It was 8pm on a Thursday, downtown Sarasota, and we had an hour to kill before Bryan’s tattoo appointment. The streets were fairly snowbird-free, but we were still well below the median age and income. We passed restaurants too lofty for our paltry dinner budget and stole smells instead. We were almost to the Indian-run pizza place with a six-dollar soda-and-slices deal when a sign caught my eye: The Blue Owl. $2 PBR. We could kill an hour for a couple bucks, easy.
The trio lounging outside the bar wore thin mustaches, tight jeans, and pronounced looks of boredom-verging-on-condescension. “Fun,” I said. “A hipster bar.” And though neither of us is a hipster, we can both appreciate a cheap drink and an age-appropriate venue, so we decided it would in fact be fun; we went in.
I’ve been to dive bars before, but that’s too grand a term for what we walked in to. The Blue Owl more nearly resembled the basement of a house rented to college students; and not merely impecunious students, but ones who utterly did not give a shit. The furniture was mismatched and its placement bordered on haphazard. A blue metal owl hung appropriately above the bar, where Bryan got his now $2.50 PBR because happy hour had ended and where I got the end of the single bottle of chardonnay because that was just what they had. Less appropriate, to our minds, was the large blue elephant mural behind the small stage.
A painting of nude breasts adorned with tribal jewelry hung above a small stack of business cards tacked to the wall; to the side of these was posted a hand-written sign emphasizing that the CDs below it were rather insistently free for the taking. I took one because free is free, and when it comes to music, you never know what treasure you might find. I had to smile at the further insistence of “free” when I saw the band’s name: The Freejacks.
The bartender was uncharacteristically welcoming for a hipster faced with gen pop customers, but he more than made up for his un-hipster-like kindness with his meager frame, Salvador Dali-esque mustache, neon colored painter hat, and Goodwill-ugly tank top.
We took in our shabby surroundings with discreet amusement and joked that it was a good thing I’d worn my black-rimmed glasses lest we stand out too sorely. On my way to the bathroom, I walked by the only other customer inside– a man thoroughly passed out on a couch– and couldn’t decide whether he was homeless or hipster; either way, he clearly felt right at home.
The restroom wasn’t unclean, but it was decidedly dingy. I washed my hands with the un-soap-like contents of an ancient soap bottle and glanced over at the sticker-covered paper towel dispenser. One sticker in particular grabbed my attention:
The 45-rpm spindle adapter proudly emblazoned as the hipster logo of a hipster record store on a hipster sticker in the hipster bathroom of a hipster bar was the exact image I have tattooed on my left wrist.
And I just laughed because I may not be a hipster, but that was some damn good irony.