOG IS AFTER ME.

I have created a visualization.


Here's the next problem, pointed out to me by the Soldiers holding security: I dropped my weapon.

Don't just move on to the next photo, I dropped my god damn military issued 9mm pistol. This is not something that a soldier just allows to happen. My main defense weapons system was now on the ground.

And it is now between myself and the dog. A ravenous, blood thirsty terrorism dog!

He's coming right for us! With terrorism!
Here's a better graphical representation of what was going on.


I'm sure it wasn't as bad as I remember. The brain is a stupid thing that freaks the hell out when you're running from the Afghan Cerebus. 

So the dog is tearing down one side, teeth gnashing and the blood of its last victim frothing from its lips and I have a decision to make. Leave the pistol or fight for it. The soldiers on the .50 cal machine gun were no help. How could they? They could have hit me!

So I run, I grab the gun and wheel around to throw myself at the side of this ditch and scramble up. When I get to the top, I realize I was being chased by some kind of dirty ankle biter of a dog. I was also being mercilessly mocked by some battle hardened infantry Soliders.

More than likely, it  was more along the lines of this.

Afghanistan is raw


Memory is a funny thing. Also, those guys were assholes. The Soldier, I mean.

And the dog