Saturday, August 27, 2016

We walk into two bars in Ohio (and consider a third)

Slapsy Maxies and Level-One, Worthington, Ohio

We try to keep these posts positive. We figure in our one short visit, we get only a snapshot. It could be we happen to be in a particular bar on the night a bartender’s dog died or favorite television show was canceled, so this could be the one night of the week (month? year?) that the bartender is not in a good mood.

While in Columbus we found a strip mall near where we were staying with not one, not two, but three bars that caught our attention. There was Wurst und Bier, a German beer garden right here in the Midwest. Then there was Level-One, a video arcade bar. (But we’ve been to other arcade bars). And finally, there was Slapsy Maxies. We decided that Slapsy Maxie's was such a great name, we had to go there.

The bar was colorfully decorated inside, and there were plenty of TVs playing the sports, so we went to the bar and ordered our drinks (Henry’s Hard Orange Soda and Southern Tier Pumking). For whatever reason, maybe Fido died or Real Bartenders of Toledo wasn’t renewed, the bartender just didn’t seem that friendly. And looking around the bar, there was no one I felt comfortable approaching for conversation.
When I looked outside to the patio (the smoking area), there were some friendly looking folks sitting at one of the tables. We went outside, and Jess and Leland welcomed us to sit at their table. Not long after, they were joined by their friend, Makayla. (Makayla thought she was just coming to give Jess a ride, but she was persuaded to join us.)

Jess and Leland had just gotten off work at another nearby bar, Pastimes. It’s a fairly common thing for people who work in hospitality to go to another place of hospitality when work is done. Jess insisted she didn’t go out that often (“I go less than once a week!”), Leland countered that she had gone out three times last week. Jess explained that she had family visiting, so the situation was different. We don’t claim to have gotten to the bottom of the debate.

When Makayla arrived, Jess asked what she wanted to drink. Makayla asked for a pinot grigio, so I went to the bar to get it for her. The bartender poured the glass from what looked like an airplane-portion bottle, and she was as cheerful as before.  Maybe she’d been pulled over for speeding earlier because she was late for an ophthalmologist appointment. I really don’t know.

We asked Makayla, Leland, and Jess our standard questions, “What makes for a good bar?” and “What makes for a good church?”

Leland said, “I”m looking for somewhere I can relax and have a good time, either close to work or close to home.” He considers atmosphere and location to be the most important things, and added, “When you work in the industry, you often go to another bar when you get off work.” He also said he likes “traditional bar food: appetizers, wings.”

Jess said that for her the crowd in the bar could make the difference. “Nondramatic, a fun environment, just good people to spend time with.” She said dancing can make the night. She also said when going out to a bar, it was nice to have a bodyguard with you (Leland was taking that role for the evening). She said the bartenders made a big difference as well.

Makayla said there are a couple of places she likes to go because she knows the bartenders. “For me, the bartender has a lot to do with it. Obviously, good drinks that don’t cost a lot, and a good patio with a roof.” She mentioned that if you know the bartenders, they might give you a extra good pour. As for music, she likes oldies and reggae, but not country. “But this place has a jukebox so it doesn’t matter.”

Everyone agreed that a nice patio on a night with good weather was a real attraction (and this was a nice evening for sitting out on the patio). They also agreed that they didn’t like teenybopers with fake IDs.

In answer to what makes for a good church, Jess said it was the same thing that made for a good bar, the “people, the crowd. I want people my age.”

“Good luck with that,” Leland chipped in.

Jess went on, “A good youth group. And a pastor I can listen to. I want stories from their life incorporated in, not just Bible verses for 45 minutes.”  She said the messages should speak to contemporary daily life.

Makayla said she likes an animated speaker and music besides “Amazing Grace.” She wants a  good band. She said she doesn’t like churches that preach hate and are judgmental. I asked her to explain more, and she said that a church she used to go to forbade a young man from attending because he was gay and attending with his partner. His family was also asked to not to attend, because they were supportive of him and therefore, according to that church, supportive of sin. Jess and Makayla both said they’d rather not go to a church like that.

