It's 5 p.m. on a Tuesday and the garage doors are up at Bandito's. Even though it's early March, it feels like Richmond's never-ending summer is upon us again. You're either shivering or sweating in this town.
Elevator technicians, plumbers, blue-collar Everymen and of course — because this is Bandito's — day-drinking, service-industry types (my favorite people) ring the bar and the outlying tables. Tecates and Budweisers flow. A shot of Jim Beam or Jameson isn't considered — there's no uttering, "Should I really take another shot?" It's a given with this crowd.
Pour the booze.
Many of the faces are prematurely cigarette- and alcohol-addled. Laugh lines and crow's feet and brows that give that perpetual look of consternation. The kind of face that's worked hard and will keep working hard until the hard work turns that face into just another picture in the obit section.
No one's complaining, though. Everyone looks serene. Resigned to the hand they're dealt. Like a grim-faced poker pro pushing in the last of his chips with a pair of fours.
So maybe a few are a bit red in the face — gin-blossomed, to put it kindly — but that's another side effect of the alcohol over the course of time.
There's no judgment passed here.
Everyone here is working class. If they're not at the moment then they were probably unceremoniously relegated to the nonworking classes during the recession.
They get up early, they drink coffee, they bust their ass for nine hours, they come to the bar. They do it all over again the next day. They look forward to — they daydream about — these precious few hours every weekday at dusk. Life and responsibilities that were never asked for await, but no one tries to think about what lies ahead, what bills arrived in the mail today.
For what always seems like an all-too-brief moment, they're here doing their best not to think about anything.
Happy hour here at 'Ditos and many other bars is just that — a time to be happy. The only debt collectors here are the bartenders, but don't let the tattoos fool you — they're the nicest collection agency in the city.
Another shot and I look up and it's 7 p.m. The suits and cubicle set starts to roll in. They get the same Buds, same Tecates, same Jameson …
Suit or T-shirt — it doesn't matter. Everyone continues to smile. The laugh lines grow deeper.
"Hey Renee, better slide another shot of Jameson this way."
A good bar at happy hour on a weekday — there are few places that I'd rather be. Sometimes, it's the only place you have to go anyways.
New Liquor on the Scene!!! — Richmond's hottest new liquor is Meee-OWWW! From the people who brought you the seminal periodical, "Cat Fancy," comes a flavored vodka that answers the question, "What if I wanted to get drunk via feline genocide?"
This hot new flavored spirit has everything: feral kitten carcasses, nonferal kitten carcasses, a hint of week-old Friskies Brand Premium by Purina, a slight mousy aftertaste and "diseased fur balls."
What are "diseased fur balls," you ask? It's that thing when, like, you follow a flu-ridden cat around with an oversized Ziplock baggie for a week collecting its tiny hacked-up furballs.
Look for Meee-OWWW at an ABC store near you or ask your local Smirnoff rep for a bottle. You can also hit any area Outback for a taste of what's sure to be the Summer of 2012's hottest new liquor!
Meee-OWWW isn't a real spirit, yet. Although once one of the more overzealous vodka companies (I'm looking at you, Three Olives) reads this column, it most likely will become a reality.
P.S. Liquor companies are shameless with their ideas and will do anything for a buck, including kitten murder. At least we have that in common.
Have a question for Richmond bartender Jack Lauterback? Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Jack also serves as co-host on 103.7-FM's "River Mornings with Melissa and Jack," weekdays from 6-9 a.m. On Twitter @Jackgoesforth.