By Aidan Hamelin
You didn’t shower this morning, it’s Saturday night and the hours you just spent guarding a Winners’ change room have been less than fulfilling.
Good sense says go home and sleep it off, but you won’t—middle management has forced your hand and it’s time to drink again. And also you might want to dance later, but you don’t know yet.
You’re feeling a bar, something greasy but chill, alternative but not lousy with try-hards. And something with all-day breakfast.
Old friends or that co-worker with the piercings and regrettable tattoos is down to get tanked, but you don’t want to impress them or look like you frequent Dark Horse cafes. You tread the line between cool and mediocre as you scroll through a long list of dive bars.
But suddenly, you’re flashing back to your early teens. You’re listening to your older sibling’s mall-punk fables. You have no idea what it’s like to be a 20-something in Toronto, but you’re sure it has a lot to do with half-pipes, punk shows and nights spent vomiting outside Sneaky Dee’s.
“Hey, does Sneaky Dee’s still exist?” you say. “Maybe we should check it out.”
Hop off the Bloor line subway onto Bathurst Street, get passed by a street car and you walk your ass five blocks south to College Street.
Scope it out, watch a man boldly flail and gyrate in the street for passing cabs while chatting with the nice college boy hustling M for paper. Pitch your half-smoked Belmont into the street and get ready to party with punks.
Cross the threshold, boldly through the front door to grapple with the divide between alterna-dance club and alterna-Tex Mex watering hole.
The bouncers aren’t asking for IDs, but you drop yours anyways. Pick it up, pass it, two checks and back in your wallet before your intense sweating can scream ‘it’s fake.’
You’re still not clear on the whole dancing thing, so you rush the door on the right and bask in all of Dee’s legendary kitsch. It’s exactly how you remembered it, only three times more graffiti and approachable patrons.
Somehow, signs and animals skulls from an abandoned American mid-west truck stop have ended up in an Ontario dive bar. The walls – inked and tagged decades before you knew this place was cool – are near blackened by signatures of past rock stars, artists and a few guys named Dave.
It’s only 10 p.m., but everyone who wants to be here has arrived. You manage to grab a booth at the back beside two dudes who aren’t sure if they’re on a date or not. Your table has been whittled down by past lovers etching their initials with bent cutlery and pocket knives, and you start sweating about lead paint before you see a bored looking server glance your way.
She walks up to take your order and you think: ask for a menu, small-talk about the obscure band on your tee shirt, and watch her walk away knowing you don’t have a chance. Little did you know, she was listening to Green Day b-sides before you were born.
Relax, you’ll get a menu on her second visit, no worries.
Friday was a big night and you spent a lot. You haven’t eaten anything but dry cereal and various lattes though, so you’re prepared to take this food thing seriously. The dim lighting and half a pint has made reading dish descriptions a process, so you order something called the “King’s Crown”. After all, it’s what every person around you is already telling you to order.
But royalty doesn’t look anything like you thought it would when it arrives. His highness’ crown is a mountain of nachos, smothered in guacamole and sour cream. You’ve been told there were baked beans and cheese in the middle, but it’s only a legend. No one’s ever made it that far.
Get drunker, order a shot and get it served on a plate like a king. Your first full meal in days has given you a rare boost of energy, and the alcohol has set your confidence level to jackass—it’s time to dance like no one’s watching, mothafuckas.
Ascend the stairwell, trip on the last step and stumble into a dark room, half full of older, almost-dancing-but-not-quite individuals. You’d call them hipsters, but you’re not entirely sure what that means anymore.
The lady with the stamp and the little metal box asks for a cover. You look at the room, the bar, yourself and herself and decide to let good-sense drive on this one. Turn around, descend the stairs and start walking home, kid.