“a woman walks into a bar…” or two: The Library Bar & then Hank’s

on 16/05/11 at 8:58 am

a woman walks into a bar..., BoozeBlog

It wasn’t a dark or stormy night. It was kind of blech. The Lakers’s demise cast a stupefied and sorrowful pall over the city weary from wishing for miracles. Looking at the bright side, at least the city saved millions of dollars in security, cleaning up burning trash cans and police cars had there been a Three Peat victory. So much for economics. Time to head downtown to catch up with enervated fans looking for a little ‘spirit’ual relief.

The Library Bar, I’m guessing so named because it’s across from the gorgeous LA Public Library. No kidding. The library is fabulous. Damn it’s dark in here. Reading? Fuggedaboudit. This library’s for booze. It’s also unnervingly quiet. A few souls are huddled in dark corners, those at the bar pretty much keeping to themselves. The casually beautiful, hip bartender with the indeterminate accent, greets me with “Cheer dahlink”, takes my order for a beer, Trappistes Rochefort 6. I’ve got nothing to do but look at her and feel my age. She of the silky latte skin yet unbroken by the experience of that living euphemism, which in my world, is called a wrinkle. Her ring-adorned straight smooth fingers have years to go before they bulge with arthritic joints and the charms around her neck rest insouciantly in the valley of her cleavage. Her school boy cap is yanked down low, no need to give up too much beauty. Of course, she effortlessly wears skinny jeans with no sign of muffin tops. It’s female envy pure and simple. I’m pretty sure no one can see my roots.

I’m jolted out of my female envy coma with an assertive snippet of conversation from the guy next to me, to his girlfriend, “Enough with the ‘cheers’ I told him. You’re not fucking British.” Someone else is laughing like a hyena. Time to go.

Out in the quiet street, I head over to a dive bar a few blocks away when memories of my almost downtown mugging come flooding back. Dare I walk the 5 blocks alone? Sure, I’m tough and maybe stupid but my friend and I did fight off our would-be mugger so I speed-walk the few blocks sniffing for vagrants and desperadoes. I zoom a few blocks toward the bar when just ahead, looking like a florescent oasis, are the floor-to-ceiling windows of Bottega Louie. Hmmm, there’s a hip bar in there. Pressing up to the window to get a closer look of the bar scene, why yes, it is tragically hip in there. Nope, on to the dive bar. Like going from FAO Schwartz to Woolworth’s.

There it is. Hank’s. In I go. Quiet night I guess. Three guys going on about the Lakers: “I got it the Lakers next year will take it right out.” “Motherfuckers goin’ here ‘n there to draft teams…” Makes no sense but they are definitely incensed about this “shit”. It’s the usual dive bar decor, two tv’s on mute, various homemade signs and knick knacks around the bar, evanescent glow from backlighting. Beautiful. Debbie, tattooed bartender, shakes me a Manhattan with Makers and an old school Maraschino cherry. It’s almost impossible to screw up this drink and it turns out just fine. Debbie trolls the bar as we chat. She’s great, been here five years, works her ass off, has a 4 1/2 year old son. Hank Holzer, former boxer, had this bar for almost 40 years, died 14 years ago, looked like a cross between George Carlin and Willie Nelson. She’s seen it all.

Debbie, tell me a story. Debbie: Ok, so one night I come back in the bar from having a cigarette and there’s this guy sittin’ at the bar with his pants down around his knees, jacking off. Me: Really? What’d you do? Debbie: I told him to put his pants back, put your dick away, and get the hell out of here. Funny thing though there were two young guys at one end of the bar and an old guy at the other end. Jacking off, this guy was staring at the old guy, not the young ones. I didn’t get it. And he was 30ish. She shakes her head: How come the old guy and not the young ones? I think: ‘Old’ works.

Who’s this?  Hey Greg, deli manager with your bulging backpack, what’s up? Just rolled in on the Greyhound from Tijuana, teach English to a bunch of kids down there. Bring them clothes and stuff. Come straight here to get a beer and unwind. No, not with an organization, just do it on my own. Shows me pix of adorable kids he teaches. Tells me about one of the guys down there who uses the nickname, Robert Di Nero, because in Spanish it sounds like “robbing money”. Whatever. Greg, that’s awesome, you go down there every week? Yeah, I used to just sit and watch tv til nine months ago someone snitched on an illegal immigrant who worked at the deli and he was kicked out of the country. I went down to visit him and that started me going…take the bus every Tuesday, my day off, teach, turn-around and come back at night. Gotta be at work the next day.

He shows me an animated monkey he bought on the street that he’s going to take to Thailand to have kids there copy it so they can earn some money. Wow, Greg’s commitment to working with kids is much-o impressive. It’s turned his life around.

With that, it’s time for me to venture back into the night as the streets fill with bar-hoppers and potential muggers. Debbie reminds me to walk tall, head high, no worries, streets usually ok. That ‘usually’ was comforting. So, I depart, follow instructions, walking fast with head high, pass the windows of Bottega Louie again, see the hip gaiety at the bar still in full swing, I walk on by. Wonder if anyone there takes the Greyhound anywhere? Crossing the street, here comes a guy with his house on his back, wrapped in a filthy blanket. Murmurs something as I pass. Ah, downtown.

Library Bar
630 West 6th St.
Los Angeles, CA 90017
(213) 614-0053

Hank’s
840 S Grand Ave.
Los Angeles
(213) 623-7718

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