Sure it’s been eons since there’s been a post … eat it.
But the other day I received an e-mail that stirred the cockles and the sub-cockles of my heart. Submitted by Chuck Sullivan, here we see our very own Champaign Firefighters who happened to be on a bar crawl. As it was explained to me, they stopped in at The Rail, and lo and behold, one of ’em one a Hamm’s Hat. YAAAAAAH!!!!
Look at all of ’em cans!! CANS!!! Cans of Hamm’s, I tell ya.
Please to enjoy, and happy holidays ‘n shit.
Fun fact: Our very own Fu Dog was a firefighter for the UofI fire department back in the day … when it existed, of course.
So many thoughts. So many feelings. So many beers memories cascading through this mortal meatbag of a body I call home.
So a few weeks ago, I was sitting at The Rail, and in walks Lemon Drop who was excited to tell me that the Furniture Lounge 11-year anniversary was right around the corner. (It’s May 16th, for those of you with calendars that remind you of shit every year. Take note, calendar enthusiasts.)
Having been a huge fan of Lemon Drop and Everclear’s establishment since its inception, I had nothing but happy feelings for these two troupers. Seriously — if you know these two, you know what I’m talking about. Being a small business owner is no piece of cake, and Scott & Amanda deserve nothing better than the best for doing what they believe in with such dedication and perseverance. Eleven years! No easy feat, let me tell you.
Keith happened to be sitting nearby, and somehow the idea came up that Mr. Slim Jim himself should belt out a few tunes as part of the celebration. Now I was surprised to hear that many folks don’t know that Keith is quite the crooner. My first exposure was probably 12-14 years ago when I was finishing up the Tuesday meatloaf special at Sam’s Cafe. I’m sitting there doing the New York Times crossword puzzle, and, all of a sudden, I hear fucking Frank Sinatra out of my right ear.
“It had to be you ………..
….. it had to be you ……..”
Wah!? Sure enough; lo and behold, there’s Keith mopping up the floor and singing like nobody’s fucking business. Who knew! But yes, it’s true: Keith really likes to sing, and he’s surprisingly good at it.
Over the years, from time to time, we’ve managed to get him to sing a little bit here and there. Apparently, and Fu Dog has corroborated this, there was a short period during which Keith was the only one on his floor above The Rail, and he would stand out in the hallway and sing to his heart’s content. He loved this because he could sing without bothering anyone (his words), and there was “good reverb.” Hey — I believe it … acoustically speaking, there’s nothing like a good hallway all to yourself. Now with others living on the floor, he doesn’t like doing this anymore.
Long story long, it was decided that while it wouldn’t be the best idea to have Keith sing at Furniture Lounge, it was a good idea to have an “after-hours”, if you will, at The Rail post-anniversary gathering.
And that’s basically all of the planning that was done. Aside from it being on May 16th, that’s all that had been decided on logistically speaking.
I know … What is it the kids say? TL;DR? Don’t worry — pics are coming. In fact, here’s one right now.
Word spread fast. I mean, really fast. The whole point was that this was all to be on the down-low. First off, Keith wasn’t particularly excited about a bunch of people showing up. What’s particularly bizarre is that many folks seemed to think that this was all going to go down at a particular time, even though no such time was ever expressed or conveyed in any shape or form. It was only the day before that I had even worked out details with Amanda about the anniversary, and so I told River Rat, who was to be bartending that night, that The Yamamoto Experience probably wouldn’t start til 9pm. Even Keith didn’t know. Still, word is that he was practicing. Oh yes.
When I arrived at the bar on the fateful day, Keith seemed preoccupied.
Obviously it was going to be one excuse after another, but fortunately Hoss stepped in and helped try and console poor Keith who just seemed like he was getting more and more flummoxed as the seconds ticked by.
While it’s true that this could’ve gone down sooner in the evening, I had agreed to tickle the keys next door at Furniture Lounge for a few hours. I promised Keith that I would be back and ready to play at 8pm sharp. This did not mitigate his — and I don’t want to call it “whining”, because it wasn’t — it was just this incessant, “this isn’t going to work” — “I’m going to be in bed” — “I don’t usually stay up this late” — i.e., non-stop Keith-isms that we have all grown to love, and at the same time, drives us fucking crazy.
At this point I was giving it about a 50/50 that he would even show up.
Sidebar: I fucking love Keith. He is one of the most memorable characters I’ve ever met in this town. Downtown just wouldn’t be the same without him, but he can be exasperating if you don’t know how to deal with it. I’ll never forget when this one guy, who has an annoying habit of walking in and buying a round of drinks as if that’s what it takes to be liked and the center of attention, came in and started openly asking if anyone knew a mechanic that he could hire to fix trucks. Keith chimes in and says he knows a company who fixes trucks. Well the guy says he wants to actually hire a guy. Keith says that well, none of the guys who work for this particular “truck-fixing company” would want a job, but that he should hire the company.
