A Walla Walla Pub Crawl

Photo+by+Alan+Mendoza.
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A Walla Walla Pub Crawl

Photo by Alan Mendoza.

Photo by Alan Mendoza.

Photo by Alan Mendoza.

Photo by Alan Mendoza.

Andrew Schwartz, Staff Reporter

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Last Saturday, newly minted 21 year-old Andrew Schwartz (also a host of the Pio Radio Hour show on KWCW) decided to hit the town. What kinds of nightlife would Walla Walla offer? He set out with Features editor Hannah Bartman, and Pioneer photographer Alan Mendoza to four destinations: Fat Cat’s, The Border Tavern, The Green Lantern, and Ming Court. Here’s what they found.

Fat Cats

We’re gonna dig potatoes

We’re gonna pick tomatoes

-Henry

The Bumper stickers that hang about the beams above the bar meditate on matters worldly and philosophical. One features an unflattering picture of Hillary Clinton. “Life’s a bitch,” it reads. “Don’t elect one.”

It is a jarring bit of rhetoric, and I consider the implications as Alan ingratiates himself to the bartender by ordering “the cheapest beer you have.” I order The Ugly, a spicy Fat Cats specialty composed of Tabasco, beer, pepper, and a secret ingredient whose identity the bartender declines to reveal. She places The Ugly on the bar and directs me to chug.

I am still recovering from a humiliating birthday incident at a frat house two weeks past in which I was encouraged to shotgun a beer while a hefty bacchanalian mass looked on, and it took me five minutes to empty the can as the crowd steadily deflated and waned. This time I perform better. The Ugly burns my lips.

Fat Cat’s color–by which I mean the tone, the timbre, the aura, the vibe–is a deep and positive blue and red. Men play lighthearted pool. Hannah tells me she’s well-versed in the pool culture; that she’s privy to the lingo, the norms, the conventions and values. I am intrigued. We determine to find some suckers and hustle them out of all they’ve got.

I order the fish bowl, which is two beers in a large ovular glass with a stem that I am disappointed to find is too large to hold between your middle and ring finger, a technique of the veteran Sommelier. We post-up at a table that we share with four others in the center of the room. I scribble furious size 38 font on my notepad about the bulgy eyes and scrunched mouth of a man in the corner, and about the “hip” crowd to our left. I join the hip crowd.

The hip crowd is composed of Spencer and Derek, a Lincoln High School P.E. teacher and a salesman for a produce distributor respectively. Spencer says that sometimes it is difficult being a gym teacher at Lincoln. Students lash out, but you can’t take it personally. Usually something is going on at home and they apologize the next day.

I ask for their thoughts on Whitman, transparently fishing for the sorts of contentious negative remarks that make good copy,  but they don’t give in. These twenty-something Wa-high alums think that Whitties are weird, free thinking, idealistic and play Frisbee. Whitman students want to change the world. Everyone else just wants a job.

We bet a beer on a game of pool. Huey Lewis’s “Power of Love” plays in the background. I consider the unfulfilled promises of Back to the Future: all that 2015 is, all that 2015 is not.

A quiet man in a cowboy hat watches from afar. I recall that Hannah said she was filthy at pool. I smirk inwardly. These poor fools don’t know who they’re messing with.

As it turns out, Hannah is not so filthy as she made herself out to be. The hustlers hustled. I buy the bastards a Coors. “Let’s bounce,” we say.

The Border Tavern

Show me the bedroom floor (I’m feeling this) / Show me the bathroom mirror (I’m feeling this) / We’re taking this way too slow (I’m feeling this) / Take me away from here (I’m feeling this)

-Hannah

Allen says this is the diviest bar in town; he also says that fear not because he has a knife on him, and also knows Muay Thai (just in case things go south).

We enter, and men and one woman drink in relative silence. It’s a baby-booming bunch, and they cast us vaguely intrigued glances as we take our place at the far end of the bar. I order a $1.75 PBR from a woman who–and whether this is a product of popular preconceptions about rough-and-tumble dive bars or a true sample of reality I do not know– strikes me as exceptionally tough (because, you remember, she has lived a rough-and-tumble life), but with a heart that is essentially warm and generous if you are able to breach the valent shell.

A thin man with long spindly gray hair tells us this place is the best kept secret in town. He invites us to “feel the neighborhood.” We nod appreciatively. Allen gets me some water and the three of us sit through a momentary silence of our own.

