“Apollo 19”

The south side drag has two bars on it, neither of which gets live music and both of which play the juke box shmear at like 200 decibels, usually something pertaining to a girl’s “booty.” I drive north on Ironwood, considering going to one of the Mishawaka dives. At the Phoenix one time I tried to yell that I didn’t want another beer and ended up getting served another one, which I paid for and left, full, on the bar. I’m not very good at expressing myself sometimes, clearly. 

After a half-drive into Mishawaka and a jaunt past a couple dives in River Park, I decide on a foray into downtown South Bend. McCormick’s, Cool Runnings and The Lasalle Kitchen & Tap are all within about 150 feet of each other or so, so this would figure to offer a sure-shot chance at some live music. I get to McCormick’s, find a parking spot right in front of it, amazingly, glance in, and then walk by. I walk by Cool Runnings and there is no band in there. Earlier, I’d seen a band folding up shop at 10:00 at the HPPH. I can’t bring myself to go into The Lasalle, in my Jimtown Football shirt from Goodwill, Braves hat, Dickies and Skechers work shoes, for one thing because, despite the dehumanizing lack of night life, people still find a way to be incredibly posh and judgmental about what you wear in this town, and for another thing because the level of hostility in this place is absolutely through the roof. 

I decide to walk into McCormick’s, immediately regretting it, going past one girl giving me this weird, dystopic stare (not sure if she was on something) and another girl who, though dressed preppie, is still trying to uphold South Bend’s seedy, Tarrantino-like brand of “cool,” throwing her still-lit cigarette onto the sidewalk like a real rock star. As it turns out, they’re not able to offer draft beer, because some piece of machinery having to do with the kegs has broken. I’m glad because this gives me an excuse to leave. And so I decide to trek it a mile south and a mile west to Simeri’s, with pretty much no hope whatsoever for any sort of decent time to follow.

This neighborhood seems worse than ever. Driving by the old Hoosier Tap & Grill, which staged bands and an open mic every Sunday night, but has now closed, I come across a group of teenagers. And I remember to keep my eyes down, just glad I’m in a car. I get to Simeri’s, get my $9 pint of Two Hearted (which yes still tastes like sh**) after a five-minute wait inside the incredibly hot and stuffy bar, get this lengthy stare from this 50-year-old lady that’s kind of like I’m her kid getting into her car all muddy after puddle-hopping, and go out to the back patio, which is blaring the band’s Rolling Stones cover songs at, you guessed it, approximately 200 decibels. I stand there for a while listening to the standards and, I’ve gotta admit, it’s kind of got a vibe about it. I feel like I’m at one of those old-lady Margarita festivals in Chicago, just hoping to God the band doesn’t cover “Sooner or Later” by Fastball. 

There’s no way I’m paying another $9 for this bar-of-bath-soap-in-a-cup so I decide to trek it out of there. I haven’t been to Kelly’s since I moved back three and a half years ago so I decide to go there, out of some sort of already-defeated paradigm, or whatever. My beer in there, a draft Yuengling of about the same size, costs two dollars and 50 cents. Pulling in, I almost hit this black girl. She gets out, immediately smiling and hitting on me, and I’m just like, Whadya do? And I’m glad for her. We get to the front door and there’s a security guard patting me down — he actually ran his hand across my a**, as a matter of fact. Feeling somewhat like I’ve just entered Folsom Prison, I look around to behold the 10 people in the bar, and find a space to sit down. This black dude next to me says, “Play the O-Jays… no, the Isleys!” And I think, well, at least I’m finally having a bona fide music experience, on this night. There’s an incredible rash of bratty, annoying girls playing Fall out Boy around town these days. They play “Nothin’ but a ‘G’ Thang” and that “Friends / How many of us have them?” song, among a couple other cool bangers, and I think, da**, this is the cutting edge. Here, in this place, from which everyone has been scared away, they are dispatching at an elite level of culture, of no-bullsh**, of having seen every god da** thing under the sun, and of the crouching tiger, hidden dragon, noticing everything slyly and way happier in the moment than any a priori assessment might have indicated. 

I can’t stay because there’s this girl who’s in love with me four seats down and I can see her downtrodden face, although I am enjoying the pleasant glances from the black girl I almost hit (with my car) in the parking lot. So I flee like a White Prince, like Yossarian, without any kind of “night life” motif having transpired but at least with the right tunes in my head, so I can handle this destitute Mexican out in the parking lot pacing and looking at me. Tomorrow it’s back to work, and, ya know, it’s every freakin’ man for himself, and all that cliched sh**. 


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