“I don’t want to hire a company.”
“Why not? They fix trucks.”
“Because I want to hire a guy.”
“Why? I know this company.”
“But I want to hire a guy.”
“Why do you want to hire a guy when there’s this company I know ……”
And this goes on back and forth for at least twenty minutes until the guy is so fucking exasperated that he literally storms out of the bar. Meanwhile, all of us are practically busting out laughing because, well, we all know Keith, and clearly this guy doesn’t. It was fucking priceless.
But I digress.
So I finish up at Furniture Lounge and haul my gear over to The Rail. River Rat says that I just missed Keith: that he went upstairs with a 12-pack, but oddly enough he left a full beer behind.
Talk about mixed signals: Typically when Keith walks upstairs with a 12-pack, that’s it. But on the other hand, he left a full beer at the bar. At this point, I’m still giving it 50/50, so I decide to leave my equipment where it is without setting it up. I order a DELICIOUS HAMM’S, and sit down waiting with bated breath as to what will happen next.
Your bartender, River Rat suited up for the occasion:
Next thing I know, I hear River Rat shout across the bar: Bryan! Keith just called. He’s coming down. This is in and of itself amusing in that Keith CALLED THE BAR to announce his imminent arrival, but there was no time for chuckling, it was time to get set up!
So Keith comes down, and he’s brought himself a giant pint-glass of orange juice which he’s pounding. I’m assuming he’s just nervous, but then get this:
“Hey Chris, I need a shot.”
Now I’ve NEVER seen Keith do a shot before, or if I have, I don’t remember because I was completely hammered at the time, but seriously — Keith is not a guy that normally does shots.
“What do you want?”
“Gimme a shot of Old Grand-Dad.”
Wah!?!? Yes — that really happened: Keith just ordered a shot of 100-proof fucking bourbon. And then he did another one about ten minutes later. I shit you not.
Ok — enough gabby-blabby. Here’s a taste.
I KNOW there’s more video out there, because there were a ton of folks with cell-phonescamerasGPS Receiverswalkie-talkiesRonco nose-pickers video-cameras, so if you have any video, please send it or links to firstname.lastname@example.org. I know there’s better shit out there than this snippet.
But it goes without saying: KEITH WAS A FUCKING HIT. Case in point:
Here’s a semi-complete list of tunes we knocked off:
It Had To Be You
Rawhide (which we did about eight or nine times)
King Of The Road
Sixty Minute Man (one of Keith’s personal favorites …)
Breakin’ Up Is Hard To Do
Love Me Tender
I Get A Kick Out Of You
Fly Me To The Moon
I swear to God we were doing tunes til almost 11pm. “Yeah — I’ll be in bed by then”, my ass … here’s the crooner himself after the fact like nothing ever happened. Meanwhile, everyone else is half in the bag. And when I say “half”, well, nevermind.
Lemon Drop & Keith, once again nonplussed.
Keith carrying an onion. (That’s another story …)
And of course the night wouldn’t have been complete had Hamm’s Hats not been won.
And Jenny! Nice penmanship.
Stay tuned — I’d say there’s a good chance this shit’s gonna happen again. Oh, and props to Hot Pockets for providing audio advice, a mike stand, and various other accessories. Yay, Hot Pockets!!
Ah, Opening Day. I tradition since, uh, last year. Roll back the tarp, dust off home-plate, and let’s get our drink on!
[Ed.: Sure, it’s April 20th — Opening Day was almost three weeks ago, but I simply don’t have the stamina and constitution that Forty does. He got his article out April 4th! Frankly I think he was still recovering given all the misspellings and grammar errors.]
Hoss and I agreed to arrive at The Rail promptly at 9am. I was a little late because I ran into a guy I know in my building with his three-year-old son on their way to daycare or something. He asked what I was up to. I could’ve said, “well, I’m off to The Brass Rail to start drinking, and I’m in a hurry — it’s almost 9am”, but instead I said I was on my way to “run a few errands.” He then noted the bag of potato chips and hot dog buns that I was tasked with bringing to our little gathering. He said, “Opening Day, eh?” “Yup”, I conceded, and we left it at that.
I headed off in the direction of downtown, and when I arrived, right around 9:15a, there was Hoss standing outside smoking a cigarette. I could tell it was going to be a beautiful day. We went inside, and as expected, there was Fu Dog tending bar and making sure things were just right. He’s very meticulous that way. You do not want to be in the path of his plutonium-powered eyeball laser-beams if he catches the cash register just a centimeter to the left of where it should be.
I bellied up to the bar and had a seat on my favorite bar stool. Fu Dog slowly rose from his dish-washing, sauntered over, and spoke.
“Well? What’ll you have?”
“I’d like a Hamm’s, please.”
“Would you care for a glass?”
