January 29, 2006

Seeking fun and inspiration in the Reno bar scene

I live in Reno. If you're not familiar with Reno, you could look at a Nevada guide book or do a Google search and see a picture like this one:

Of course, there is more to Reno than this silly arch. There is also a second arch:

You might be wondering how anyone could possibly get bored in a city like Reno. It is, after all, "The Biggest Little City in the World." And we have the arches to prove it.
Lately, my Saturday nights have been pretty slow. They usually consist of me and my husband having conversations that go something like this:
Monica: "So, what do you want to do tonight?"
Sam: "I don't know, what do you want to do?"
Monica: "We could go see a movie."
Sam: "We could."
Monica: "But I'm not sure I feel like it."

Sam: "Me neither."

As it turns out, we have some friends whose Saturdays follow similar patterns, but they usually stop short of discussing a trip to the movies. We're the most adventurous of the bunch.
So last night, five of us went out, looking for a good time.
I quit smoking 16 days ago. It's gone pretty well, except for my occasional lapses when I become an angry and horrible person. Those are the times when my friend Heather refers to me as Gargamel:

Gargamel usually comes out when I'm drinking and feel that I should have a cigarette in my hand. It's especially hard when I see other people smoking. I've tried to enjoy secondhand nicotine, but it's just not the same.

Therefore, I was incredibly excited that the three friends who went out with us last night were non-smokers. My mood last night was pretty consistently like this:

Postively Smurfy.

We started with dinner at a nice little Mexican restaurant. It was exceptionally adequate. Notably acceptable. Memorably decent.
Except for the raspberry margaritas. They weren't great. They were cloyingly sweet, but there was something else to the flavor. Something familiar. Something that we had never tasted in a margarita, but had definitely tasted before. It felt slightly wrong, yet somehow comforting at the same time.

Sam figured it out.

"Flintstones Chewable Vitamins."
None of us were quite sure how to feel about that. Somewhere in the ice/tequila/raspberry goo mixture, the exact flavor of those childhood nutritional staples had been replicated. This clearly wasn't the place to spend the rest of our evening.
I suffer from a drinking problem - not an addiction, a problem. It's a form of bar elitism. I love to drink, but I hate most bars. I'm like Goldilocks... This one is too crowded. That one is too cowboy. This one is too divey. That one is too trendy.
I've just made it worse by quitting smoking. Reno is California's smoking lounge. Finding a bar that isn't smoke-filled is harder than finding a grocery store without slot machines (oh, and they have smoking sections too).

We tried going to the only non-smoking bar that I knew of, an achingly trendy spot called The Chocolate Bar. They serve chocolate martinis, homemade truffles, and desserts in a smoke free atmosphere.
Unfortunately, every nonsmoker in Reno (about 85 people) had also decided to go there last night. The place only had seating for about 16 of them.
The next best thing to a non-smoking bar is one that is practically empty. What drinking establishment could possibly be empty at 9:30 on a Saturday night?
The Siena.

Maybe it's their location right next to the old, substandard Reno arch. Maybe it's the fact that they cater primarily to the "In bed by 9:30" crowd. Either way, we found ample seating, comfortable couches, and chocolate martinis. My urge to kill Smurfs faded away.
There was a band playing. (humorous typo: I originally wrote "There was a bland playing" - Freudian slip?) A man with a greased back mullet was fronting a jazzy combo of aging musicians. They pulled out all the lounge classics, plus loungey arrangements of mediocre songs. Mack the Knife. Everlasting Love. New York, New York. I Can't Help Falling in Love.
While I drank chocolate martinis, my friends ordered drinks well beyond their years. Rusty Nails. Brandy Alexanders. Snifters of Grand Marnier. An Old-Fashioned - mostly just for the name, which seemed like an apt description of our evening.

Over the last few months, I've been coming to terms with the fact that I'm older than I used to be. Of course, I brought my sense of irony to the evening of lounge music and archaic cocktails. But still, I felt more at home and content in that environment than I would in a loud, hip bar crammed with attractive 20-somethings.
Maybe I'm getting old. Or maybe I just have a strange definition of fun.
When I'm ridiculously wealthy (hopefully from the publication of a book), I think I'll return to Reno and open up a bar.
Founding Principles of Monica's Bar:
I will serve mystery flavor margaritas that correspond to non-margarita items people are likely to have consumed in other contexts. If you can guess what the margarita tastes like, your next one is free. Flintstones Chewable Vitamins is just the beginning.
I will have ample and comfortable couch-based seating, with clearly separated smoking and non-smoking sections.
I will not have any slot machines.
I will only hire bands that have ironic appeal. This shouldn't be hard in Reno, since the city is teeming with washed up musicians. However, I will politely ask them to not play too loudly, since the best part of any outing is the conversation with your friends, especially when you're poking fun at a cheesy lounge act.
I will serve chocolate martinis, but they will not cost $12.00.
Any female customer who utters the words "If you buy me a tequila shot, I'll show you my boobs!" will promptly be kicked out of the bar and sent to a mandatory counseling program.
My blog readers will receive VIP seating and the first round is on me.
Any takers?

No comments: