We Are Gathered Here Today to Mourn the Death of the 500 Block of East Pine Street
...a friend, a loved one, taken from this life too soon. Through three decades, this block was a hub for Seattle music, nightlife, art, fashion, and small business. Also, prostitution, homosexuality, and drug use. Over the years, it was home to such establishments as Rebellious Jukebox, Righteous Rags, Squid Row, the Puss Puss Cafe, Tugs Belmont, Bimbo's, the Cha Cha Lounge, Double Trouble, Lipstick Traces, Manray, Kincora, Bus Stop, and Pony. For at least the past 10 years, this block of Pine Street has been a dear friend to The Stranger, providing us with booze, content, booze, entertainment, and booze. Now it will provide us with condos.
To remember a block like this is to grasp at fuzzy hungover flashes and partially blacked-out moments. A complete oral history is impossible; instead, let us recall what we can, forget what we regret, and drink to the departed. Implied Violence will be performing a memorial service on Friday, November 30, at the Belmont building behind Kincora, at 1:30 a.m.
SPENCER MOODY: I'm almost positive that there was a record store there when I was in middle school. [There was, called Rebellious Jukebox. —Eds.] I had a friend whose dad worked in Seattle, and we would ride in to Seattle with him the morning, go record shopping all day, and he would drive us back to the Eastside at night. At that time, there was nothing on that street. Between Broadway and Pine and Pike streets—that area was still a little bit sketchy at that time, if I remember right. I was also a little kid from the suburbs or whatever, so it didn't take much, but it was very different.
LINDY WEST: I recently asked my mom what she remembers about that block in the late 1960s. "I think there was probably a tavern," she said. "I remember a grocery store—nothing in there that you'd want to make a meal out of. Just, you know, CANS." I laughed and she said, "What? Dick's was about as far south as we would go back then. It was just a bunch of fleabaggy places."
NILS BERNSTEIN: I opened Rebellious Jukebox in 1989 and closed it in mid-1992. Toward the end, I rented half of it out to Jeffrey Ofelt for Righteous Rags. When I moved, he took over the whole space, then expanded into the space next door (which later became the Cha Cha) which at the time was just an accountant's office (which illustrates how cheap storefront rent was then).
The area around the convention center and Freeway Park in the early 1980s had been really rough—hookers, drug dealers, etc. When it was chosen as the location for the convention center (late 1983, though construction didn't start until later), that "element" moved up the hill to Pine/Pike. The businesses there then were a gay bathhouse, a tattoo parlor, several gay bars, etc., so it wasn't like they were in a position to chase them away. There was a vintage clothing store called Faze 2, located at the southwest corner of Belmont Avenue and Pine Street, which was one of the first "cool" stores in the area. Glynn's Cove Tavern across the street from Faze 2 became Squid Row, which eventually started doing rock shows. It was a neighborhood waiting to "happen," because the location is unbeatable, and lots of cool rock types were taking advantage of the cheap rents. The apartment building above my store was a whorehouse, and when I moved in in 1989 it was beginning the process of trading out hookers for grunge kids and drag queens. Drew Barrymore lived above my store with Eric Erlandson while she was filming Mad Love in the early 1990s.
My rent was $240 when I moved in, which included a full bathroom and shower, half the store which I didn't even use and later rented out for friends' businesses, AND an area in back where I lived much of the time I owned the place. For a while, I also lived there with Roderick Romero from Sky Cries Mary; when I moved into an apartment, Michael Anderson of Blood Circus lived there for a while, and later Kevin Willis moved in.
I had a vintage 20-cent Coke machine in the store, and if you hit the "out of order" button, you got an icy can of Schmidt.
And let's not even mention what those cute little gay delivery boys for Hot Mama's pizza were doing for extra cash when it first opened.
