So we cross into Virginia and Bob asks me the easiest way to 66 from my place. I remind him that 66 is HOV for another 1/2 hour and he can't drive on it alone until then. He concedes to taking the long way, but I suggest we hit the Cowboy Cafe for a few happy hour beers while while waiting for 66 to switch. Being no fool, Bob takes us straight to the Cowboy. Turns out it's dollar drafts until seven.
The Cowboy Cafe is a dive bar oasis in the middle of yuppiefied Arlington. It's fantastic. Neighborhood folks walk over at opening time and stay all day. The jukebox is a strange mix of Faith Hill and Destiny's Child. Beers are cheap. Coverbands on Fridays. PG-Photohunt, pool tables, cheap pitchers, good food. Everything I could ask for in a bar that's within walking distance. Well, I'd ask that the photohunt have nudie pictures, but it's still good.
The dollar drafts drew a pretty large crowd last night. Bob and I managed to find a good spot on the bar and began the shitshooting. In the midst of our in-depth comparison of veggieburgers to real burgers to those goddawful processed chicken patties, we notice that the guy to my right is chuckling along with us. We include him in the conversation and as we carry on, the fellow to his right joins in as well. As we talk, we realize that these two men play for the other team, which in all honestly, I didn't expect to find in a bar such as the Cowboy. The conversation turns from food variations in England to where to find the cheapest beer specials around. I ask the guy closest to me where they live, and he says, "oh, we're not an item." I said I really meant it in the royal sense of "you", but the second guy interrupts me to gasp open-mouthed, "did you just say we're not an item?!?!"
We call Mickey just as he's getting back from work, to tell him to meet up with us, and continue chitchatting with Ralph and John, who call for their check just before Mick arrives. Bob and I are telling Mickey about our earlier conversation and start bullshitting about work when a very drunk man with disheveled hair, loose dentures and a very well worn Kiss T-shirt comes up, pats me on the shoulder and says, "you guys all look very photogenic!"
Toothy McGums very confusingly talks us into having our likenesses recreated somehow by another one of the bar patrons in exchange for a drink. A guy comes over, who I had earlier belived was a bum after seeing him question the bartender's judgement on whether or not a bottle of High Life was in fact two dollars. He's carrying a plastic bag full of colored xerox paper and a black magic marker. He introduces himself as Arthur; I ask if he'd like his drink now, but he said he would not accept payment until the drawing was finished. He chooses a salmon colored piece of paper, wipes the bar dry and begins to draw a characature of the three of us like the kind you'd on the boardwalk or on the wall of a restaurant that has some sort of meal or beer consumption hall of fame: giant heads, exaggerated features, tiny necks.
One of the locals comes by, slaps Arthur on the back, looks at the picture and says, "that's fucked up, man." I'm not really sure why, it's actually pretty good. Arthur fits all three of our faces on one page, then when I ask what kind of drink he wants, he says he'd rather take cash and wants $2 a head. We paid the man and bought him another High Life for good measure. He suddenly becomes very concerned that we're going to throw this masterpiece away. I promised him no, that the worst fate that would befall it is that it would stay on my refrigerator, but I'd never throw it away. "Okay," he pleaded, "just don't you throw away my drawings. I don't want to hear that you threw it away. You know, this paper is good for copying. You can make photocopies of it and each can have one." I told him not only would it be being photocopied, but most likely would end up on the internet. He seemed pleased with that.
Portraits finished, cheap beers consumed, we head out. 66 is now clear for one-rider cars, and Mickey and I call up Tops China to place an order for pickup. Which was, in fact the only part of the night that was planned before 5:20 that afternoon.
As Mickey said, "Strange things are afoot at the Cowboy Cafe."