Sunday, June 10, 2012


If not for Barbie from the Paragraph Factory, I would still be a virgin to the ways of The Jerky Man.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Barbie called on Saturday afternoon and invited me to what sounded like a delightful and bizarre adventure: a bus tour of watering holes on Springfield's sketchy north side. There was so much nutty goodness packed into that sentence fragment that it was impossible to decline.

At the appointed quarter hour I showed up at Patton Alley, met Barbie and was given the skinny. A woman named Ginger had come up with the Shady Bar Bus Tour about seven years ago, as a birthday present for her then-boyfriend. The concept was brilliant; using City Utilities' public transit, partiers hit a half-dozen or more locally owned bars in four hours. Cost of the bus pass: $3.75. No one had been shot or shanked in previous bus tours, and though that was a bit of a letdown, this sounded like a rocking time. And it would help me fulfill my pledge to get out more.

At Patton Alley, Barbie introduced me to a tabletop of SBBT veterans, including Ginger. From there it was a short limp over to the bus terminal, and under the wary, weary eyes of the usual bus riders, the tour got underway (Here's the itinerary, for social anthropologists).

We were on Stop #3, at the Last Call on Kearney, when The Jerky Man made his appearance.

The normally dim lighting of the bar was illuminated when he appeared, and not just because he opened the door to let the evening sunshine in. Several SBBTers whooped in delight when they saw The Jerky Man and his backpack, cause they figured he was carrying the good shit, and when he started pulling out Ziplocs and inviting people to get a whiff, they knew for sure.

You dream it, I'll create it, he boasts on his one-sheeter, and though I'm still staying away from red meat, I was sorely tempted to bust that vow once I saw the jerky. "It's like crack for drunk people," one of the SBBT crowd said.

Indeed. Want some Strawberry BBQ jerky? How about Chipotle Lime? Or Cajun Pineapple? Done and fucking done. Beef, venison, bison, goose: you call The Jerky Man, he'll hook you up. It was sad when we had to leave Last Call, but by then The Jerky Man's backpack supply had been exhausted. It was time to go to Sassy Reds, anyway.

The strip club on North Glenstone Avenue is always advertising for dancers, and though I've been sorely tempted a time or two to show off my svelte half-Asian ass, the club apparently only wants chicks to take off their clothes. Pity for all concerned.

The itinerary allowed us 25 minutes at Sassy Reds, but the visit was cut short for some reason. I was outside smoking a fag when Barbie rushed out and said we were bailing to the Alibi Lounge down the street. I don't know the rationale for the hurried exit from the strip club. The bartender seemed nice enough, and she was a multitasker; one minute she was serving a beer, the next minute she was on the pole. Someone mentioned something about lopsided breasts, but I confess I did not see them. I doubt that was enough to drive the SBBTers from Sassy Reds; they seemed like hardier professionals.

Maybe it was the allure of the Alibi Lounge that drove us from Sassy Reds. I only know of the club because it's the place where two people were charged after they allegedly left 10 kids outside in a car while they boozed it up. Well, that and its proximity to an Andy's Frozen Custard.

Inside the Alibi, a man named Doug — cut-off jeans, gray wife-beater, long hair and beard — was dancing solo. He had a great, sinewy move with his right arm that made me wonder if inside his head, he thought he moved like Travolta. I was instantly mesmerized by his complete outward confidence and his shirt. Brothers would kill for a shirt like that, but I know I could never rock it like Doug.

By now the booze was having its effect on the SBBT clique. At one point there had been 21 people on the tour; there were about half as many as we made it to the Longbranch Lounge. Ginger and I talked about a mutual acquaintance, the fabulous writer Juliana Goodwin, and then somehow the conversation turned to ukuleles. Seems the instrument is all the rage with younger people who should know better, but Ginger said the ukulele is so whimsical it is irresistible, and it's hard to argue with that logic. Plus, she showed me a vid of a woman with a uke doing a poignant Beatles cover. I was hooked. I want a ukulele, I want to learn how to play it, and I want to sing "All My Loving" and touch someone's curious heart.

I would have written all this last night but by the time the SBBT 2012 group left the Longbranch my phone was at 3% and I was beat. I didn't even make it to Lindberg's, dammit, much to my chagrin. I missed seeing Missie, one of the Amazons. Perhaps I'll get luckier on Friday, when Black Bonnet Ballyhoo hits the stage at its EP release party. I mean, granted, it won't be any SBBT rave. Having experienced the Shady Bar Bus Tour, I have to say it's like Christmas and New Year's Eve rolled into one. It's also an event worth replicating. Thinking cap: on. Thanks, Ginger. Thanks, Barbie.

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