“Are you the bloggers?” a woman asked shortly after we arrived. Admittedly, we had been taking photos of the walls of the Old Town Saloon in Old Town Clovis, but we were surprised. The woman introduced herself as Jenn and told us that she’d read all our posts since hearing we’d written about the Outlaw Tavern the week before.
We think this was a first. We don’t remember hearing anyone say they'd read our blog before we arrived at the bar (unless we’d set up the meeting). We hadn’t told anyone we were coming, since that’s not something we do. But when Jenn looked at us, she thought we looked out of place somehow and guessed who we were. Even more amazing, she seemed really pleased to see us. (She even asked to take a selfie with us.)
Before we left the car, Mindy had thought for a bit about what she wanted to order. Mindy is rarely quick with an order in a bar or in a restaurant unless she’s had a chance to think about it ahead of time. So she decided to decide what she wanted before she went into the bar. She remembered that last year on St. Patrick’s Day in Florida, she’d wanted a grasshopper (the only green drink she could remember other than green beer). The Irish pub we’d visited that night was all out of creme de menthe and couldn’t make her the drink. Since we were visiting the Old Town Saloon on St Patrick’s Eve, she decided to try again.
The bartender asked for our I.D.s when we sat down. (We look so young.) She later said that she checks everyone’s I.D. because the A.B.C. has been cracking down. She told us she’d even asked for I.D. from a friend she’s known since kindergarten, because she just can’t make any exceptions.
When the bartender asked for our order after that, Mindy didn’t hesitate. She asked for a grasshopper.
And the bartender asked, “What’s in that?”
Mindy said, “It has creme de menthe…” and realized she didn't really know what was in it. She just knew it was green and minty.
The bartender (we later learned her name is Tisha) had already started looking it up on her phone and assured Mindy she’d find out. A couple people of people at the bar mentioned various ingredients. After a moment, the bartender said, “Oh, it’s like a Dirty Girl Scout! Every drink has five different names. I can make that.”
I went with a rum and Coke because it’s easy for everyone.
After she’d gotten our drinks, Tisha asked if people needed anything, since she was going to step outside for a moment. (She was holding her phone, as opposed to the many bartenders saying they needed to step out for a moment while holding a pack of cigarettes.) A man at the bar teased her, “Going out for a break? I need a beer, lady!”
There were around a dozen people in the bar when we walked in around six in the evening, but it was nothing like the crowd that would be coming a few hours later. Like every Thursday, it was college night. We heard that later in the evening, the college crowd would come and there would be line down the block. (When I passed the place later, on the way to work, I saw this for myself.) Apparently, weekends are very busy, as is Tuesday Karaoke Night. I’m sure that St. Patrick’s Day fills the place to capacity.
Someone at the bar encouraged us to look up the history of the building. She showed us a photo of long ago Clovis. This same building had been a bar even way back then, and she said there had been a secret passageway to a brothel, but we’re pretty sure that doesn’t exist anymore.
We were happy to see a popcorn machine, and Zach down the bar filled a cup for Mindy. We always ask our two questions at a bar, “What makes for a good bar?” and “What, whether you go or not, would make for a good church?” Nobody’s ever told us that a popcorn machine is required for a good bar, but in our experience free popcorn goes a long way toward improving a bar experience. We’d advocate for more popcorn machines in churches as well.
When we asked Tisha our questions, she told us that she’d done a survey about what makes a good bar. She’d been taking a class, and everyone was supposed to survey a group about something, so she decided to use her work. She asked people at the bar what they looked for in a bar. “The biggest ones were location and atmosphere, and I think prices were next.” I asked her what she meant by atmosphere, and she said, “It’s different things for different people, Some people are looking for a sports bar with big TVs and music. Or looking for something like this, a dive bar.”
I asked her what she likes in bars and she said she likes dive bars, “because they’re chill and relaxed and laid back.” She doesn’t like it when there are big crowds and you have to yell in order to talk to people.
As for what she thinks makes for a good church, she admitted she doesn’t go. She used to go to Catholic churches when she was young. She said that a church should be “welcoming and open.” She said it shouldn’t be judgmental, and she told us an experience with a judgemental church; when she was a teenager, she went to a church in Modesto where a woman came up to her and told her she was going to hell for wearing shorts and a tank top to church. Tisha said that people should just be glad young people are rather than judging them. She said churches should be comfortable, like home.
We asked Jenn our questions, too. She said the most important thing in a good bar was a good bartender. She also likes dive bars, which she says baffles her friends. She said that when she visits a new place she Yelps dive bars. She likes a bar where the people are friendly, but “not too friendly, not creepy.” And she emphasized, “The divier the better.” She connected this to being a Clovis girl born and raised.
As for what makes for a good church, she said, “Definitely the Father, like the bartender.” She’s Catholic and has gone to Our Lady of Perpetual Help since she was baptized there. She mentioned that the priest who baptized her eventually left the priesthood to get married.
We were able to ask our questions one more time, of Kaitlyn and Zach. Kaitlyn said, “I love this bar. I’m 21, and this is the first bar I went to.” She said, “Customer service is important; if the bartender is nice, it makes me happy.” She and Zach very much like Saturday nights at the place, “There’s a DJ and lots of dancing and that makes me happy.”
As for church, she admitted she hadn’t been for a long time. Zach jumped in and said it was important for people in a church to be genuine. “They shouldn’t be going because they have to go but because they are happy to go.”
And we were happy to be at the Old Town Saloon. “Celebrity blogger” really should be an oxymoron, but thanks to Jenn, it was fun to feel like famous people for a little while.