Posts Tagged ‘route 66’

It was almost fitting and poetic that the morning would start this way. My eyes bulged out of my skull, and in between the pounding headache and a head full of questions that have yet to have answers, I heard the faint sounds of morning sports talk radio emanating from a strange room nearby.

It was standard fare that you hear on most mornings. The Bulls won. Rose didn’t play. Blackhawks won. Rondo is an alien-looking fuck. For some odd reason I thought about baseball season too. Garza this and Garza that. And then the sports talk radio started to seem louder.

Where was I? What is the meaning of this madness, I thought. And as the morning fog began to clear, and the jogging of the memory started, I realized where I was.

“Fuck. This is Berwyn. I know it. I can feel it by the pounding headache and the empty feeling in my wallet. This has to be Berwyn,” I thought.

It was Berwyn. For good or ill. And now that I think about it, that sports talk radio was there last night too when I was tucking myself into bed. In fact, what the fuck is it with this sports radio? Jesus, give it a rest sometimes. People are trying to sleep. Number crunching should be done in the morning, for fucks sake.

One of the creators of Chicago, A Drinking Town with a Sports Problem let me crash at his place and left the 670AM The Score radio on at a loud volume throughout the night. I guess the man was absorbing vital statistics and you have to admire that type of commitment to sports. Hunter S. Thompson used to have the CNN on blaring 24-7 because he was absorbing politics and news. Sports news is not any different. It is important. In some circles.

And I started to question what I would be listening to if I had that type of passion. Probably porn non-stop, but that would start a weird relationship with my neighbors. You’d be throwing out the garbage and your neighbor would look at you strange. Either women are getting their kicks there, or some kind of an explicit pornographic gauntlet is happening. Yikes.

“No it’s a religious thing. They’re Sufis. I don’t know anything about it, do you?  Or maybe they are Catholics? They are always saying that ‘God, they are coming.’ I called a travel agent, but the weird vibe I got ended the conversation. They are packing their bags, I think, so the noise will subside soon. Either that, or I’ll get some headphones. Welcome to America,” I think I would say. There is nothing like friendly conversation when you’re throwing out the garbage.

But back to the matter at hand. The guys at A Drinking Town threw an official party on Feb. 16 in order to celebrate Michael Jordan’s birthday at Cigars and Stripes, 6715 W. Ogden Ave., in Berwyn. The real reason was to drink massive amounts of booze, but that’s just my opinion.

From all my visits to the City of Berwyn, only one thing is certain. This will not be a sober trip. Chances of something going awry are always possible and you would be a fool to assume that this would be smooth sailing.

Either way, the party that the boys threw at Cigars and Stripes was quite awesome. No pretentious bullshit here. Just good times. Good food. Good place. Good vibes. Good people.

Stripes is the type of a bar that the Cheers bar would have been like if you added fucking Rock ‘N’ Roll music, that Devil-may-care attitude, and of course, that wonderful selection of brews that you can’t get at any of the pretentious Hey-I-want to charge $10 for a fucking beer places you see in River North. Sometimes you need places like that when you want to impress some date, but other than that, no drink on Earth should cost that much. Unless you put some hot celebrity’s tits in it, I don’t want to pay that much for a whiskey sour.

Since the theme of the party was Jordan’s birthday, the sponsors tried to accommodate by attempting to show “Space Jam.” Of course, despite some technical difficulties, the movie started with Serbian subtitles. It would have been better if the subtitles were Croatian because then you could make a case that this was Toni Kukoc’s copy of the film. Hey, we were celebrating the 90s.

Serbian or not, I never realized how childish the movie was. But what do you expect from a movie starring the Looney Tunes? “Space Jam” still kicks ass in its own way. Frankly, because of the Quad City DJs.

And as loony as things got, the party proved to be a success. You have to admire a place that sells cigars and then lets you smoke them in the back of the bar in the open air. No bullshit here. I admire that. God only knows that there are places that sell you something that you can’t enjoy on the premises. We’ll call these places downtown money drains. Effete smoke shops. Righteous porn stores. Non-drinking strip clubs.

Lost that loving feeling?

