Friday, July 09, 2004

Jazz With A Limp...

that's how Kelly Hogan and the Wooden Leg are billed. I can't tell if it has a limp, but it definitely has swing. The Wooden Leg has what the late Australian poet Bon Scott called "the backseat rhythm."

I have a limp this morning, the result of too many pints of Bell's Oberon and staying out way past my bedtime. Getting too old for this shit.

I started things out at the Hideout and within minutes struck up a conversation with this guy who grew up on the south side. If you're alert, you can tell what part of the city they grew up.

South side Chicagoans refer to every east-west running street by its number. Example: Cermak Road isn't Cermak Road; it's "22nd Street." Keeping to form Pershing Road is "39th Street" and Garfield Boulevard is "55th Street." We talked for a while about the bars in Bridgeport and agreed immediately that the only one worth visiting was Puffer's.

There are other bars that could have some potential, but are dragged down by its clientele, location, or both. Schaller's Pump on 37th and Halsted has great schnitzel but a shitty beer selection. First Base on 32nd and Normal is better known as "Free Base" for it's lucrative under-the-table cocaine dealing. Jimbo's at 33rd and Princeton is the place where White Sox fans get drunk and fuel their misguided stupidity. Only at Jimbo's will you see a room full of White Sox fans nursing cans of Old Style, watching a Cubs game and booing the Cubs, while their favorite team is playing in a half-empty stadium two blocks away. The kicker of all this is that Jimbo is a Cubs fan.

The worst bar in Bridgeport by an overwhelming margin is Punchinello's on 31st Street. A two room establishment with a shitty beer selection, a small dance floor with a disco ball from Radio Shack, a bar that slants downward, and a phone booth by the bathrooms with no phone, Punchinello's is the habitue of the Armour Square Park guidos, who come dressed to party on the weekend like it's 1992. Men decked out in Zubasz workout pants, wife beaters, white sneakers, and fanny packs; their seared leathery skin reeking of too much Drakkar or Cool Water cologne. Women in capri pants with camel toe and layered haircuts inspired by the first season of "Friends." Italian flag tattoos on every visible ankle, calf, or bicep. The disco ball spins like it's going into orbit as a second moon while the customers talk on their cell phones and dry hump to Young MC's "Bust A Move." It's classic tragicomedy.

So when we were talking about Punchinello's last night and spat out the derisive nickname for it in unison, "Punch-a-dago's", we had a wonderful laugh.

We closed down the Hideout and I followed some friends to a four a.m. bar on Western by Lane Tech (no, not Underbar.) It was a classic Chicago after-hours bar: lots of country music on the jukebox, giant bottles of liquor, Old Style on both tap handles, and a frustrated, butter-faced bartender who could still wiggle her ass around like a python when Aerosmith's "Sweet Emotion" played on the jukebox. Two fingers of Cuervo from her was more like a fist. I ordered an Old Style and it came in a mug with a quarter-inch of frost around the outside. I leaned back in my stool, drank my beer, and watched my friend Courtney run the pool table. Later she dropped me off at the Damen Blue Line stop and I had a slice of pizza at Flash Taco. Life was good.

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