Harrington's Bar and Grill is not to be confused with Harrington's Harry Pub in the Tenderloin, y'all. In fact, it's pretty amazing that the two have existed this long in the same city with the same name. I've covered the Harry version before, but had yet to venture into the Bar and Grill, since it is, at first glace at least, just some average pubby looking place near the FiDi.
Everything changed last week when I decided to hit that mofo and hit it hard. I ignored my usual pull to Schroeder's across the street, since I do love it so, and instead steeled myself for drunken interns and fish 'n' chips.
The sound system was blarin' classic rock, just as I had expected, and everyone was white and seemed employed, also as I expected, which of course further sets it apart from the Harry version. The Bar and Grill has exposed brick and rather beautiful woodwork, actually. It smelled of beer, grease, and mid-work-week ennui. People don't come here to network or to get laid, they come here to get drunk.
"Hey-O!" yelled a middle aged dude with a ruddy face and whatever the male version of a muffin top is (a popover?). He was channeling Ed McMahon for some reason, chuckling deeply and slapping the bar. Maybe he just told a really bad joke, or maybe he really likes sports. Either way, this was turning into a boilerplate visit to an American Pub, Anywhere U.S.A.
I know I need to make a pact with you, gentle reader, that I will stop going to generic places that are pubby, but when it comes to conversation, these are usually the best spots. Sure, there are bars that have famed mixologists, and hot patrons, and you need a password to get into them, but once inside it's a peacock farm during mating season. I was in the mood for a strange conversation with a warped asshole, and Hey-O sure seemed to fit the bill. Also, no one was sitting with him.
"Hey-O!" I said, sidling up to his right. He started a bit and peered over his sausage-casing of an arm. He didn't smile, but he didn't frown. He was sizing me up.
Okay, listen: You can't be the sort of guy who channels old Carson routines while at the same time being a dick. It's like those people with impossibly cute dogs who get all testy when you ask to pet it. I've had quite enough of these sorts of people. They are asking for it, so who cares if they don't like the outcome. If it ended up in court, I would argue that their corgi in an argyle sweater was begging to be petted. "But I said no!" the owner would plea. Sorry sister, you should have thought of that before you invoked the doggie onesie.
"I just watched a great Carson doc on Netflix," I continued with "Ed." I pretended I didn't notice his distaste and ordered a drink like he had been sitting there, waiting for me. "He was one of those people who was one way on camera and a total introvert off."
At this point he seemed to be looking around for some sort of backup, perhaps the person he had told the bad joke to. I started to genuinely get annoyed. "You did make an Ed McMahon allusion just now, you know that, right?" I said, sounding a bit off my nut but sort of enjoying it. "Hey-O!" I repeated, for emphasis.
"I wasn't aware I was doing that," he said in so many words, as if he were indeed on trial and I was the prosecutor. This guy was too old not to get the allusion. I didn't buy it. Time to fuck with him.
"Look," I said, "I'm in town for one night. I flew in from Salt Lake City for the Displaced Mormons Convention at the Hyatt. You seemed like a lot of fun. I didn't mean to invade your space."
"Displaced Mormons?" he asked, taking the bait. It was the first thing that came into my mind so now I had to come up with a definition. I told him we were Mormons forced from our ancestral home of Nauvoo, Ill., and were forever trying to find a homeland. Our beliefs, you see, are a bit different from other Mormons. For one thing, we don't believe in Jesus. (His eyebrows perked up). We believe that Jonah is actually the Messiah, and we view whales as the holy embodiment of God.
"Whales?" he asked, his bullshit detector jumping around.
"Yup," I said, acting like I had said too much already.
"I think you are fucking Looney Tunes," he told me, straight out of "grizzled barfly" central casting.
"No," I said firmly, "'Looney Tunes' is ignorantly using an Ed McMahon catchphrase that makes you sound like a fun guy and then really being an asshole." Yeah okay, I didn't say that last part out loud.
He quickly finished his drink, eager to skedaddle I guess. What has happened to all the characters who used to fill up our saloons and gin joints? It used to be that I could approach any inebriate and get some back slapping started, followed by raucous singing.
One thing's for sure, this shit would never happen at Harrington's Harry Pub. No way. If I were there, we'd be halfway through a Great Carsoni routine by now.
He got up and left a tip on the bar, nodding at the bartender.
"Hey-O!" I shouted, with a fist raised in the air.