Don’t fret. Even though the concept of a bar is to sell a hangover, the Drinking Town would like to go a step up above whining about the ordeal and offer some tips on how to deal with the alcoholic bullet that you shot into your fucking face last night. Who knows, maybe you got laid too, and are trying to cope together.

So if the roots haven’t settled yet, here are some tips on beating that hangover, brother.

  1. Drink more. Some people frown on it. We call those people pussies. Or gainfully employed people. Sure, as bad as that parched throat is, there is nothing better than having a beer to cure that malady. Any beer, if you can that is. No one recommends going to work operating on alcoholic beverages. This is not “Mad Men.” This is life. Save it for the weekend. Or don’t. Take a belt of the coffin varnish right now. Who is stopping you? Your boss? Tell him that you had a lot of money wagered on last night’s game and like an idiot, you bet AGAINST the Blackhawks.
  2. Bloody Mary. The God of drinks for a hangover. The Mary will provide you with the nutritional nourishment you need. Tomato is good for you. Vodka is good for you, according to some Polish circles. And that celery stick can be used as a shoehorn in case you need to put your shoes on in order to drive the kids to school.
  3. Eggs. Anything with eggs will help. You can have eggs with aspirin. Or aspirin with eggs. Whatever is better. Get a bagel involved into the affair and you have a relationship that only water or tea can ease. Tell them that if those sunny-side-up eggs end up slimy and undercooked again that you would never visit the establishment again. The economy is bad. People should take pride in their work.
  4. Work. Nothing like manual labor to sweat out the small stuff. If you’re reading this then you’re probably a man who feels the need to dig a hole or something for nothing. Just because. Do it. Dig a hole, fix a cabinet, mop the floor, change the oil on your car. Nothing like work to beat the hangover. Soundtrack should be classic rock. Ya know, to feel American.
  5. Sleep. There’s no denying the inevitable. You’re fucking tired. Go to sleep. Unless work is bogging you down, and for many it is not in this economy, go to sleep and enjoy your day off. Watch the shows that are on during the day time in between naps. Ya know, the classic shows like Maury. Or Jerry. And see how fucked those people are. It will make you feel better either way. “He didn’t mean to hit me, he’s a goo-ood man, don’t take him away. I fell asleep in the driveway and he run over my head with the truck. He’s a goo-ood man, he don’t mean no harm. He’s passed out under the trailer right now with his dog Skinner.” – Bill Hicks.

Some of these may sound bitter, but they are not. They are right on par with how you feel when you are hungover after a great party. And while the good times may have passed, and the body is starting to say no, just remember that there will always be a new game, the next game and a new chance at the plate, when the winner or loser will either sock it out of the park or eat it in the dugout. Yes, sports are important. Go play, fans.

But don’t think that this story doesn’t have a happy ending. Remember when I said that only a fool would think that Berwyn is smoothing sailing? Apparently the street-sweeping rules apply on Fridays. And that parking ticket only reinforces my belief in Murphy’s Law. Hey, kudos to the gentlemen police officers that took the time and effort to place the ticket next to my village of whatever sticker at 3 a.m. It was like one municipality talking to another. “Hey, we give out as many tickets as you do too!”

But hell, it was a good time in Berwyn, and as Thompson always said, “Buy the ticket, take the ride.”

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By: Raul Parra
Email: rp@99sportsproblems.com
Twitter: ParraPalliative

I want to root for Brixie’s (9526 W Ogden, Brookfield, IL, 1.708.387.0050). I really do. Any bar that has the cojones to have 32 different craft beers on tap and over 40 some-odd beers in bottles and cans, deserves to be applauded in my book.

However, like most modern bars that I have been encountering lately, they are going through an identity crisis.

Is it a classic Bar and Grill? Their kitchen is capable of delivering scrumptiously juicy burgers and crispy hand cut fries, if it’s open and if they have a cook employed at the moment. Sometimes it seems as if Bobby Fischer mans the grill in the kitchen, I’m always searching for him. Which is a shame because I want to be stuffing a Brixie Burger into my already french fried greased mouth. Alas, it seems as if the proprietors of this sagging establishment are putting me on a forced diet that could have only come from the depths of a Nazi’s brain. You are only allowed to smell the fryers and grill top wafting the spirits of meals past into the air, don’t ask for one; or the Gestapo will come round back and kidnap you!

Is it a sports bar? They have TVs and a projection screen and they use these devices to display sporting events. Yet, certain bartenders tend to play their music through an Ipod during sporting events, instead of the game audio. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you’ll get to experience the horrible hippie, trip hop, first wave of ska bullshit that said bartender plays. It’s awful, it sounds as if Dave Mathews is shitting on Bob Marley in a reverb chamber and the Sex Pistols are running the sound board.

Look, I am a musician and I have been in plenty bands, I had to learn from experience. Music is a lot like religion, if you are not already into it, no one wants a stranger shoving it their face like chloroform soaked rag. People like what they like. No one at a bar cares what the bartender is “in to.” Especially if you’re there to watch “the game.”

Side note: If you are in a band and you’re fortunate enough to have stumbled across our world changing Blog, hear me and hear me well. Never grace the stage at Brixie’s. Their lack of basic acoustic knowledge transforms you into a low-fi 8 track tape playing out of a Omni, inside of Osama Bin Laden’s cave of death, moments before the Seals dropped down and gave him the old “What For”. It’s basically a giant cave that swallows vocals, thins out guitars and makes drums sound like tin cans.

Anywho… I digress.

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Is it a place to check out cool and interesting craft brews? It certainly could be. I didn’t stutter, mainly because that’s impossible to do in print, 32 DIFFERENT CRAFT BEERS… 32 cervezas artesanales diferentes … XXXII VARIIS ARS BEERS. Someone clearly loves to get their beer on. However, where is that person? Besides having the latest brew shoved in my face, it’s rare that I would have a single conversation with a bartender (Save Bruce) about the complexities of… let’s say… a stout. I almost always feel lost when I approach the altar of beer that is their tap selection. I wish I had a Phantom Beer Genius there to hold my hand and tell me:

Phantom Beer Genius: “Everything is going to be ok… here hold this Dog Fish Head 120 Minute…. feels good right? Go on take a sip. Did you know that 120 Minute IPA is brewed to a colossal 45-degree plato, boiled for a full two hours while being continuously hopped with high-alpha American hops, then dry-hopped daily in the fermenter for a month and aged for another month on whole-leaf hops!”

Raul: “Wow, this is delicious and you are so imformative thank you so much.”

Phantom Beer Genius: “No problem Raul, this is my job and I enjoy it. By the way, knock knock…

Raul: “Who’s there?”

Phatom Beer Genius: ” Your friend the Phantom Beer Genius and I’ll always be here for you.”

Doesn’t that sound amazing?

So am I dissing the Bro’s over there by da Brixie’s? Kinda… but kinda ‘nah. I think it is just suffering from a symptom of the times. Bars trying to cater to every single type of drinker out there instead of letting their freak flags wave high.

If you want to be the bro bar with college games blarring over the TV’s and people still pretending to be in their mid to late 20’s, tongue banging jello shots into their suck holes while simultaneously taking stock of their GHB stash in the cut out hole of their Birkenstocks. Go for it.

Do you want to be that creepy Mexican bar on the corner next to the Botanica, that you’re white friends are scared to go in because they play “Mariachi Music” till 3 a.m. and they heard everyone in there has a knife? Go for it.

Have aspirations of being the bar with no sign? Serving traditional, Post-Civil-War… yet Pre-Yoko-Beatles-Era Martinis? Go for it!

Just whatever you are or trying to be.. be true and pick SOMETHING. You can’t do everything or at least you can’t do everything well. Give your bar a personality and hopefully that personality is akin to you and your staff members. Your patrons want to be a part of your story, now give us the plot so we can play along.

