Saturday, July 21, 2018

We walk into a bar months earlier than planned

Vidiot Arcade Bar, Seattle, Washington
We planned to visit this bar in September.

A week or so ago, we'd noticed a pirate mural surrounding an alley doorway. It looked like the entrance to a bar, and Dean suggested we visit in September for Talk like a Pirate Day.

I thought that sounded like a good idea, except that I wasn’t certain the place was what it appeared to be. Even though the painted name was “Benbow Room,” other signs mentioned “Vidiot” a lot. And video games. I wondered if the pirates had left the building for someplace closer to the water, leaving the joint open to raging hordes of gamers -- but I figured we’d find out in September.

We found out last night.

While using the ATM that backs up on the same alley, we decided to take a look through the door in the pirate mural, just for future reference. We pulled out our no-longer-valid California licenses, since one of the “Vidiot” signs said everybody would be carded, and stepped inside.

Nary a pirate in sight, though there was a captain’s wheel in the hallway by the restrooms. I didn’t notice pirates on any of the dozens of game consoles in the five main rooms, although I could easily have missed something. There could also have been a pirate-themed game in the board game room (which, come to think of it, looked a little like it could be on a ship), where Scrabble and chess were already set up on a couple of tables, and different board games filled shelves along the wall.

The bar was easy to spot. It was U-shaped, with TVs above it and on either side playing shows aimed at adult rather than kid audiences. I sat down below the two screens playing animal videos and what appeared to be mostly children falling down and people being surprised by the contents of boxes. Dean ordered an apple cider, and I chose a blackberry cider (one of the two seasonal choices, the other being a Thai ginger cider; all were from the Pacific Northwest).

He wandered off to play some of the games, which except for pinball were free. (Pinball games cost a dollar) When we came in, two men had been sitting at the bar, and other people wandered in, greeted the bartender (usually ordering a drink), and headed to the games. After the two men left the bar, I decided to ask the bartender our questions while she wasn’t busy.

Clare was willing to tell me what she thought made a good bar and what made a good church, but she first mentioned that she didn’t go to bars much anymore, and hadn’t had a drink in over a year. She knew her customers, though, and I’d seen her greeting various people, and she’d told one man that she’d chosen the movie on one of the screens with him in mind.

She said she thought that ambiance and staff made a good bar. When I asked what she meant, she said that everyone has a different idea of the kind of place they want to go. “I want to go someplace where I’ll be welcomed, someplace like Cheers. Not everybody wants that.” She added that sometimes people want to go to a bar where they can be anonymous.

When I asked our church question, she said she’d grown up in a Christian home, so she wanted to try to remember what she’d appreciated and what she hadn’t liked then as well as considering what she thinks now. “I guess the best word is ‘relatable.’ The speaker at the church I’ve gone to on and off usually talks about stories that relate to life today.” She contrasted those stories to Old Testament stories that seemed to be from a different world.

More customers came in, and after she’d helped them, I mentioned I needed a photo of the back of the bar. She pointed out the handles on the taps, which were mostly superheroes (and villains). “They’re called ‘Adorbs.’” (they were. Totally adorbs.)

Meanwhile, Dean and Bret were playing games. I thanked Clare and wandered around. I tried a hunting game (I mostly missed, except the animals I wasn’t supposed to shoot. I hit those every time). I tried Dance Dance Revolution (I couldn’t even figure out where to put the foot that wasn’t in play, let alone follow the steps). I tried a road race around San Francisco (made me dizzy, but I got through most of the course without destroying my car). I eyed the pinball games wistfully while digging in my purse for more quarters. Pinball’s my game, not that I’m any good at it.

Not enough quarters. At this point, Dean and Bret were giant mechs fighting each other. I watched for a minute, then wandered on, peeking into the room with computer games and Nintendo 64, playing a round of Area 51 (where I didn’t know how to reload or that I was shooting aliens, leaving me feeling both incompetent and icky. Did I mention I like shooting guns, but only at inanimate objects?)

Dean was in a Star Wars pod race when I saw him next. I sat down to watch. After he won his race, he wanted to see the other rooms. He was excited to see Area 51 and wanted to play a round. After watching for a minute, I decided to try the game again when he mentioned that we were shooting aliens, not humans or the barrels and other equipment. I also noticed the on-screen instructions for reloading, which I’m sure weren’t there when I played alone.

When the statistics displayed at the end of the game, our scores were almost identical. Maybe I’m better at this kind of thing than I thought. I suspect we’ll be back, with or without pirates.