The night started out innocuously enough. We ventured out south with Research Assistants Erik and John on a recent Saturday to visit a bar called Creekside. In the same strip mall as a Gomer's, Creekside exudes a heavy neighborhood-bar vibe and is something of a firefighter hangout. We liked the fact that its name makes it sound like a country club, or, as RA Erik pointed out, it could also be mistaken for a treatment facility. Well, to paraphrase a local commercial from the '80s, if we couldn't get help at Creekside, we'd have to get help somewhere else.
Upon entering Creekside, you're faced with two white wooden doors. It's like a Choose Your Own Adventure in bar form. The left door leads into a restaurant area (nearly empty that night). The right door opens into the bar area, which is full of high-top tables. We ordered a $4.75 Dewar's and water and $4 drafts of Boulevard Wheat at the large wooden bar that straddles the two rooms. Multiple TVs added to the sports-bar ambience.
Near us was a table of semi-lit guys in dark-blue soccer-style shirts. In a private room in back, a group celebrated someone's 50th birthday with a sheet cake. A guy in a T-shirt, white belt and loose jeans lurched around so much that his pants drooped to expose his boxers. His female friend tried to foist a large glass of water on him.
The music selection was as random as the crowd. As the opening notes of Gretchen Wilson's "Redneck Woman" started, a chickie behind us squealed, "That's my song!" Gretchen was soon followed by Britney Spears ("Toxic") and Johnny Cash ("Ring of Fire"). The latter inspired two guys to sing along in an off-key baritone duet.
While we drank, one of the guys in the soccer shirts came up to bum a cigarette. That's how we met 23-year-old Chase. We noticed that his shirt had the Brigade's stealth bomber emblem on its chest. He does credit card promotions at Brigade games and was hanging out postmatch with his 29-year-old sister, Jessica, who was visiting KC for the weekend. They hadn't seen each other since 1996.
Jessica is a professional football player with the Milwaukee Momentum. She got into the sport when she and her partner, Sarah, were at a bar and someone from the team tapped one of them on the shoulder. "Personally, I was drunk as a skunk," Jessica recalled.
After the 1:30 a.m. last call, we noticed another bar in the same strip mall. The Creekside patrons warned about the other place's occasional fights. But thanks to our beer-induced bravery, we ventured across the parking lot into Billy B.'s. A sign on the door forbade hats, baggy pants and anyone younger than 25. We pushed the door open and were immediately greeted by 50 Cent proclaiming, Go, Shorty, it's your birthday! A guy in a red baseball cap by the front door started dancing in our direction, then pointed out a blond woman in a low-cut top who was wielding a liquor bottle. "Go get a shot!" he said. "If you give her a dollar, she'll show her boobs!"
RA Erik gamely stooped down while feisty shot girl Mari poured the equivalent of four shots of a tropical slammer directly from the bottle into his mouth. "Don't ask me what's in it," she said. We asked whether the flashing rumor was true. "If I'm off the clock," was her reply. "Who told you that?" We pointed out Red Hat. "Oh, I'm going to kill him! He's my other half," she explained.
We ordered 25-ounce mugs of Miller Lite ($3.25) and staked out a table. Billy B's drew a diverse, friendly crowd that was definitely livelier than Creekside's and included a number of women in silky, boob-revealing shirts. As the DJ played Nelly's "Country Grammar," a couple on the dance floor went at it in the doggie-style hump until we could almost see her butt crack as she bent over. Toward the end of the night, the guy sat on a short stool and leaned back really low against the jukebox while the woman faced away and did the splits on him. Then she reversed herself, leaned back with one hand on the ground for support and ground away. Adding to the surreal tableau was the plastic child-sized basketball goal next to them. The 25-year-old guy wanted to remain anonymous, though he did tell us that his dance partner is his baby mama.
We went over to the booth seats in the middle of the bar, where a man sat across from two pretty brunettes. Christina, who sported a nose stud and another piercing between her lip and nose, is friends with Misty; they both got fired from telesales at Sprint. Misty dates 31-year-old Cliff, an aspiring rapper. They told us that the bar used to be "hella packed." Then we mentioned boobs, and Christina admitted, "I paid for my shit. I had three kids — I had to!"
Speaking of optical illusions, one of the regulars pointed out a man at the bar who works as a magician. Teak resembled Johnny Depp in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. He was clad in a black, sleeveless T-shirt that bared an upper-arm tattoo commemorating those who fought in Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos.
With little prompting, he started working his magic. He made a straw spin on the bar. Then he made a bar napkin and a dollar levitate. Then he ran both hands a few inches around the Night Ranger's forearm, whereupon she felt a prickly, tingly sensation following the direction of his hands. He said that his mom was a trapezist and that they both knew a clown. One day, the clown asked, "What's my name?"
"You're Bob the Clown," Teak replied, and from that point on, Bob never asked him another question, even as he taught Teak 3,000 tricks.
Just then, the lights came on, which seemed like a cruel trick to us. So we headed to a different sort of treatment facility to finish up the night: an IHOP. Besides breastages and grinding, nothing says "good bar tour" like mystery shots followed by an omelet that contains six strips of bacon.