The Bob Barkers of the Sundown Tavern's Price Is Right game show are standing around outside, smoking cigarettes while discussing running up 69 flights of stairs. Both hosts have done the Big Climb, the benefit for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society involving ascending the Columbia Center tower under one's own steam. One is adamant that he'll never do it again. The other aspires to get his time down to 11 minutes; he'll train, as before, by running the steps at Husky Stadium with a full backpack. His time last March: 17 minutes. The winning time: 7 minutes, "some 50-year-old—his knees are probably shot." Both hosts blow plumes of smoke into the cold night air with satisfaction.
The Price Is Right happens every first Tuesday of the month at the Sundown. This episode benefits the L&LS, with bargoers donating a dollar a chance to COME ON DOWN! The show's set includes cardboard podia with construction-paper flowers where contestants stand and write their bids on tiny whiteboards. They share a pen. It's a game for the new economy, rewarding those who know the retail value of a can of tomatoes or a box of macaroni and cheese. The audience screams out prices helpfully, at times bordering on riot. People drink giant draft beers known as Hogs, which start at $4 and are so frosty, the clinking of toasts is muffled. Each glass stein's precipitation eventually creates a small lake on the table, the coaster but a sodden island.
Bonus game rounds entail rolling big foam dice on the pool table, quarters, and hitting a golf ball into a tin can. The wooden Plinko setup falls off its chair, covering the contestant who catches it in glitter. The Big Wheel is handcrafted out of the face of a dartboard, backed with tinfoil mounted on a speaker stand; it spins like a dream.
Each lucky contestant wins a Big Climb 2008 T-shirt. ("Now I feel like I have to do it," one says.) Two finalists vie for a timely thrift-store Job-Seeker's Prize Package: a leather-ish portfolio, a coffee grinder, a tie, an iron, an answering machine, a frame for a family photo "with 100 percent real glass!" Tonight's winner immediately redistributes the wealth to interested audience members.
An older gentleman peeling pull tabs removes himself from his bar stool to urge a tableful of young men to engage a tableful of young women in conversation. The place and time are right for single, good-looking, good-hearted comparison-shoppers! And at the Sundown, you can also pick up farm-fresh South Alderwood eggs. They've sold them for years, more than 18 dozen a week. The price: $2.75 a dozen.