DAN SAVAGE: I never made it to Tugs—the original Tugs, Belltown's legendary gay bar. The gay men I knew when I arrived in Seattle (hey, Kurt!) couldn't shut up about Tugs—how great it was, how much fun it was—and they treasured their Tugs T-shirts. ("I am not just a person. I am a piece of meat.") When I got to Seattle in 1991, Tugs had moved up the hill to Pine Street and Belmont Avenue, and no one that had been to Tugs Belltown thought very much of it. Post-1991 arrivals, though, loved the place. It was home to notoriously sleazy underwear parties that so offended the Washington State Liquor Control Board that it threatened to shut Tugs Belmont down. The threats stopped after Cal Anderson, Washington State's first openly gay state legislator, showed up at one of Tugs Belmont's underwear parties in his legislative underwear and chatted up the inspectors sent by the WSLCB. I did a few shows at Tugs Belmont back when I was still directing plays—Medea (with It's Mark Mitchell as Medea), a burlesque version of A Christmas Carol, and Vampire Lesbians of Sodom (with the late, great Crystal Lane as, um, a lesbian vampire). Tugs Belmont was the Pony of its time—and it was Pony when it was a whole lot riskier to be Pony, back in the day when the WSLCB would yank a bar's license if a male nipple was exposed on the premises. Tugs was the kind of place where you could drop acid—I did once, on Halloween, a bad idea and a long story—and have sex in the beer cooler if you knew the bartenders, which I did. (Hey, Shaw!) But eventually, Tugs went away and Kincora took its place. I never went into Kincora, but I always thought of it as a kind of straight Tugs, I guess, based on how sleazy it looked from the outside.
KEVIN WILLIS: When I first moved back to Seattle, Nils, nice guy that he is, allowed me to live in this secret compartment behind the record store. I was broke, I didn't have a job, and I paid my rent in food stamps. The entrance was hidden behind a Treepeople poster. I ended up living there for 10 years.
Nils had just started this record store, and he was trying to make it what it became. So he took 8-by-10 glossies of all these bands—Sonic Youth... you know—and he took a Sharpie and signed their names, like, "To Nils, love you always." He stapled all these 8-by-10 glossies behind the register on the wall so everybody thought he was cool. All those bands would come through and just laugh.
I had collected all this E.T. stuff, from sleeping bags to all sorts of shit. Drew Barrymore was in town filming a movie. We'd have the music blaring out the door, and I'd made this window display of all the E.T. stuff, and she would always be out in front of this window with her sunglasses on, dancing, just out on the street dancing for hours.
Nils got a job at Sub Pop, and he let the store go down. He didn't have the time or the attention, because the whole grunge thing was going on and Sub Pop was blowing up. Eventually, he gave the lease over to Jeff for Righteous Rags.
JEFFREY OFELT: Courtney Love came in to pick up a coat for Kurt Cobain that she had on layaway and was buying as a Christmas present. It was a leather trench coat or something. She came in to make a payment, and she wanted to use the phone, and she was smoking. She just ripped one, just farted there in the store and did not even flinch. It was hilarious.
There was this guy who used to come into the dressing room and strip down naked and then open it up and expose himself. There was another older man who used to come in who was infatuated with a photo of Kevin Willis at 10 years old that was part of the photo collage I had up there. He offered to trade me some photos that he took, because he was an artistic photographer, for that photo. He proceeded to show me some photos of a really white, hairy friend of his who was buck naked with a red ribbon tied around his dick. I told him that Kevin wasn't 10 anymore, and he seemed really bummed.
KERRI HARROP: I vividly remember talking with Bruce Pavitt at length about the future of Pine Street. It was shortly before Linda's opened—he and Jonathan Poneman helped bankroll the venture—and Pavitt was excited about the prospects the neighborhood held. There was nowhere near the level of retail and entertainment that exists there now. It was, in fact, pretty seedy by Seattle standards.
Squid Row, located where Kincora is now, played host to loud punk-rock shows and drunken good times. My friend Nikole spent her teenage years growing up in one of the big apartments above the Cha Cha; her parents still fondly refer to Squid Row as their "living room."
