My friend Mary wrote a nice bit about the reopening of McCarthy’s, a local bar here in the Central Coast. I figured I would throw my two cents into the heap.
McCarthy’s was the very first bar I visited when I first came to San Luis Obispo. The original location was super small, and crammed with people. A little tight, maybe, but you expect that. Due to the lovely California no-smoking-in-public-buildings law, however, it was smoke free, which is all a girl could ask for. I was amused to see people’s faces when I told them Mary had taken me to McCarthy’s. Inevitably, there was the upturned noses and the disbelief that I had been to that “dive bar.” Even now that it has opened up in a newer, nicer location, resplendent with a patio and nice restrooms, people are still turning up their nose.
Apparently, these people have never been to Alabama. Dive bar takes on a whole new meaning. Let’s see if I can define for you the typical college bar in Auburn, AL. The venerable War Eagle Supper Club has lived by this motto for more than 30 years: “Cold beer, hot rock, expect no mercy.” And indeed, you’ll get no mercy here. The shows are amazing, but so is the line to get inside and the line to the ladies room. Which, by the way, qualifies as an adventure unto itself. Until they were recently removed to comply with fire codes, band T-shirts also hung from the rafters. Every surface is sticky, or graffitied, or both. And this is where I spent many a Saturday night after an Auburn victory, strutting in my finest and dancing along to the Velcro Pygmies.
Or take the Strutting Duck, for example. Often referred to as a redneck bar, it’s a great place to go play pool if you want to escape the crowds way out on Wire Road. If you can stand the smoke-filled atmosphere, linoleum floors and ag students in boots with Skoal rings in their back pocket.
And if you got a sandwich craving in the middle of your 2 a.m. cram session, there was Momma Goldberg’s. More a deli than a bar, it still hosted tons of frat boys filling up on Momma’s Love sandwiches and swilling beer. *A moment’s pause to contemplate the joy that is a steamed sammy from Momma G’s…mmmm* The walls are a jumbled collection of old Auburn schedule posters for everything from football to swimming, signed photographs of old Auburn players, and newspapers touting victories from the 1980’s. Everyone fights for chairs to place around the rickety formica tables, and the place boasts at least three TV’s so as not to miss any of the post-game action. It’s a block from Jordan-Hare Stadium, making it a prime spot to congregate after the game.
These and others were the places I thrived on, the villages where I would meet up with buddies and listen to good music, debate the latest wins and losses, and maybe dance with a good-looking guy from the swim team. And every last one of them where 10 times more “divey” than McCarthy’s.
But you know, McC’s definitely is a kindred spirit. Maybe that’s why I liked it when I first walked inside. I recognized the same village mentality, the mix and flow that is the local spot. Old and young mixed with the tough looking dudes smoking in the courtyard. Beer in a can, and Guiness for the Irish inside us. And I can’t help but smile.