MLK Drunks

If this column were an after-school special, the plug for this week’s installment would read something like this: The Night Ranger visits E.B. Bar & Grill on Martin Luther King Day, meets persons of color and, after an initial period of inebriated confusion, sees the person within.

Thankfully, this column is nothing like an after-school special, unless we’re talking about one titled “The Girl Who Drank Too Much.” So, uh, let’s move on, shall we?

We ended up at E.B. simply because we’ve long been intrigued by this place. Despite the fact that it’s hidden away at 31st Street and Main next to the Ambrosi cutlery shop, it always seems to be lively. And because it’s also conveniently close to NR Headquarters, we frequently drive by it. On more than one occasion, we have witnessed its clientele stumbling across Main late at night. After our initial fear that the drunk-ass pedestrians would be run over, our next thought was: There’s a bar within stumbling distance of our bed and we haven’t been there yet? Sacrilege! We definitely had to rectify that.

So, on that Monday night, Research Assistant Cece and the NR found themselves at a slightly dingy watering hole that’s a second home to most of its patrons. Its décor consisted mainly of neon beer signs, linoleum floors and a Budweiser race-car hood hanging on the wall. Two pool tables stood guard near the door in the rectangular front room; two more occupied the back.

Random fun fact: E.B. stands for Eagle’s Buffet, a place that used to be down the street and served food. Though it still offers sandwiches and burgers, the only semblance of a kitchen consists of a microwave, a George Foreman grill and a dorm fridge behind the bar. We decided to just stick with alcohol and ordered Bud Light bottles ($2.75).

As TLC’s “Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg” blared from the speakers, we noticed another blast from the past that thrilled us: an upright, old-school Ms. Pac Man machine. No, it wasn’t a Ms. Pac Man-Galaga hybrid; this one looked to be an early version, with plain black side panels and no cheesy caricatures of the yellow circle herself on its signage. We rounded up our quarters, and after working the joystick for a bit — ask us about our knob-handling skills! — we decided to wander about and learn more about our fellow barflies.

When we arrived around 11, a group of hooched-out chickies in skintight pants headed out, leaving behind a sausage-heavy crowd mainly in jerseys and askew baseball caps. Everyone seemed to know one another, but no one gave us the stink eye for being outsiders. Our initial impressions were soon confirmed when we met 45-year-old D (“That’s one d, no e“) and her best friend, 40-year-old Angela, who met at E.B. through a pool league. We asked how long they’d been friends. “Since before the dinosaurs,” D said. She seemed to be a no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is type, and she was cool. The two regulars told us a bit about their bar. Apparently, it draws an eclectic crowd. Some Hallmark people drop by, they said, as do those driving out from KCK, JoCo and WyCo. Concertgoers stop in before seeing shows at Liberty Memorial, too. Angela says Boyz II Men once came in. However, they emphasized that the thug attitude isn’t welcome. “We won’t turn you away until you act a damn fool,” D said. Note to self: Do not incur the wrath of D.

We moved on and met 33-year-old Daniel, who was watching the Lakers-Heat game at the bar. He was clad in a plaid shirt and was smoking a skinny Black Camel cigar in a plastic holder. When we introduced ourselves and explained that we were writing about E.B., Daniel’s friend, who wore a navy-blue Dallas Cowboys sweatshirt, started yelling out quotes for us to use. “I hate this bar! I hope it closes down!” he joked. “I’m a bar heckler.”

So how was your MLK day?

“It’s better than being at work,” the heckler said.

“You off every Monday! You don’t count!” Daniel retorted. “I could have said it’s Klan Monday, and you would have been like, ‘Yeah, that was good to me, huh.'” Both guys cracked up, Daniel with an endearing, birdlike kikikiki laugh. Ah, cracking a joke about the Klan on MLK Day — so horrible that it’s great.

We then met two people who had a decidedly different reaction to MLK Day. Sitting at the other end of the bar were 36-year-old Chuncky, clad in a camouflage puffy jacket and gold chains, and 23-year-old Lisa, a beautiful woman who was rocking the denim jacket with rhinestones on the collar. They told us that they had just met. Chuncky approached Lisa and bought her a vodka cranberry; it seemed like they were engrossed in an intense conversation after that.

“I always take Martin Luther King Day off,” Chuncky told us.

“It’s respect for Martin Luther King, ’cause me or you,” Lisa said, gesturing at the NR, “wouldn’t be able to go anywhere or do what we do now.”

“A lot of people think it’s a black thing, but it’s not,” Chuncky said.

Lisa became animated and started venting about how people were not treating MLK Day with the respect it deserves, especially other minorities. “If you’re not white, you’re not accepted,” she said. “We’re just hated the most because we’re the darkest.” We weren’t sure whether Lisa’s ire was drink-fueled. Sadly, we didn’t find out, because last call was announced just after 1 a.m.

As we gathered our stuff to leave, Daniel walked by, so we thanked him again for talking to us. “You’re so proper,” teased another one of his friends, a guy in a red baseball cap. He then turned on his charm. “If my name weren’t Synod, I’d take you out,” he said. We had no idea what that meant, or if we even heard his name right, so we asked for clarification. “I know the pimp game. But I wouldn’t pimp you out, baby. I’d just love you,” he said suavely, before teetering a bit and nearly falling onto a table with a video trivia machine on it.

What have we learned? Bar pickup lines are awesome, as is any bar with an ’80s arcade game. E.B. goes into our theoretical Trapper Keeper of bars to visit again.

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