Creative Writing

I’ve Seen It All in this Old Bar

"That’s the raccoon’s tab tacked up above the cash register."

It’s a shame they’re gonna renovate this place, make it all fancy for the rich kids. I’ve been coming here since they opened. I’ve seen kooky shit through the years you wouldn’t believe.

Once at last call I watched a raccoon walk up on the bar, twist the top off the jar of pickled eggs and eat one in a single gulp. He came back every Monday night for his pickled egg until the Health Department caught wind of it and threatened to close ’em down. That’s the raccoon’s tab tacked up above the cash register.

Dale Chihuly used to come in. He’d sit at the bar and order chili cheese fries and a beer. One night the barkeep tripped and splattered the fries all over the floor right in front of him. Ol’ Dale whipped out his sketchbook and jotted down a few doodles. Those sketches became the basis for his 1990 Venetian Series. You can still see some of the chili stains if you look real close.

See that guy washing dishes? That’s the guy who invented putting cream cheese on hot dogs—what they call “Seattle style.” Never made a cent off it. He also came up with the melody for Kenny G’s “Songbird.” Used to whistle it while he mopped. He got screwed out of that too. Poor fella should be a millionaire.

Yep, lots of crazy goings-on here back before the neighborhood got all spiffed up. ’Course, if you go even further back, it was an even grimier joint. What you’re looking at here is the remodel they did in the ’70s to attract all those Boeing fat cats and disco fiends.

Back before that remodel, the bar was a slab of salvaged lumber and the bartender stood behind a chain link fence. Over where the foosball tables are now they had a brass-knuckle fighting ring. I lost this finger playing mumblety-peg right where you’re sitting. Once I saw a man get in a scuffle with a chimpanzee and the barkeep kicked the man out—because the chimp was a regular.

In those days they only served whisky by the snort and Rainier in defective cans bought off a loading dock in Georgetown. They’d serve children, pregnant women, dogs. The owner paid off the cops every month. One time eight people went blind from a case of stolen moonshine. You could spit on the floor. The bartender, Hook-Arm Stanley, would only serve pretty ladies if they gave him a kiss.

Those were wild times. Nowadays it’s all snooty gastropubs and overpriced microdistilleries comin’ in. This neighborhood’s gotten downright inhospitable.