When you pitch a story of this sort, a good deal of the pre-evelent anticipation is defined by a worry that very few things of note will occur. The benefit of this fear is that it compels you to make things happen, construct interest and intrigue, take a walk beyond the comfort zone and approach the strange man wandering about in the dim fluorescent air beyond the sliding door as, any good journalist would do.

This man is called Mr. Moses. Black beanie, grey sweatshirt. Has the levity of his doppelganger, Bill Murray, and the broad dense energy of your drunk uncle. He and I stand alone in the cold closed courtyard outside. He tells me, in words without drawl but full of a sharp-angled country tang, that the “Newcomer is the most important person. They’re an expression of we are. No one can invade our family. It’s the perfect zone.” I write this all down. “I got one piece of advice,” says Mr. Moses as he leans in close. “Keep the notepad in the head. It’s not what you see. It’s what you feel.”

Indeed. The Tavern is devoid of pretense; this place is authentic in a manner which contrasts dissonantly with scribbles on the note pad, or shutters of Alan’s DSLR.

Mr. Moses has one more thing to say. “Bobby Fizari. Greatest person we ever knew.” I ask where I can find the guy and Mr. Moses emits a wry smile. He speaks slow: “Oh, you’ll find him. Do an exposé on Bobby Fizari and you’re one hell of a reporter.” I agree to do this. But first I want to know more about Mr. Moses.

“My free time is my own time,” Mr. Moses says. “I won’t tell.” Long pause. “Talk to Bobby Fizari.”

Mr. Moses points to Dwayne in the bar. “See him, the black guy, with the dreads, that’s my twin brother.” When I tell Dwayne this, he laughs.  Bobby Fizari was a bar owner or something eight, nine years back. “Moses? Oh he just drinks too much.”

Andrew Schwartz enjoys a brew. Photo by Alan Mendoza.

Andrew Schwartz enjoys an over-21 drink. Photo by Alan Mendoza.

The Green Lantern

And as I stared I counted / The Webs from all the spiders / Catching things / and eating their insides / Like indecision to call you / and hear your voice of treason

-Alan

The Green Lantern is an innocuous Buffalo Wild Wings synthetic brown. UFC on the television and standing circles of conventionally good-looking young humans around small tables. Nights on the town.

We order a pitcher and discuss how we might breach these social walls around us. Alan, who is from Walla Walla, says hello to some high school acquaintances. I look up from my beer and realize that a man named Henry has joined our circle. He is a recent Whitman grad. Music blasts and voices rumble, and now we are four.

Ming Court

There’s so much more that I needed and / (So sorry it’s over) / Time keeps moving on and on and on / Soon we’ll all be gone

-Andrew

Ming Court is dark neon turquoise with a tinge of red light district. Hannah buys us fireball shots, and the Karaoke spotlight is trained on a 30 year old man with a flat-billed cap and pristine white Nike Air-Maxes that would be more at home on the feet of an Odd Fellows resident.

I wonder in my notes if the older white curly-haired woman, who is prompting these amateur vocalists, is a professional karaoke MC. Then I write that I knew a band called The Profreshionals in high school. Small world.

First I must pee. The next urinal over features a man named Scott. As we simultaneously urinate he asserts that this is “a palace of vice.” I am reminded of this later when Scott takes his place behind the karaoke mic: “Now that the war is through with me/ I’m waking up, I cannot see/ That there is not much left of me/ Nothing is real but pain now/ Hold my breath as I wish for death/ Oh please, God, wake me.”

Kelly, the vet seated across from us, says that in the military you’re a piece on the chess board and you have no sense of the bigger picture. For now he’s not working, just hanging out on his veteran’s benefits. Says that Karaoke exhilarates him.

When it is his turn he performs well, and I am disappointed that no one seems to notice. Karaoke, despite its context, is a deeply solitary act. You are in the spotlight, and no one is watching. Your muffled voice is the foundational sound of the room, and no is listening.

Yet perhaps for this reason, Karaoke is among the truly righteous of our world’s social institutions. Karaoke is graceful and it is true; Karaoke impresses no one; Karaoke is a personal question–shall I do Karaoke or shall I not?–and the answer is always yes.

Alan signs us up for individual Blink-182 songs. Henry selects his own song. The queue, which is projected behind the stage, announces that we will be the final four performers of the evening.

My twenty first birthday was lined with a melancholy streak. Kegs in the park, beer bumming from strangers, the late night search for the move–all of it had a charm unto itself, and officially coming of age cemented the growing sense that these teen-year shenanigans had now and forever faded fully into obsolescence.

But here, on stage, heavily inebriated, my various perceptions confused into a singular warm soupy mixture, Ming Court is the only place I am.

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