NILS BERNSTEIN: There was the time Nirvana was playing Squid Row (for what, 50 people?) and a neighborhood regular tried to come in for a beer, and, when told there was a cover, he said, "Shit like this is ruining Seattle."
KEVIN WILLIS: Next to Righteous Rags was an accountant's office. It was this old, creepy gay guy named Larry. His accounting office took up that whole space and he lived in an apartment behind it. He had this little, nippy dog. I guess the IRS was after him, and he just bailed; no one knows where he went. So Jeffrey acquired the space next door, and I took the guy's old apartment. But cleaning it out—it was so fucking vile back there. There was a big bowl of condoms, and half of them were empty wrappers, right next to a gallon jar of Vaseline with no lid, finger grooves deep in the Vaseline and scraped on the rim, pubic hair everywhere—it was fucking disgusting. But the creepiest part of all is when I was cleaning out his kitchen. There was this Crock-Pot. I was taking it to the trash, and the lid became ajar, and the stench from it was just foul, I'd never smelled anything like this before. I peeked inside the Crock-Pot and there were either two fat fingers or three thin ones—I couldn't tell—severed. We notified the authorities.
KERRI HARROP: Bruce Pavitt insisted that the Pike/Pine corridor was the next part of Capitol Hill to pop off. I, along with my fellow coworkers at Sub Pop, didn't really care about the predicted growth. We were just psyched to have a new watering hole on Capitol Hill, with friends behind the bar and cheap beer. Most of us were in our 20s and none of us were making big money. But, being on the Sub Pop payroll gave us a few perks—free shows, free records, and deeply discounted bar tabs at Linda's.
This was long before the Cha Cha Lounge became the de-facto visiting spot for out-of-town bands. All touring bands and artists on the roster would be taken to Linda's, where we'd all get wasted on cheap beer and check out whatever rare singles Pavitt had stocked in the 7-inch-only jukebox. Dude still owes me a copy of "Who's That Lady?" by the Isley Brothers, after swiping mine to put in the juke.
When you were feeling gay, you'd go up around the corner to the Brass Connection, which is where the War Room is now. Affectionately known as "The Ass Infection," it was loaded with old queens, young gays, and all the fag hags who loved them.
NILS BERNSTEIN: There was the time shortly after Linda's opened that the homeless people rioted at Jack in the Box and it started spreading down the hill—breaking windows, etc.—and a group of us were in the alley behind Linda's wondering what to do if they started messing with Linda's, and Drew Barrymore took a hit off the pipe and, while inhaling, said, "Dude, I am SO down with the homeless."
There was the retarded (can you say retarded?) couple who washed everyone's windows in the neighborhood because they were nice, and cheap, and the woman developed a pot belly or distended liver or something, and thought she was pregnant... for three years.
MARK MITCHELL: One of my favorite businesses to ever reside on that block of Pine Street was the Puss Puss Cafe, Chuck Zimmerman's cafe that stood where the Manspray has been. Chuck had a Great Dane named Max, and I could bring Chaka, my dog, to hang out with him in the outside area. I could eat lunch, drink my coffee, and let her run around and sniff things. It was a rare and beautiful urban rest stop, just a block from my apartment at Boylston and Pine. I was heavily into substance abuse at the time, and the Puss was a great place to recover.
MARCUS WILSON: When I first got here, in 1996, there wasn't really a lot there yet. I started shopping at Righteous Rags like the second day I moved here. Other than the Puss Puss Cafe, it was mostly garages and industrial spaces. Right about that time is when more and more small businesses started to flourish and open on that street.
LINDA DERSCHANG: Righteous Rags was an awesome store. Over the years, Jeff helped me find many Halloween costumes there. My favorite was the year he convinced me that a super-gnarly, long-haired, once-white wig with fake flowers plus a bird stuck into it would be part of an awesome costume. The rest of the outfit included a blue terry-cloth minidress and white kneesocks. It ended up being one of my favorite Halloween nights ever. It must have been 1998, because that evening we started at the Capitol Club, went on to the Baltic Room where Jeff was wearing a hilarious old-woman costume and his best friend Troy was a teenage girl with white pants having her first period—so awful and so funny.
