Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Last (not-so) Great Watering Hole

There is a band I am friends with called the Tone Deaf Pig-Dogs. You may have read about them HERE.
I’ve missed a few of their recent shows because of work, but Mrs. Troublemaker and I had the opportunity to travel to The Last Great Watering Hole this past Saturday night to see them play. And now I’d like to tell you all about it.

There were two other bands playing as well – The Letmedowns and Horrible Idea (which I really like as a name). I wasn’t familiar with either of the other bands so I didn’t want to get there too early. I know that’s a little rude, but I’m an old, impatient man and I don’t have time for new things any more. We had enough advance warning (and luck) to be able to schedule a babysitter so we could both go, but I like to spend as much time with Lil’ Troublemaker as I can on my days off. The later we can leave for anything, the happier I am.
The only information I had about this Last Great Watering Hole place was that it was in Tucker. So naturally, I waited until a few hours before the show to look it up online and determine how we were going to do everything. I had originally thought we would just get something to eat there, but the more looking I did, the less I thought that was a good idea. Thanks to fine reviews like this one:

Smells Like Vomit

by Kelli Goldman at Citysearch

Ugh. It just is nasty.
  • Pros: Cheap drinks
  • Cons: Everything else
I decided we should probably just eat somewhere before we went to the Watering Hole. Actually, the more I read about this fine establishment the more I thought it might be a good idea to just skip the show entirely. See if you don’t agree:

