Saturday, March 26, 2016

We walk into a bar in Georgia

joystick atlanta entrance
Joystick Gamebar, Atlanta

During my college years, Donkey Kong took untold numbers of quarters that should have gone to laundry. At the Joystick Gamebar in Atlanta, Georgia, it claimed another. In addition to Donkey Kong, there were plenty of other games available from back in the day: Space Invaders, Gauntlet, Defender, Terminator 2 pinball, among many. And also Dolly Parton pinball. I don't recall ever seeing, and certainly not playing, Dolly Parton pinball. (We overheard one guy saying to another, with great sincerity, "It's not just any pinball. It's Dolly Parton pinball.") I heard that other old school gaming opportunities are coming, including a wall mounted flat screen TV that will serve as a Gameboy monitor.

bar at joystick
The bar, two rooms (one with the bar and lots of games, the other with barstool height tables, foosball, pinball, along with chairs and couches), was comfortably full when we arrived around 9:00 pm on Wednesday night. When I asked a young woman named Brittney what made for a good bar, she said there should be something besides drinks, and Joystick certainly does. Besides the video games, there was a collection of nostalgic board games including one that allowed you to take a spin as Alex P. Keaton. We saw a couple playing Chutes and Ladders (and anyone who has raised small children knows that this game, though not as bad as Candyland, is also located in one of the midlevels of Dante's Inferno).

back room at joystick
They have nights with bands and comedy nights. We saw information about a nerdy girl meet-up (illustrated with Tina Fey, who I doubt will actually be there). And people make their own entertainment: a guy name Ben was taking on all comers for thumb wrestling. So I foolishly volunteered and was ignominiously defeated.

1-2-3-4 I declare a thumb war
But I enjoyed talking to Ben and his friend, Ross. Ben was leaving one job to move to another, and so this was a bit of a going away party for him (complete with chugging contest). We asked Ben and Ross our two questions, "What makes for a good bar?" and "What makes for a good church?"

What's important to Ben is that a bar be a place where people can communicate, where good conversations can happen. Ross agreed and added that the bartenders in that place set an atmosphere for talk by being friendly and not condescending. Ben pointed out that you can get beer almost anywhere, but people might get more choosy with cocktails (but that doesn't matter to him). He told us about another bar that has cutting edge, state of the art games, but since my game interest doesn't go much past Sonic the Hedgehog I think I'd be happier at Joystick. (By the way, we ordered from their drink specialties menu. I ordered Cowboys and Indians (whiskey and house made chai soda), and Mindy ordered Ginger Snap, a boozy slushy with house-made ginger beer).

drinks and foosball
As for what they look for in a church, Ben said he appreciates good architecture, especially if it's gothic with parapets. Ross appreciates old school music with organs and hymns rather than worship bands and choruses.

family ties game
I saw a guy wearing a Jabba the Hutt with slave costume Leia tshirt, so I needed to talk to him. He was obviously one of my people. He said his name was Taylor, and before getting to our two questions, I had to ask him what he thought of The Force Awakens (he found it lazy and formulaic, but better than the prequels... but arguably there are episodes of Family Ties better than the prequels). Eventually we did get to the standard questions. For a bar, he likes it dingy with cheap beer; for a church he likes it to be pretty with lovely stained glass. So... kind of opposites for bar and church.

We met a very fun couple, Mary and Courtney, who told us about their dating life, the good, the bad and the ugly of it. We don't have time to tell that story, but it did involve stalking and a car being keyed. We asked our questions, and Courtney said he likes good company in a bar and strong drinks with a heavy pour. Mary likes a bar that has decent seats and tables, where you can sit comfortably and have a place to put your purse as well as your drink.

hotly contested foosball game
There was a break before they could answer our second question, because they needed to play some foosball versus another couple, but after awhile, we got back together for our church question. Mary likes the music to be upbeat. She likes Kirk Franklin's music, and she likes it to be sanctified and Pentecostal, and she likes a choir. Courtney looks for entertainment. He likes to watch that strange person who is clapping off beat and whose singing is off. He likes to make babies cry if he can. He went forward for communion one time at a church where the priest puts a wafer on his tongue. He asked for a second wafer. He got a strange look, a shrug, and a second wafer.

ceiling fan and wall decorations at joystick
And then we met a group of friends that was out to celebrate Lindsey's 30th birthday. Lindsey's husband, Dylan, likes a clean bar with no smoking. Joystick has a small town atmosphere that's comfortable, but it's quite different on crowded weekends. That's not when he wants to be there. Their friend, Karen, has worked in a bar, and she likes a place where the employees are warm and kind. (Brittney, mentioned above, was part of this group as well.)

As for a church, Lindsey looks for a place where the Gospel is preached (by which she meant that we are sinners who need Christ to die for our sins). But she appreciates that in Atlanta, a city is ethnically diverse, her church values bringing the races together.

Dylan's friend, Daniel, grew up in a very conservative church with a pastor dad. When he was sixteen, his dad said he could worship where he wanted, and he chose a less conservative Baptist church. He said Jesus wasn't judgmental, and churches should not be either. Not being judgmental was the first quality Daniel's girlfriend, Karen, mentioned as being important for a church. She said that the church seems to be changing, becoming "more modern" and not judging people for, say, drinking in a bar. She said she thinks things are changing in the city and that "Atlanta is making me want to go to church again." And this group of people made us want to go back to Joystick again, but we're on our way to South Carolina next week.

Total time spent in bar: 1 hour 45 minutes
Our rough count: 47
Music: there was a jukebox, and fairly loud music was playing. 
Snacks: a variety of hotdogs were available for sale. I didn't notice anybody ordering any while we were there.
Visitor Treatment: we were carded as we entered. Bartenders were busy but helpful. Most of the people we talked to were more-or-less regulars (Joystick was among the bars they went to most often, though some went to bars more often than others).
so many ghosts (in the restroom at joystick)

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