FKR: Now this was a truly classic dive.
LS: I remember. Ultra dive.
FKR: A lot of dark wood, a lingering swankiness, but—
LS: Totally broken in.
FKR: Right. And a strong sense of decline. Supposedly it was once a lively haunt for members of Colorado’s legislature, but by the time I started haunting it they were long gone. Unless our legislators were in the habit of dressing up as winos.
LS: The place was usually dead empty, which I liked. I always wondered how they stayed open.
FKR: It had the same owner since the 1950s. I think at that point in the dive-cycle, the owner comes in maybe once a week, shakes his head at the week’s receipts, but keeps it open because—why not? At that point killing something that’s been with you for 50 years might feel like killing yourself.
LS: You don’t want to put down your old dog no matter how badly he’s gimping along.
FKR: It’s usually after the original owner dies that it gets sold and transformed. The kids just want the dough. Deirdre and I used to spend a lot of time in here. We were in solid with Maggie, one of the main gears behind the bar. It was a blast. We didn’t end a lot of nights here, but this is where we usually started them. Then we made the mistake of making Maggie our Bartender of the Issue.
LS: As opposed to Drunkard of the Issue.
FKR: We switched because it got too political, with our advertisers, I mean. And, philosophically, it makes more sense to have a Drunkard.
LS: This isn’t Modern Bartender.
FKR: Right. So the issue hits and Maggie is livid. She hated the picture of herself. We were a B&W zine then, so the print quality wasn’t great, especially when you blow up a 3×5 inch photo into a centerfold. Though it seemed a pretty fair representation to me.
LS: She wanted to throw up on her blow up?
FKR: Big time. She said the picture made her look like an old lady. Which made sense since Maggie was in her 60s. She was quite fiery and flirty. The older regulars put her on a pedestal, for the usual reasons. I think she had a self-image of herself as a lively Irish lass of 30. Suddenly the laughter died and the pours became stingy. We’d been demoted from favored regulars to a couple of jerks in an instant. We didn’t have the patience to start the laborious climb back up the ziggurat, so we moved on.
LS: No good deed goes unpunished. Doesn’t this place have tunnels under it? To the Capitol Building?
FKR: The story goes that out-of-work miners dug a vast spider’s web of tunnels from the statehouse to many of Denver’s bars and brothels.
LS: During Prohibition.
FKR: Before then. The legislators didn’t want to be seen strolling in and out of bars and whorehouses. And it’s said there was a non-stop poker game with a fully-stocked bar down in the bowels. So, that’s the backstory of the Congress Lounge. You know the front story.
LS: The Jimmy Incident.
FKR: Right. Our man Jimmy got a bartending gig here after it’d turned into Satellite Bar. So he invited us down. We started early.
LS: I was on hand before he went rogue, but I had to go to band practice.
FKR: Troy and I didn’t have any such commitments. So we start drinking, and you know how Jimmy is. He’s the kind of host who likes to drink with his guests. I’m the same way.
LS: Me three.
FKR: So we get fully loaded. I mean, shot after cocktail after shot after cocktail. You know, celebrating his new job.
LS: As is right and natural.
FKR: Then, at some point, according to the video footage the owner showed him the next day—
LS: Oh boy.
FKR: —he abandoned his bar duties to drink with us, and some enterprising wino stepped into the vacuum.
LS: Imagine the glee of that wino. He must have thought he was dreaming.
FKR: I don’t care what your bar’s underlying philosophy and business plan are, when a wino steps behind the bar and starts pouring drinks, something has gone terribly wrong.
LS: Was he charging for them?
FKR: Oh, hell no. It was free drinks for everyone. He was hooking up all his street buddies. It was Winopalooza. And what’s odd is, according to the footage, the guy was pretty efficient. He knew his way around a back bar.
LS: That wino had gumption. How did it end?
FKR: To be honest, I cannot recall. Maybe a night shift bartender came in and wrested back control. Deep eddies of mystery and gall.
Gent Bearing Shots: Here you go.
FKR: Thank you very much.
LS: Thanks, man! Who was that?
FKR: I never look a free drink in the mouth.
LS: I know him. Cannot remember his name.
FKR: Here’s the trick. If it’s a dude you call him Streetwise. That’s a Troyism. If it’s a girl, you call her Kitty Kat. Both impart convivial familiarity.
LS: I thought it was Douche Bag and Slut Face.
FKR: You’re totally off there. See, that’s where you and I are different. I know there’s that whole ball-busting thing where you call your friends or even strangers cruel names, but I never got on board with that. Not when I was in the Army, not when I lived in England, where everyone calls their closest friends “cunts.”
LS: You’re not overtly abusive.
LS: Hey, if both of us were the same, then one of us would be useless. I have not retired my overt abusive behavior, but—
FKR: Retired? It’s gotten worse!
LS: I’m fine-tuning it. When I insult someone, I don’t just want to make them flustered. I want to make them cry. I’m trying to cut closer to the bone. I want them to either cry or fight me. Either way, you know what you’re dealing with.
FKR: I don’t get the logic.
LS: If there are emotions available in there, you bring them out and perhaps you can become friends with that person.
FKR: There might be easier ways to make friends.
LS: Yeah, well, not for me.
FKR: You always say your insults with a smile. You give them an out. They don’t have to take it seriously. They can take it as you being friendly in a bizarre way.
LS: It’s overt familiarity. It’s not covert violence.
FKR: You’re testing their cool.
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