Just because your bar is in a shitty part of town and the chances of being stabbed are significantly raised by simply walking through the door does not necessarily mean it’s a “divebar.” There is more to it than that. The drinks need to be cheap.
If you are paying more than five dollars for a glass of booze, you are not sitting in a dive bar. You’re sitting in a petite bourgeoisie establishment with poor management. It’s like when people call their rusted out ’98 Toyota “retro.” No, that’s not “retro,” it’s a shitty car with bondo on it.
There are bars that pose as dive bars, and do a great job by keeping the bathrooms as filthy as Serbian porn (I’m looking at you, Double Down). They are the ones that you, dear reader, probably feel comfortable in and would likely bring a friend out of town to visit for a laugh or to prove that, after all, you really are daring and knowledgeable about the world.
Truth is, a dive bar is a bar on the wrong side of the tracks for the wrong types of people and, much like the Waffle House or a bad acid trip, you just end up there. There are no plans of being there…you just end up there like a refugee without a homeland, waiting for a life raft to take you somewhere else.
The 5th Avenue Pub (906 S 6th St.) is such a place.
As I was locking it up I had the clearest sensation that someone was scoping out Blue Thunder (my bicycle) and determining the best way to steal it.
“That yo bike?!” the man scoping out my bike asked while “mad dogging” me in the parking lot. I guessed he was on meth or bath salts. I didn’t feel like getting my face eaten.
“Yes.” I replied. “I rubbed my dick on the handlebars.”
I don’t know why I said this. All I know is that my bike was still there when I left, so I guess that was effective. When I walked into the 5th Avenue Pub (located nowhere near 5th Street) the man who was scoping out my bike ran to a few other people, pointed to me, and yelled something incoherent.
This was going to be fun.
The bartender, an attractive (how does this always happen) woman eating something from a Tupperware container, failed to notice that someone new (me) had appeared at the corner of the bar and was using every passive-aggressive gesture to get her attention. After ten minutes of clearing my throat and looking at my wrist (I left my watch at home) the lady two stools down yelled “Hey, Shell! This guy needs a drink!”
In a matter of seconds I was served an ice cold Makers and ginger (4.50…thank you very much) and introduced by proxy.
“Just holler for me. I’m Michelle.”
Whenever I meet a Michelle I’m always tempted to do a few lines from that Beatles’ song, but this didn’t seem to be the time or the place. Sir Paul’s genius would have to be used on another Michelle on another day.
The place is small. If you do get shanked, the whole bar would have to be in on it in order for the culprit to get away, which is why I got nervous when the meth bath salt guy started caucusing with everyone.
“You usin’ this machine?” asked a man who could have easily passed as a bouncer for a low-rent strip club. He didn’t really ask. It was more like a demand with a question mark. In any case, I was off of the bar stool before I could say “no,” and the Marsalis Wallace stunt double began loading twenties into the hungry mouth of the video poker table.
“I lost eighty motherfuckin’ dollas on this bitch last night,” he explained.
“Fuck. Eighty? That’s a…” I paused for a moment, because I couldn’t think of anything worth while that would only cost eighty dollars. “Fuck…that’s a lot of money.”
“It’s alright. I was pissed, though. But why you gonna sit here and bet ten cent for a hour an shit? You might as well play fiddy. Know what I’m sayin’?”
Yes. Yes. I understood exactly what he was saying, which is why first dates always end with marriage proposals and trips to the liquor store end in blackouts. If you’re going to do anything, just go all the way! But gambling has never been my thing. I’m a loser. I lose everything from keys to women, so I already know the outcome, which makes gambling the most unfun thing in the world to do. It’s like a gift-wrapped turd, only the wrapping paper is transparent.
Afroman’s “Because I Got High” blared from the jukebox as a toothless tart started dancing with a pool cue in the middle of the place. Judging from the half-cocked smile on her face I could tell she was in heaven. Albeit a smoke filled and very loud version of heaven, she was totally there. She swayed with the cue as the people who were playing pool tried to decide who was going to rescue the game and who was willing to go to jail. Just then trouble burst through the door with his friend.
Two guys, one in his thirties and the other in his twenties, stumbled in, talking a million miles an hour and lighting up cigarettes like they just got away from Johnny Law. Of course, they wanted to sit next to me.
“Holy shit, man!” the older guy yelled. “I haven’t slept in like two days! I’m on that whiskey ride, though, you know, the ride man…hey can I get a beer?!”
Michelle didn’t look pleased.
“I uh…you know…I got five thousand dollars and we uh..we been spendin’ it. My boy here…just gettin’ stupid…” Just then he knocked over the beer that Michelle had set down for him. That’s when she laid down the law.
“You better settle down or get the fuck out!” she yelled over the music. She threw a towel his way and with that he apologized, cleaned up the spill, and proceeded to burn through a one-hundred dollar bill on the machine in front of him in less than three minutes.
“Alright, bro…I’m outta here.”
And with that he and his buddy were off into the hot desert night.
I asked Michelle if that kind of stuff happened a lot. “Are you kidding?” she replied. We both laughed and then she bought me a drink.
This, my friends, is a divebar, and it is one worth visiting.
ArtsVegas: Covering Las Vegas Art and culture since 2009.