SPENCER MOODY: When Bimbo's first opened, Sam Jayne [Lync, Love as Laughter] worked there, so we would go get margaritas at happy hour, and I'd bug him when they were closing and stuff like that. Then Leslie Hardy [Murder City Devils] started working there, and it was all trouble after that. The Murder City Devils were sort of touring a lot, but we still didn't really come home with any money. I was living in a closet on First Hill; I paid $100 a month for my room. I'd come home from tour, and we'd be in town for a few weeks, and I had made this decision that the first day that it was possible to not have a job, I wouldn't have a job, sort of regardless of what that meant. That didn't mean that I was making any money, really; it just meant that my rent was $100. I didn't have enough money to really buy a drink, and I'd go down with a pocketful of change, and by closing time I would just stumble out. It was totally ridiculous. I'd go in in the afternoon, and Leslie would play the Smiths, and I'd sing along, and she'd laugh at me and give me drinks.
Kim Warnick worked there, and she had been the receptionist at Sub Pop when we'd go down there to buy records, so it was super. She was always incredibly sweet, and it was nice to get to know people like that who were a little bit older than us, whom we had looked up to when we were younger, and to have those types of people be generous and nice and there. It was sort of this good community kind of a thing that is something that doesn't happen very often.
When the Cha Cha first opened, it was the bartender's job to clean up from the night before when you started the shift, but that didn't go over too well, so they asked me to be the janitor. So I was the janitor for quite a while, at least when I was in town, so I would drink there until 2:00 a.m. and then go home, sleep, and wake up in the morning hungover and immediately go back in and clean up the bar. Which was a good deal for me, I got my employee discount and only had to work a few hours a day, and was sort of able to get by until I was able to leave town again.
JEFFREY OFELT: There was the time that Sam Jayne and Leslie Hardy shot some guy with a BB gun off the roof of one of the buildings. The cops took them to jail, and I had to go bail them out.
KATHLEEN WILSON: How about just a list of the many famous people I witnessed passing through the doors of the Cha Cha? Shirley Manson, Girls Against Boys, Catherine Wheel, Tommy Stinson, Duff McKagan, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Ian McCulloch, Sarah Silverman, Janeane Garofalo, Todd Barry, Slats, David Cross and the other Mr. Show guy, Daniel Rey, Gil Norton, the Get Up Kids, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Superdrag, Supergrass, R.E.M., the New Pornographers, Tony Alva, Elliott Smith, Sleater-Kinney, At the Drive-In, Adam Jones, the Bad Seeds, Jane Adams, Mark Eitzel, Judah Bauer, Erasure, the Muffs, Krist Novoselic, the Melvins, Therapy?, Snow Patrol, Joseph Arthur (who peered through the window, thought about going in, decided against it).
LINDA DERSCHANG: One of my Cha Cha memories was the night I found out that you shouldn't mix margaritas and Valium. I was with Ric Peterson and a group of friends at the Cha Cha having drinks. After a couple of margaritas, I started trying to order drinks from the guy bussing tables—I had no idea that they didn't have table service. The poor guy kept trying to explain to me that he didn't serve drinks, he was only bussing, but I continued asking him every time he came by. The next day Jeff called and asked why I was harassing his employees. At first I had no idea what he was talking about. Then, mortified, I asked, "You don't have cocktail servers at the Cha Cha?" I have never taken a Valium with alcohol again (at least not in public).
BRADLEY STEINBACHER: I started hanging out at the Cha Cha in 1999. Or maybe it was '98? It was before the back room was added on, when the black-light hallway was still a cubbyhole your dandruff prevented you from sitting in. Before I walked in for the first time, it seemed like this too-hip place, the kind of place where I'd be scoffed at just for walking in. But that wasn't the case at all.
I ended up spending far too much time there, drinking pint after pint of Rainier or Olympia or whatever cheap swill they had on tap. People thought it was some sort of hipster clique—the white-belt army or something—but really it was just a comfortable place to get drunk on the cheap. Plus, the red lighting not only made people more attractive, it was, oddly enough, perfect for reading.
MARCUS WILSON: I was working at Linda's in 2000 on Cinco de Mayo, and a bunch of the bar staff and burrito-roller guys from Bimbo's all put on bandito bandanas, sombreros, and nothing else, and went around streaking in all of the businesses on Pine. And they didn't just do it once, it went on all night long. These guys were just running around naked in and out of Linda's and then back to the Cha Cha and Kincora, and then half an hour later they'd be back. It kept going on and on and on. It was pretty funny.
KEVIN WILLIS: There were the Jovan Musketeers, who were a big deal on that block for about a year or so. I can probably reveal this now—now that I'm out of town—without too many repercussions. The Jovan Musketeers were three—I guess you'd call us—renegades. It was Ryan of eXBeSTFRIeNDS, Nathan of Pretty Girls Make Graves, and I. On a Friday or Saturday night, there was a line that formed outside of Manray, and the Jovan Musketeers would strike hard and fast. We'd have masks on, and we'd ride by on our bikes with squirt guns, and we'd douse the line in patchouli oil. It was Jovan Musk at first—hence the name—but then we switched to patchouli because it was even more offensive. We did it out of nothing more than just being ornery.
SPENCER MOODY: John Keister was the guest bartender one year at the Cha Cha Christmas party. There was karaoke, and an open bar, and people would just get so ridiculously drunk and pathetic. I remember our friend going up to sing a song, and he just started crying about how beautiful and great it was and John Keister being there and everything. It was just a lot of ridiculousness at that time, a lot of people being embarrassed and apologetic the next day. There were good people and everyone was kind of still young enough that it wasn't super pathetic that they were hanging out in the same bar every night.
DAVID SCHMADER: I had the drunkest birthday party of my life at the Cha Cha in 2000. It was a joint party with Bradley Steinbacher, whose birthday is the day before mine, so we doubled-up our invite list and packed the Cha Cha backroom with Stranger folk and other assorted drunks. For a special treat, Brad and I chipped in to buy prop beer bottles made of breakaway glass, which we planned to smash into each other's faces at some point during the night. This, we were certain, would be hilarious. When Brad stood on the steps to make a toast, I fake-staggered up to him and smashed a bottle against his temple. Brad responded by smashing his bottle across the top of my head. And you know what? If your friends are really your friends, they probably won't consider watching you get hit in the face with a beer bottle that hilarious. It's upsetting. And then you have to explain that, yes, they were fake bottles and no, we're not hurt and yes, we bought them in advance and it was supposed to a joke, ha ha, and then you're just a jerk. The next day, I still had shards of weird sugary breakaway glass in my hair.
ELI SANDERS: I met my first real boyfriend at Manray, which was odd because everyone I knew at the time claimed to hate the place. My gay friends said nothing good ever came of it. They called it Manwretch and Manspray, mocked its pretty-boy patrons and its too-pretty white interior, sighed when the bar (named after either an avant-garde photographer or, I sometimes thought, an imaginary gay fish with stinging tail) was mentioned during weekend plan making.
But we went anyway. All of us. Where else, in the summer of 2000, was one to find a gay bar in Seattle with a mostly young clientele and no cover?
A guy I knew became really fed up with the version of himself that kept ending up at Manray. It was a problem with no real solution, given the lack of options, so he developed a fake solution: an alter ego he called Brad Ray. If Brad Ray was ending up at Manray every weekend, well, it wasn't his fault. It was fate. It was inevitable. We all sympathized.
I had a white-boy Afro that summer, which was decidedly not the right look for Manray. Everyone in there was wearing the standard-issue gay cut: short. Maybe a little ragged here and there, in a cute way, but always short. One evening, I was leaning my hips and fro against a wall, hating Manray, when a guy came up to me and said: "Nice hair." I was 23. It was the opening I'd been waiting for.