Don't Book Your Band Here
By BandWatch, January 15, 2010

Overall rating:
1
This place is a dump and frequented by thugs, criminals and gang bangers you don't want to go there. To make things worse Misty, the owner, is a lying cheater and will screw you over by cheating you out of your money, double booking and lying to you. I know several bands and booking agents that have been screwed by Misty. Furthermore, the Tucker Saloon is the same way. Ed, the owner, will cancel you at the last minute and screw you out of your money. Also The Tucker Saloon has a greater problem with thugs, drugs and guns. I like a good Honky Tonk but these places will put your life in danger.
Ambiance:
1
Food:
1
Service:
1
Value:
1
But I used our Clermont experience as a point of reference. That place is a reprehensible den of iniquity, but we had a great time. Maybe the Watering Hole would end up being a similarly broadening experience. We still weren’t going to eat there, though.
Mrs. Troublemaker dropped our son off at her mom’s house while I printed up directions and took a shower. My wife was pretty sure she knew where the place was, but we have both learned not to trust our directional faculties or our bitchy little Garmin device. Especially now that it needs one of its cost-prohibitive updates. Yeah – I know I can spend $90 and get lifetime updates, but I know as soon as I do that the fucking thing is going to break or something.
Sure enough, Mrs. Troublemaker was wrong about where it was and I was glad we had directions. Granted, it would have been even more helpful if she had read them when I first gave them to her, but then we would have missed out on some of the delightful nighttime sights of Tucker, Georgia. They have the most beautiful churches and liquor stores there! You really should book a weekend sometime.
Note: While I did complete the induction phase of my Atkins’ diet this time around, I let myself get corrupted by the thought of Chinese takeout a couple of weeks ago. This means that I fell about five pounds shy of my target and have been eating a few things that I normally would not at this point. I’m still fairly strict most of the time, but I have had more slips than usual. My brain has this insidious way of talking me into stuff – “Hey Phantom; you ate Chinese the other night and didn’t instantly gain twenty pounds. Why not have some peach cobbler? Just a little bite…” And then later – “Hey man; that peach cobbler didn’t blow you up the other day. Go ahead and eat an entire box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch!” You get the idea. I know this is how my mind works and I can normally follow the course of a diet very well. This is actually the first time I’ve deviated like this. I just have other things to worry about right now and weight loss is too far down the list to say no to a cheeseburger when I’m worrying about refinancing the house which has only recently had a bunch of leaks repaired and still does not have a functioning fan in the master bath.
So the point of all that is that we ate at McDonald’s, a place that I absolutely love but normally avoid like the plague because I believe two things with all of my heart: 1) McDonald’s serves the most unhealthy food available on this planet. I love it and would eat there every single day if I could cast a magic spell that would make me not get fat; but I honestly believe that shit will kill you. Just watch Super-Size Me if you doubt it. 2) Whatever preservatives or chemicals McDonald’s puts in their food creates a dependence similar to smoking or other drug use. Try eating there regularly for a month and then just stop. You’ll find yourself craving it, going through withdrawal just like you would after quitting any other chemical habit. It’s fucking scary.
And yet so, so delicious. I got one of their deluxe chicken sandwich meals (super-sized with a Diet Coke, of course) because those have salad stuff on them and you don’t have to feel as guilty. The only problem with the McDonald’s deluxe chicken sandwich is that the instructions that tell the creatures that assemble McDonald’s food how to make a McDonald’s deluxe chicken sandwich explicitly state that each McDonald’s deluxe chicken sandwich must be adorned with no less than one half gallon of mayonnaise. It might seem reasonable to request your deluxe chicken sandwich be made without mayonnaise, but this solution has two possible outcomes: 1) the food preparation creatures put mayonnaise on anyway 2) the food preparation creatures put mayonnaise on anyway and add something else; such as rutabagas. Either way, it’s easier just to order the sandwich as-is and grab the eight hundred extra napkins you’ll need to wipe the mayonnaise off. This is handy, because thanks to McDonald’s new Green Efficient Napkin Dispensers of the Future you can only get one napkin or eight hundred napkins and nobody ever needs just one napkin at McDonald’s.
So we got our food and the friendly McDonald’s staff were thoughtful enough to give us fresh French fries. This meant that our sandwiches were cold by the time the fries were ready and the fries were too hot to eat. So once we finished our sandwiches the fries were cold, too. McDonald’s must pay somebody big bucks to work out the logistics on these things.
I took a picture of this painting on the wall of the McDonald’s Playland because it made me laugh out loud and startle the young people ruining their bodies in front of us:
I’m not sure what this is supposed to be or why it is so fluffy, but I bet kids are terrified of it. That’s probably why none of them were in the actual Playland Terrarium.
After the wife and I finished our “food”, we got eight hundred more napkins to wipe the salt off of our faces and left to try and find The Last Great Watering Hole.
After a further tour of the delights of Tucker, Georgia we were able to locate the fine establishment:
Nestled between one of Georgia’s premiere package stores and a mostly abandoned strip mall, The Last Great Watering Hole offers an intoxicating atmosphere that mixes the danger of the slums with the unwelcoming glares of your more rural locales. The Last Great Watering Hole is truly a mix of the flavors of Georgia, with incoherent rednecks slumped over the bar while homeboys and eses play pool on the veranda.
I’m just kidding. There was no veranda.