By: Raul Parra
Email: rp@99sportsproblems.com
Twitter: ParraPalliative

Out of my side vision (for you Kat Williams fans) I spy him,  barb wire tat, mesh trucker hat with some ironic slogan on it (“I’m with stupid… and it’s your mom).  He proudly slides another dollar into the internet juke box.  I can’t see what he’s typing.  I can only imagine the auditory onslaught I am about to feel.  The over produced voice of Ke$ha… the weak one syllable rhyme schemes of Mr. West (Best, Rest, Crest…. Chest.), or Nickelback.  Just Nickelback, that’s its own insult.  In the future we will be saying things like, “Loser? Dudes a Nickelback…”

The Bro waddles back to his own babbling tribe.  I over hear the word ‘Bomb’ with a idiotic mumbled prefix in front of it.  I just realized I am at a Bro Bar.  There are Heineken signs on the wall.  Another brightly colored advertisement informs me that if I bring my own fishbowl on Thursday nights… they’ll fill it with any color alcohol I choose for only $10.50.   I bury my face in my drink and try to sip the last of my $12 ‘craft beer’…. “bro… they’re leinenkugel fireside nut brown ales…. killer.”.

I glance up.  The Bro Bunch is singing now and when I see the dude with the wallet chain and Affliction t-shirt reach for his Skol Dip, I make a run for it.  I jut passed something that looks like a Snooki and narrowly avoid the skinny jean-skateboarder-rapper-graphic designer-t shirt maker-blogger-DJ-I listened to Dub Step first- dude.  Through the door now I see street lights and hear traffic.

I’m walking across a frozen tundra of urban desolation. There are buildings and structures and there seem to be shapes moving in them.  Bumbling potato sack people grasping at brightly colored shapes.  Strip malls abound.  They’re exactly that, STRIP malls,  they have stripped my glorious town of personality and integrity.  Were does a modern man seek adventure?  Where can he boast of his tales?  Is there no mead hall fit for his songs of victory and iniquity?  These thoughts swirled around in my head, colored smoke that seemed obscure my vision.  Here I was on the famed Route 66… and I was bored and disgusted with my surroundings.

Just then, without warning or notice, the smell hits me.  The sweet and sappy smell of hardwood burning in the distant ink black night…. chicken flesh being charred to absurd level deliciousness.  A smile creeps across my face.  I just realized what I have been missing.  It was calling to me… beckoning me.  I will obey.

The front of Cigars and Stripes (6715 Ogden Ave, Berwyn, Il, 60402) is unassuming enough, unless of course you walk passed on one of the nights were the 8ft Frankenstein’s Monster is hanging out in front… smoking his stogie.  If that’s enough to scare you off, you will miss all of the smoked BBQ glory that awaits you inside.  If Dracula had a frat house… this is it.  Colored lights pour their saccharine slime on beer bottles and the slithering rapscallions that occupy every inch of the halo shaped bar.  Neon lights extend their icy grip across the haggard floor, itching to grab a boot or perhaps a leather high heel.  As your eyes drift to and fro… up ward and on ward… you will spy many a curious object.  Skulls, half naked women, a velvet Elvis painting and a myriad of other strange relics.  You have some how peeled back the fabric of space/time and peered into the very soul of a tricked out hot-rod.

THIS is a bar.

The heart of that bar? A collection of craft beers at your drinking disposable and the most succulent BBQ you have every dreamed of, you get the impression this was put together for just for  you.  Carefully selected with the utmost care to ensure maximum beer orgasm.  It’s hard to imagine that just a decade ago Cigars and Stripes was a place to just pick up your stogies and hot sauce.  If you were lucky enough to own a low rider or hot rod,  you could take care of all your custom paint jobs as well.  Ronnie Lottz (the ring leader of The Cigars and Stripes circus, AKA Bar Owner), might very well be Berwyn’s only Renaissance Man.  His bio reads like a man walking the line of artisan and mad man.  Custom Car illustrator, BBQ specialist, one time Professional Wrestling manager and now illustrious bar owner.  I know what you are thinking, what do these past occupations have in common and how could they lead to creating the ideal night spot?

According to Mr. Lottz, each one of those past lives played an indispensable role in the creation of C&S.  When you hear him reminisce about hanging with his wrestlers on the west side of Chicago and traveling across the country getting a first hand education on BBQ, you can literally see the spark in his eye.  That spark indicates a deep love for what he is doing… and no one does it better.

“Good food is culture… not technique…” he says.

That’s exactly what Ronnie and his staff are doing, creating their own culture to share with the world and in this world of five dollar foot longs, cardboard pizza, ice cold chicken wings from B-Scrubs and stale seven dollar Miller Lites.. we need you more than ever Mr. Lottz.

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