By Dan B. Jones
Justin is pouring my friends and I a round of $1 PBRs. The transparent yellow stained beer drops into mismatched glassware.
“Yeah,” he yells over loud metal being churned out by a bearded DJ, “The idea is to keep this place from being turned into a parking lot. This is our pride and fucking joy.”
I nod, and slosh the shitty beer into my mouth, sliding the others down the bar for my friends. The beer is so cold it hurts my teeth. The dark space of The Rockery slicks out around us.
Across the bar I see a metal guy, no, a metal dude with dark stringy hair wearing all black. His leather jacket has a cavalry’s worth of pins on the thing. The dude is intimidating. He must be over six and half feet tall and by the time Justin is back with dude’s change for a ten his cheap-o longneck is half drained.
I won’t be talking to him tonight …
It’s ten and the bar is beginning to fill with similar motley characters: Waif punk chicks with huge boots, colorful hair, and slashed jeans that must have been painted on; guys with long snarls for beards, living on cheap drafts, in denim or leather jackets and long hair.
I drain another PBR and meet some guy who just walked away from the pool table. He’s noticeably older than the rest of the crowd, which appears to top out at 40. Max. I honestly couldn’t hear what the guy said his name was, but it was something like “Bad Motherfucker Bob” or, maybe, “Bastard Dave”. In either case, the moniker seemed to be self applied.
The Motherfucker, or Bastard, asked me what I was doing, “very conspicuously scribbling in a small notebook”.
I said …
“Love this fucking place!”
“Good fuckn’ beer! Good fuckn’ music!”… Long pause, looking into his pale blue eyes, they glaze for a second.
“Good fuckn’ people!” he says for emphasis, his long grey hair flailing above his head for a second, creating a halo in the dim barroom lights. With that, he walks unsteadily out the door murmuring about a cigarette.
“Justin,” I say. “What’s up on those dollar pineapple slices?” Justin turns to look at the sizable fruit chunks sitting in a crock, steeping in mysterious spirits. He arches an eyebrow.
“Yeah?” He asks.
I point, raising both brows. He turns around and shrugs a “ it’s your funeral” sort of gesture. The slices are sizable and taste like formaldehyde. My friends all gag simultaneously. I chase mine with a shot of bourbon. My buddy Ren hands me a little pen with a blinking green light. He says I shouldn’t draw on it too hard.
The people in the room begin to loose delineation. Their hard edges blur together. I’m not a punk or metal guy. This much is clear, I say to myself, but these people all seem to have something figured out. I float over to the DJ and strike up a conversation.
His name is Michael – or, that’s what I have scrawled in my notebook – and says he’s been boys with Justin for six years, the length of time Justin has helped to run this place.
Michael leans over his rig, his huge beard extending his lower jaw by half a foot. I scribble, and wonder aloud whether there’s any other place in Wyandotte he could be spinning punk and metal? Whether he could find an audience anywhere else for this?
“Naw,” he yells over the power chords exploding from the P.A. “Ain’t no other bars Downriver to hear this shit.”
He tells me some other stuff. Despite the blinking green light I couldn’t get it all down in my notebook. But, we laugh and I stumble away to eat some food from the fryer: Fresh potatoes wedged, fried and seasoned; fried tater tots, with slices of jalapeno and melted grated cheese, and a snake length coil of sour cream; and a tower of onion rings.
I write down “platonic bar food” in my book. My friends applaud.
Down at the other end of the bar are several other patrons smiling at us, getting rowdy, and knocking back brown liquor. They’re eating fried shit and like us generally treating their bodies like a garbage dump. Our eyes meet and it feels like I can almost hear them thinking loudly over the music; “Alright, these fuckers get it. They understand.”
Yeah, we get it.
We get it, and we raise our drinks in honor of it.
Dan B. Jones lives, works and observes in the city of Detroit and still calls it the “Cass Corridor” thank you very much.