Patio nights cut down the aggro factor at the Velvet Dog.

Dog Days 

Patio nights cut down the aggro factor at the Velvet Dog.

Just as everyone has a tequila story -- i.e., a tale of woe about why he or she can't drink that shit anymore -- everyone has a Velvet Dog story. For example, we've mashed with a friend on the third floor, run into a past hookup (and somehow resisted the urge to maliciously exclaim in a cheerfully obnoxious voice, "Hey! Last time I saw you, you were naked!") ... and the list goes on. However, the VD is naturally prone to such drunken antics -- it's a 3 a.m. bar where the lushes go to greet last call. Plus, when you take a quasi-swank, quasi-lounge atmosphere and throw in a martini list, you automatically get a crowd from all over town and a guarantee that you will run into someone you know.

Over the years, we've maintained that the VD is a great, laid-back place to go on a weekday but on weekends morphs into an aggro bar teeming with annoying trendoids (mainly in their early and midtwenties). We decided to check it out on a recent Friday night, though. We reasoned that, because its cool-as-fuck patio is open, the surface area for the jackass trendoids to disperse would be greater, thus decreasing the aggro level. (Man, if only this sort of scientific formula were on the GRE; we'd be well on our way to grad school by now.) We were surprised that our experience there was best summed up by the word blah; if we were to rate our night in standardized-test format, our night at the VD :: lackluster. Then again, it could have been that we'd been out for happy hour, had eaten a late dinner and were starting to feel the effects of bar food plus alcohol in our system. Or maybe it was because an impending storm was putting a damper on the VD's usually raucous atmosphere.

The night started off somewhat normally for the VD, though. We arrived just before midnight, waited for a while to get drinks at the patio bar, then, surprisingly, found a table not long after that. Though it was steamy outside, the patio was packed, and we were discombobulated and disgruntled.

"I need a shot to handle this crowd," Research Assistant Casey remarked.

"Was there a mass e-mail that said everyone had to dress the same?" asked RA Timmy as chicks in halter tube tops, extremely mini-miniskirts with ruffled hems, and stilettos wobbled precariously on the brick patio.

"Look at that fembot!" RA Nadia said, pointing out a skinny, pale specimen in a tank top, short ruffle skirt and a perfectly smooth, blond bob. "That's the shortest fucking skirt I've seen -- yikes," RA Gina said. "Her purse is longer than that," Nadia added.

Because our night of drinking had started with cheap, happy-hour beer, we weren't in the mood to deal with the house specialty, martinis (we know -- sacrilege!). Instead, we got our standard reliable: Dewars and water. Rhythm, the manager ("Just Rhythm," he said when we asked for his last name. "Everyone knows me as that"), later told us that although 16 martinis are listed on the VD's menu, he could make "about 28 to 30-odd types" for us, including one of his specialties, Slutty Vox on the Rocs -- Vox vodka with a lot of olive juice, shaken and served on the rocks in a highball glass. "I've converted a lot of people to that," he added.

In any case, after some drinks, we were feeling mellow and were enjoying the lightning show, despite the fact that we were risking death by sitting on wrought-iron chairs. We were sad to note that the bocce court, which once added a charming touch to the patio, no longer existed. It was removed about a month ago -- not because of a ball-slinging incident, as we had half-hoped, but to free up more real estate. "Plus, people weren't paying enough attention to it," Rhythm said. However, the two pool tables under the canopy were still there, as were the odd assortment of characters we usually meet at the VD, such as Joe, who was yelling random phrases periodically; his little brother, Todd; and Todd's GF, Sandra. Todd and Sandra, who looked like hipsters (on Todd: suit jacket and band pins), were moving from Vancouver to Toronto and had made a detour to visit Joe, who was more frattish than hipster. "I'm looking for a four-way," Joe jokingly bellowed before doing the ass-slap dance. He then abruptly turned to us and added, "There's a perception of men that we're wrapped up in boobs. It's not true! We're into personality and a cute little fartbox!"

Well, of course you are. That's a story if we ever heard one.

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