Saturday, February 20, 2016

We walk into a bar in Arkansas

roosters fort smith
Roosters on the Avenue, Fort Smith
"I was wondering why I felt so bad, and then someone reminded me I had got kicked in the chest. I had forgotten that had happened but when I got home I could see the footprint on my chest."

I'd asked Mark, the bouncer at Roosters, to tell me some stories, and this was one of them. He also told me about bite marks he got on his shoulder while breaking up another brawl. He told about a fellow who broke a bottle on his head, but that guy got seven days in jail and had to pay Mark's medical bills for staples and stitches. (Mark had chased him down the street, but it was a police officer that caught the guy.)

pool table downstairs
"I try to avoid physical confrontations. Usually if you can get a person off to the side you can talk to them. Let them have some dignity, but sometimes you have to bareknuckle." Pride, embarrassment and drunkenness do lead people to do really stupid things at times. Not surprisingly, Mark hates fights involving women most. You don't have the same physical tools you have dealing with a man, he said. When worse comes to worst, he grabs a woman's wrists, but he had been kicked in such situations. On occasion, he said, a big bear hug is your only option.

roosters neon
Officially, Roosters is a "private club". That's why we had to print and sign our names in a book and assure Mark we had ID's in our possession. (Strangely, we weren't asked to show our ID,  although most entering were asked to do so. Surely age had nothing to do with it.) Because they're a club, Roosters and a few other places in town stay open (and are allowed to serve) until 5:00 am. We arrived toward the end of happy hour, which runs from 3:00 - 9:00 pm. We were told that the place really comes to life in the neighborhood of 1:00 - 3:00 am (which we weren't going to verify by experience).

roosters stained glass
The name of the place was a big draw for us. Many businesses in Fort Smith are named for elements in the novel, True Grit, or for the John Wayne film, True Grit, or for the Coen brothers' film, True Grit, since the story opens in the city. We noticed, for example, True Grit Tattoo Parlor. Rooster Cogburn is the hero of True Grit, so I believe that's the source of the bar's name. Or someone really likes chickens.

Brooke was tending bar alone when we came in. Mindy ordered her Lemon Drop (she's running out of drinks she knows the name of, and there was no printed menu) and I ordered my Root Beer Bomb.

Brooke the bartender at Roosters
I noticed that there were cigarettes for sale behind the bar; this was the first bar this year that allowed smoking inside, and while we were at the bar we noticed a number of customers (and even a bartender) smoking. 

lemon drop
Since the bar wasn't too busy yet, Mindy asked Brooke our two questions: "What makes for a good bar?" and "What makes for a good church?"

root  beer bomb
Brooke said a good bartender was important, and that good owners were vital, too. She said the owner of Rooster "is a really good man. I love him very much. She added that good co-workers really matter, "If you don't get along, it shows".

For a church, she said it's important that the preacher isn't a hypocrite, "You don't want to hear someone preaching Sunday morning against the things you saw him doing the night before."

roosters pool table
We asked Mark the bouncer our questions as well. He said he prefers a small bar with smiling people that make bouncers unnecessary. He appreciates a friendly staff that accepts everyone. (He had kind words to say about Brooke the bartender.) For a church, he'd like a place where you can come in your shorts and flip-flops and not be judged.

Chatting with Mark the bouncer was Mark the guest. Mark the guest lives in a small town in Oklahoma and on occasion comes to the relatively urban environs of Fort Smith. When Mark the bouncer was called away by Brooke, Mark unofficially took over his duties at the door. Two young women (Genesis and Tonya, we later learned) entered, and Mark the guest had them sign the book. He suggested they wait for Mark the bouncer to return. They waited for a bit, then headed for the bar.

Mark the guest said he likes a bar with a diversity of people from various walks of life. He's looking for interesting conversations that will take him out of his day-to-day routine. He claimed a vast experience with churches, going to all variety of churches since childhood. He appreciates good music and prefers no hymns; not stuffy but old school in worshiping God.

After Mark the bouncer returned to the door, we caught up with Genesis and Tonya at the bar. Genesis said she likes a bar with a good atmosphere, a good bartender, good music, and friends. Tonya agreed with those things and also mentioned it was important to her that the bartender paid attention to the customers.

Dean selfie at Roosters
For a church, Tonya thought it was important that people weren't hypocrites; she said too many people said they care about others but they don't.

Genesis recommended we go to the Church of Christ in town. We asked if she went there, and she said "Not anymore, except sometimes like Christmas and Easter." When we asked why not, she said she had kind of strayed. "Wow, things got a little deep here," she added.

That does happen on occasion on our bar visits. For what it's worth, though all stray away from God, God makes a habit of straying into the most unexpected places -- like Roosters in Fort Smith, Arkansas.

entrance notices at Roosters
Total time spent in bar: 1 hour 25 minutes
Our rough count: 20
Music: juke box near the entrance
Snacks: hamburgers and some other food for sale at the back bar
Visitor Treatment: sign in upon arrival, notice from bouncer to have ID available, bartender noticed and helped us right away when we got to the bar. And even though we'd forgotten to pay for Dean's Coke, Brooke and the other bartender were both really nice when Mindy ran back in to pay for it.
Distance from where we're staying: half a mile

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