You’ll enter the main bar area – free of cover charge! – which offers a non-functioning jukebox and many pictures of things. To your right is a pool hall that offers players the opportunity to sell and purchase a wide variety of illicit pharmaceuticals and questionable services. To your left is the room where the bands play. This area is best described as a cross between your grandparents’ basement, a strip club and a brothel. And, apparently, a funeral home. There was a funerary wreath to the right of the stage that I didn’t even think about taking a picture of until just now. I have once again failed you as a blogger. If you really want to see it I have a feeling it is still there. I’m pretty sure the proprietors feel that it “classes the joint up”. And – lord help me – they are right. The music room also included such fine amenities as mirrored booths, a bar facing the wall and nothing else and a sofa that looks like it was last used to store sick kittens right next to the stage. Honestly, it kind of looked like what a set designer from a teen-oriented television show might create to represent a night club. After it had been abandoned for a decade.
The Last Great Watering Hole does have an effective selling trick, though. As soon as you set foot inside you want a drink. So we headed for the bar for some delicious adult beverages. The Pig-Dogs’ capable and friendly bassist – Dom – was at the bar entertaining when we first arrived. I didn’t approach him at first, though, because I wasn’t entirely sure we were staying. I had forgotten to stop at an ATM to get cash before we got to the bar and I knew on sight that I didn’t want this place anywhere near my cards. I realized my error as soon as we parked outside, but everybody has an ATM inside now, right? Nope. We made a quick run-through, saw there was no cash machine and went back outside to hunt down an appropriate banking facility. Luckily, there was one right up the road.
This is the point where my blogging habit made a difference in our evening. Or at least played a role. After getting the cash, it was suggested that we could simply purchase some adult beverages from the conveniently located package store, return to the safety of our home, watch some movies and have a little child-free adult time. If you know what I mean. This seemed like an excellent idea. Like, almost a no-brainer. Like, the second it was mentioned I was turning the wheel to turn into the liquor store parking lot rather than the Watering Hole’s.
But then a few considerations hit me. We had said we were going to be there and I take my Facebook Event commitments very fucking seriously. Also, we were already there. We should at least hang around for a little while. Maybe the place wasn’t as life-threatening as it seemed. And there was the fact that I was already relying on this particular event as a blog post for this week. I tend to miss a day here and there in my five business days a week schedule, but I didn’t want to miss the chance to provide some non-toy-review content. So we returned to The Last Great Watering Hole for some punk rock amidst the homeboys.
We went straight up to the bar this time to get some beers. Dom was still there with some other folks (one of whom looked familiar but I couldn’t quite place) and greeted us and said it was nice to see us there. Dom is always pleasant and quick to converse so I was a little horrified when, in the midst of our small-talk, Mrs. Troublemaker piped up from behind me and loudly proclaimed that she needed some beer. I’m still a bit appalled and haven’t said anything about it because clearly she did need some beer or she wouldn’t have said anything, but damn. Sorry, Dom.
So we got our beers and sat down in the bar area to wait for a band to start playing. We didn’t know anybody there so we sat and had what probably ended up being a really productive conversation that really isn’t any of your business.
Earlier in the night I had posted a message on my Facebook page about all the magical things I had discovered about the Watering Hole and how we were going to be there anyway. One of the loyal Phantomaniacs commented that he would be there as well and would look for the mask. So I’m going to explain a little something about the mask.
The mask is a bit of a tricky proposition. I usually carry it with me when we go out because you never know when a good photo opportunity is going to present itself. I’ve gotten some pretty great pictures at clubs, restaurants and even Walt Disney World. But rare is the occasion where you find yourself somewhere that you can get away with wearing a luchadore mask casually. Particularly in Georgia where it is illegal to conceal one’s face in public. Pretty much the only times I can get away with uninterrupted Phantoming are at Dragon*Con and wrestling shows. And The Last Great Watering Hole had a dress code posted on the front door which, while being one of the most hilarious things I have ever seen in my life, also made it clear that the mask would not be welcome. If a place has a rule against hoodies it’s a safe bet that they’re not going to love a guy under a wrestling hood.
So I replied that there was no mask that night but that he could look for the NOFX shirt. Remember that. It will be important later.
Note: I apologize for not taking a picture of the dress code. It stated that all shirts must have sleeves, no hoodies, everybody must have shoes – it just made us laugh when combined with the singular ambience of the place. I did, however, take a picture of their restroom sign. I love that rather than go to Walmart and spend $3.50 on an actual sign the proprietors of The Last Great Watering Hole chose to print up a sign from a low-resolution JPEG:
I was pretty sure of who the Phantomaniac was when he walked in, but you can never quite tell based off of a Facebook photo. He went over and spoke to Dom and the familiar-looking guy and then came to our table and asked if I was El Phantasmas (it still bothers me that Facebook won’t let me be Phantom Troublemaker while I have seen plenty of people with names like “Darkness Nightblood” or “Absinthe Badporridge” or whatever). We talked for a while and it turned out that his wife is the crazy tattooed girl that sits with us at DCW every year. Familiar Guy referred to the Phantomaniac as Money Ham, so that’s what I’m going with because pretty much everything Familiar Guy said was funny. