Food & Drink

Bar Exam

A Black Eye at the Whisky Bar

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The bartender at the Whisky Bar has a truly beautiful, truly terrible black eye. It's still swollen squinty, and the damage extends to cheek and ear in colors that human skin should never be, the colors of Mardi Gras­­. No one stands on ceremony at the Whisky Bar—it's come-as-you-are, do-as-you-please (within reason)—but in this case a code is in place: Don't stare, no matter how much you want to (which is a lot).

A question is ill-advised but cannot be contained: How does the other guy look?

"My friends took care of him," he says, grim. He's of the tough-but-not-unkind school of bartending; when a guy in a Seattle Marathon T-shirt asks if they have Hoegaarden, instead of barking, "NO, JACKASS," he says, shortly, "Hefeweizen is the closest." He's got a machine gun, among other things, tattooed on his arm. Under and around the bruises, he looks good-looking. If life were a movie, he'd be chosen to play himself—Bartender with Black Eye.

It's 4:00 p.m. on a Saturday, a weird, perfect time to be here. Worlds tend to collide at the Whisky, and such collisions are better by daylight. The airspace of the in-the-round bar is marked by a string of Christmas lights with each bulb ensconced in an empty airplane-sized liquor bottle. The would-be-Hoegaarden drinker and friends sit at one end. Sprinkled around are evident regulars—they look as comfortable and, in some cases, as bored as they would in their own living rooms. No one appears to be paying attention to the soccer game that's showing, but they occasionally react strongly in unison—groans, mostly. In the back, the oldest man in America shoots pool with a shaggy gentleman who would appear down-and-out but for his spectacular and extremely clean shirt: a pearl-snap number with blue sky on his shoulders, a rodeo-scene frieze around the chest/upper arms, and dust-colored Western ground below.

A group of people with feathers in their hair is by the front door. They've just come from a public pillow fight, wherein an internet-propagated group assembles with their weapons poorly concealed under shirts or in bulgy bags, pillow-fights upon signal, then stops three minutes later. They're engrossed by images on the screen of a digital camera of what happened mere moments before. "You should totally Facebook that shit!" one says. Another laments the existence of the guy with the hard pink pillow: "Like a cinderblock! NOT cool. We should track that fucker down."

The favored beverage, aside from the Hefeweizen contingent, is $2 PBR tallboys. After a while, a lady pillow-fighter is waltzing with the world's oldest man. He's remarkably light on his feet. He looks like he's in heaven.

The Whisky Bar, 2000 Second Ave, 443-4490.

bethany@thestranger.com

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