There are joints.
There are dumps.
There are gin mills.
Saloons and dives.
Jilly’s was a joint; upscale full of well put-together cabaret goombas and big-haired girls with after market jugs and enough botox to seal the Liberty Bell.
The Mutiny is a dump. It smells like piss from the front door and gets worse with every step with the Pine-Sol kicking in to try and cover the other aromas.
Stop and Drink was a gin milll; the kind of place where guys knock back hard liquor drinks quickly to stave off the shakes.
The Billy Goat is a saloon; a no-nonsense place to hammer back a few shots and beers at lunchtime to maintain one’s sanity. It has regulars and a sense of raucous camaraderie come payday.
Marie’s Riptide Lounge is a dive, in the best sense of the word.
The proprietor of this dive, the late, bouffant-crowned, Marie Wuczynski was ten days older than dirt when I met her in the late ’70s. The Riptide was where you went if, at 2 in the morning, you just weren’t drunk enough yet or if you were still looking for “love.” The Riptide is your bar of last chances. Marie herself would pour you shots and have one with you. She liked a jigger of Jaeger with a Pespi back. Only old Polish ladies drink like this. She was not above a bawdy joke. In fact, she relished them. To put a finer point on it, She was a dirty old broad.
The place was always big with my musician friends. My pal, Buzz Kilman, years ago, answered the phone one Saturday morning, bleary of thought and speech and he told me , “Dude. . .I had a long night. Whatever was supposed to happen today, will not happen today. I ended the night at the Riptide. .I feel like I’ve been shot at and missed and shit at and hit.”
There is a word for people who cannot get sufficiently stinko by 2 A.M. A cynic might surmise that they just aren’t trying hard enough.
The front-door of the Riptide empties one right into the on-ramp from Armitage Avenue to the Kennedy. Everything about the place warns you in advance, before you walk in, to go the fuck home. Once you break the plane of the front door, it’s over. You aren’t going anywhere, Sporty, unless it is to the bar for
another shot of Jaeger and to pet the light-up Spuds MacKenzie, because you’re hammered, Bucko, and you think it’s a real dog.
It always seems like it is a Twin Peaks version of Christmas in here. You may not find the girl of your dreams, but you will find the 40-year old lass, who is, for probably very good reasons, still single, out for the night, and wants nothing more than to be pounded like a milk-fed veal chop; and only a drunken, miserable bastard like you will do.
It is a nice antidote to all of the dipshit bars that have opened in Bucktown over the last few years. Every swinging dick in the Village has a bar you don’t want to drink in. You know the ones. Twelve-dollar martinis with all manner of shit in them. Chocola-tini? What kind of pussy shit is that? Even saying word this can turn you into a Ken doll. Apple-tini ? Dirty Martini? I know, I know. . .these are for chicks; get them drunker, therefore more malleable,faster. Still. The pussification of a perfectly good bar? this is some sad shit.
There is also the issue of 20-dollar beers. Huh?
Now look. I quit drinking 28 years ago. Back then you could get a longneck Bud and a shot of Beam for three bucks and during “Happy Hour,” they’d back those bitches up with a two-for- one which served as a guarantee that you’d walk out of the joint hammered to the bone and trying to string noun and verb together.
Now there are these really primo Belgian ales and artisan beers. I know guys who are brewers and they are VERY serious about making beer as an art form.
So I don’t doubt for a minute that their beers are worth every dime you pay for them. Hell, if these brews were around when I drank, I’d have never been able to afford being an alcoholic. It IS a substantial investment.
At Marie’s Riptide there are no “beer snobs;” just guys who want their Old Style or Bud and maybe a shot of something to stop the hands from trembling. It is a last-chance kind of place. Like I said before, the dive you choke down your last drink of the night in at 4 in the morning so you can maybe forget why you’re there.
This past February, Marie passed away. Nobody is REALLY sure how old she was, I’m guessing 82 or so. I’m also guessing she went with a with a shot of Jaeger in one hand, a Parliament dangling from her lips, under a new perm. She was the best reason to find yourself on the ass end of Armitage at three in the morning.