Now I usually don’t drink my Hamm’s out of a glass, but Fu Dog always asks this question, and considering it was a special day, I said, “you bet.” Hoss and I then decided that we would drink out of a glass all day. It just seemed so proper and civilized. To wit:
Fu Dog spoke again: “So what brings you in this morning?”
“It’s Opening Day!”
And in his usual slow-speaking yet always salient manner he replied, “Well, there’s no baseball til noon.”
Well, we couldn’t argue with that logic, so Hoss and I clinked our glasses and toasted to what was sure to be a beautiful day of day-drinking. Oh yeah — and baseball. Almost forgot.
I think Hoss tweeted it best: “Nothing beats getting served by an octogenarian at my favorite watering hole at 9am to celebrate America’s pastime. #OpeningDay”
Around 9:30a, Coulter showed up. After Hoss and I scowled at him for a bit, he issued some bullshit excuse about sampling his Italian beef, which was strangely absent, and that he had started drinking at 7am. Whatever. Since we still had about three hours to kill, and the pre-pre-pre-game show wasn’t living up to expectation, a sense of ennui set in.
And while we’re at it, here’s a shot of Fu Dog cracking 2048-bit NSA codes.
Things, though, quickly picked up. Soon none other than Mr. Duane Mills graced The Rail with his presence. Here’s a blurry snap of that bal’ head o’ his:
Since Easter was the day before, he actually had a drink instead of a 7-Up before mumbling something about having to go to one of the various sororities he does work for on campus. I’m perpetually amazed: The man has to be at least 112 years old, he can bench-press an MTD bus, and he does maintenance in sororities. I hope I’m so lucky some day. At this rate, it’s not looking good.
Things continued to pick up as more folks started filing into the bar. Hoss usually works Monday days behind the bar, so a substitute had to be found, and she was. Right on time, Margarita and her colossal hangover showed up at noon to take over the reins from Fu Dog and continue shoveling drinks into patrons’ maws.
In the forefront there, we see Hideout, which leads me to a very relevant portion of this post: our first Hamm’s Hat of the day! Gotta stay true to the blog, right? While I have not done the calculations, when you consider the sheer number of day-drunks respectable gents, the time at which we started, and the actual number of cans of beer in a case, well, YOU do the math.
Granted it was a Busch Light hat, but if you have a problem with that, you can sit on the racist side of the bar. Later on, I had the fortune of winning an ACTUAL Hamm’s Hat. This having been probably the 46th beer of the day, I chose to use my eye-hole as a nose-hole.
Yes, it was a glorious day. Hoss won too! Gotta love Baltimore’s expression in this one.
By 6pm or so, we were all pretty shitfaced decided a change of venue was in order. Last year folks went to Tumble Inn and The Other Bar, and so we decided to do just that. Turns out trivia night was in session, so we signed up using the only clever name we could come up with at the time.
All in all, an absolutely wonderful day. Here’s the whole gang, as stolen from Forty’s article.
Here’s River Rat serving up some delicious tasty aluminum goodness for a happy patron. And look at that — he decided to dress for the occasion. Now I must confess I don’t know the whole story behind this particular shot — this pic was forwarded on to me by the lovely Margarita — but I assure you he ain’t opening up that can for himself. Oh no no no … there is absolutely NO drinking behind the bar. (There are also no Matties allowed behind the bar, but that’s a different story.)
Not only is that a despicable unlawful practice in and of itself, but if a Brass Rail bartender were to make such a foolish move, the camera would slowly pan to a shot of Fu Dog sitting in his recliner, taking a nap, when all of a sudden his eyes would suddenly burst open with laser beams shooting forthwith. Word to the wise: Don’t mess with Fote. He can kill you WITH HIS MIND. True dat. I saw it once.
Christmas Eve at The Brass Rail is a magical time.
Typically all of the riff-raff are out of town, folks bring in food, and one of the most extraordinary things in the entire universe occurs: You get a free drink on Fu Dog. Hot damn!
Well, this particular Christmas Eve was no exception, and you could smell the holiday spirits in the air. (No, that’s not the mensroom.)
So dig this: the lovely Andrea was sitting at the bar having a couple of drinks, chatting it up with the gang, and lo and behold we come to learn that she was laid off that very morning when she came into work. WTF. Who fires somebody on Christmas Eve!? A certain hotel that shall remain nameless. Assholes, that’s who. And to make matters worse, she had actually passed on family plans because her employer claimed they were going to be extra busy over the holidays and need more people. AND THEN SHE GETS SERVED? SERIOUSLY? Oh, Em, Fucking Gee.
But then you’ll never guess what happened. A goddamn CHRISTMAS MIRACLE, I tell you!! Yup — you guessed right: She won a Hamm’s Hat.
Let’s get a closer look at that …
… and this …
Now that’s artwork.
She’s a veritable Ionian column, amirite?
It was such a good hat, it made a beautiful addition to the Rail Hamm’s Hat, that oversees all other hat-making efforts and, well, shenanigans and hi-jinx in general.