BRADLEY STEINBACHER: In 2001, which was the Seattle Mariners' 116-win season, Kincora became a sort of accidental sports bar for Pike/Pine. It had this giant, decrepit TV—colors faded, picture a little fuzzy—and a bunch of employees and regulars of the Cha Cha started meeting there to catch as many games as we could. The Devils' Dann Gallucci and I must have watched over 50 games there that season. When the Mariners lost to the Yankees in the play-offs it was absolutely brutal. We weren't happy—and we certainly weren't sober.
MARCUS WILSON: I had a lot of awesome, hilarious times at Double Trouble when it was there before the Bus Stop opened. It was like a salon for young up-and-coming artists and hipsters and whatever. It was officially a clothing store, but if it needed to be a show venue, then that's what it would be, or if it needed to be a rehearsal space or something else, that was all right, too.
PAUL CONSTANT: I didn't spend a lot of time on that block—two horrendous trips to the Cha Cha, two bland experiences at Kincora Pub, a handful of awkward dates at Bimbo's with a sociopathic ex-girlfriend who loved the nachos more than she'd ever love another human being. Manray frightened me the same way that Kubrick's sci-fi films frighten me: too perfect, too white. Harry's Grocery—with its disturbing doorway display of discount pornography and its dimly lit shelves of plastic-wrapped plastic food—was unappetizing.
I had friends who DJed at the Bus Stop, though, so I went there a few times. One night, I was at the Bus Stop for karaoke. A friend of mine was singing "Devil Went down to Georgia," a song he was born to sing. Unfortunately, the Charlie Daniels Band summoned a man who looked exactly like Slash. Slash had been drinking at the Cha Cha for what must've been decades, and, while smoking on the sidewalk, he heard the music and entered the Bus Stop. Slash wrested the microphone from my friend, sang the last half of the song, and wandered back to the Cha Cha. That's pretty much the last night I spent any amount of time on Pine Street.
LINDY WEST: I remember that the first time I went to the Cha Cha I felt intimidated, and then I saw Danny from the Real World, and then I felt awesome. I remember being sincerely hugged at Bus Stop and ironically groped at Manray. At Kincora, I remember quite a bit of stink eye with a whiff of you're-gonna-get-stabbed. A quick poll of my friends returned anecdotes about Manray's karaoke ("Then a gay got up and literally sang 'Somewhere over the Rainbow'"), roaming grunge troubadours, and a crack-smoking hobo.
KELLY O: In October of 2005, I went to meet my favorite girl Tara down at the Cha Cha. I sat down and bartender Kim Warnick immediately told me that I should go next door to the Bus Stop because Tori Spelling (yes, THAT Tori Spelling) was next door, drunk, and singing karaoke. I was too interested in my own drink, and asked Tara if she'd go over there and take a picture for me. Tara went over. She came back, laughing, and said she couldn't figure out how to use my camera, but Tori Spelling was definitely over there. And she was SHIT-canned. Boozy. Slurry. Intox-she-cated. All right, all right! I put down my precious drink and went over to the supercrowded, way-over-capacity Bus Stop. People were watching Tori sing "Eternal Flame" by the Bangles. Everyone was trying to be respectful, and pretend she was just some karaoke regular. Not me. I started taking pictures. It was like I opened a floodgate. Cell phones, cameras, and video cameras all suddenly materialized in everyone's hands. I thought one guy was going to beat me up for getting in the way of his camera phone, and someone else shoved me and called me a "fucking bitch." Tori stopped singing and was cowering in the corner near the door, looking terrified. I shouldn't have started this paparazzi riot. That was mean. I looked at down at Tori's Manolo Blahnik boots—then my own filthy Vans. Hmm. On second thought, Tori, when you roll through Capitol Hill, 98122, wearing your drunky pants, I am going to take your picture. Not for the Enquirer though. Just for my little Drunk of the Week column.
MARK MITCHELL: I have to say that Pony's short stay on the block has ended the era most beautifully. I've had more fun there in the last few months that I've had in any gay bar since the 1980s.
JOAN HILLER: Derek Erdman and Ruben Mendez (Coconut Coolouts) were hosting a "7 Hours of the Fall" night at Pony. Initially, the only attendees were myself, Lacey Swain (also of Coconut Coolouts), Lacey Swain's horrendous cold, and the bartender, who was being very generous toward us. After that, a dude showed up alone and sat in the corner, single beer in one hand, cell phone in the other. He sat like that for a really, really long time and didn't look up at anyone. Everyone wondered if he was meeting someone (he wasn't) and if he would stay there all night (he did; he was just really, really into the Fall). Moments passed, and a gang of Brazilian punkers came busting in, wearing full leather and spikes. They introduced themselves to everyone in the room—they were on tour, had just played, and Loved The Fall Very Much. There was also a smoke machine in Pony, which made the giant dick collages, the Lynchian solo fan dude, and the overly enthused, heavily leathered kids seem even more rad, especially considering that nobody else had shown up yet. Point being, there are few places in the city where your night starts out like that.
SPENCER MOODY: It is sad—but the state that our city is in is sad well beyond one bar or one street. It's many streets. I think the start of all of this and the very worst was when they put in that whole Convention Center area, because a huge part of the city disappeared all at once. There was a bar called the Gay '90s that was across the street from where the giant movie theater is now by the convention center, and, when the UA-150 theater left, it couldn't really get much worse than that. I guess people want to live in the city, but they don't want the city. They want to live in a city that's like a shopping mall, and I guess if that's what people want, then that's what they get, that's what they can have. It just seems like if you want a city that's like a suburb, maybe you should just live in the suburbs.
KATHLEEN WILSON: It's hard to work up a wail of grief for something I really don't feel sorry about. Unfashionable as it is to say—and contradictory, given I wrote a forever embarrassing battle cry for the neighborhood when the Press apartments/condos went up in 2000—I'm not particularly huffy or all boo-hooey about a famed section of Pine Street going down in a much-publicized tumble. The Stranger's recent wail over the situation is puzzling after all the talking-tos I got for making the music scene based in the neighborhood my sole beat.
I stopped hanging out on that strip a few years ago when I moved off that very block, and though I migrated only six blocks north, people I knew from nights planted at the Cha Cha Lounge assume I left the state, which cracks me up because it's classic. I married a former architect whose argument for development (Canadian) has worn me down. I even live in a condo. (Though one in an old brick building.) So despite the planned ugliness that'll soon replace everyone's apparent Block of Dreams, I shed not a tear. My only regret is that the demolition doesn't reach far enough into the block so that the duplex I lived in for eight years would also be destroyed. (No disrespect to my former landlords.) I've dubbed that place the House of Not Very Good Times. Except for that one when the Jesus and Mary Chain crashed my birthday party.
That's what I mean when I say I don't care about this "death of Pine Street." The times are what I value most, not the spaces. I'll always love the time off-duty Cha Cha bartender Leslie Hardy pulled this shit right here: Because he'd parked his new girlfriend's car in my driveway, she kicked my ex right out of the bar. And the time Cha Cha manager Barry and I sat on our stools and laughed hard (for two hours) at the antics of an exceedingly odd regular. He was so oblivious (what with all the theatrical watch setting, imaginary conversation with the girls seated next to him, the periodic fiddling with his cell phone in the manner of is-this-thing-on?) that he never noticed our gut busting, even when we were slapping the wood with our hands, heads flat out on the bar. The thought of him shooting finger guns at himself in the mirror as he headed into the bathroom caused a bubble of snot to blow out of my nose. Barry's response? "But wasn't it so worth it?"
Or the time a sympathetic patron brought in actual authentic Pee Chees so I could block out—fifth grade style—annoying guys and read my book in peace. Or the time Kim Warnick was the only one who got it when I walked up to a booth crammed boy-girl-boy-girl, grabbed the table, and asked "Mind if we dance wif your dates?" Ah, Animal House. A building falls and the times are what we're left with. Cheers to those.