Leland grew up attending a Baptist church, singing in the choir. He said he still loves an upbeat service with good Baptist preaching and singing. He told us about a recent training event the church had held to help people stay safe in case of a shooting incident.

So we were done with our questions, but still wanted to spend awhile with these folks because they’re fun. We particularly enjoyed Jess’ stories Red Bull helping her work the late nights (bars are open until 2:30 in the state) while also being a parent to small children -- and the time she shared that Red Bull addiction with Makayla.

They all encouraged us to go to Pastimes to hear some great stories from the staff there, but we were just a few doors away from a bar with free vintage 70’s and 80’s video games with the purchase of one drink, so that was calling me.

Level-one, Columbus, Ohio
But before leaving Slapsy Maxie's, I talked to another customer, Donnie, and asked our two questions. Like others, he said he appreciates bar with a good atmosphere defined by good people. He said that this particular bar doesn’t play the kind of music he likes, which would be hard rock and metal. He said he was happy if a bar has Heineken and a shot of Crown.

As for what makes for a good church, he said, “That’s a hard question. I’m a pagan. I can’t answer, I have different beliefs, so that’s where I stand on that one.”

So on we went to Level-One.* We had checked in there earlier to ask about the place, and the doorman recognized us and welcomed us back.

Because we wanted our video gaming skills working at their peak, we were happy that the bar had a good sized selection of mocktails in addition to cocktails. This meant we skipped such “real drinks” as Donkey Kong or Frogger or Tron. I went with the lightweight 99 Red Balloons (and they played the song as I drank it ), and Mindy chose Pinky (yes, in honor of Pac Man). Both were essentially fruit punch -- either with or without carbonation, and we enjoyed them.

Level-One had many of my favorites from back in the day, so I played Tempest, Centipede, Rampage, and so many more. I didn’t play Mario Kart on the big screen, but it was nice to know I could. Though a couple of TVs showed preseason NFL (also the case at Slapsy Maxie’s), they also had TVs tuned to networks with Stepbrothers, The Mechanic and John Carter of Mars.

This place is fun, but it really isn’t ideal for chatting with strangers. People are either involved with games or with talking with the people they came with. So we just talked with the staff.

Kim the bartender said that a bar’s atmosphere is established from people behind the bar. “I’ve been to dive bars with good bartender that make you want to come back.” She pointed out that bars these days need something to make them stand out, “Arcade bars, wine bars, chocolate-martini bars.”  She started at Level-One when it opened in September, but she said she’s a geek and already went to many arcade bars.

As for what makes for a good church, she said that it’s good to have a place that “lines up with your ideals and morals.”  She said used to go to church with her mom, and had actually gotten her mom to attend church after she’d attended VBS at a Spanish-language church. They went for years, but eventually the teaching didn’t sit well with her. She felt there was a lot of teaching about women submitting to men, which might be fine for an older generation but not for her. It was important to have a good community, without gossiping and backbiting.

On the way out, we talked with Brian,  who was working at the door. He said it important to have a good atmosphere with people who were well behaved, not drunk or spilling drinks. He said he has issues with his hearing, so he really doesn’t like a loud bar where he can’t talk with his friends.

Brian said, “I grew up Catholic, and those were by my beliefs until I was eighteen, with teaching that was anti-gay and anti abortion. But then I went to college and met people that are gay and have had abortions.” He wanted to avoid the “bad Catholic label.” “Churches should be open to change. The Bible was written 2000 years ago and doesn’t align with humanitarian beliefs of today.”

So we hit two of the three bars on that little strip. Sorry, Wurst und Bier.

*But that's not our final Ohio bar! Look another post soon, because we found ourselves at another bar on Friday night in Toledo. And sorry Jess, Leland, and Makayla -- that third bar is not Pastimes.

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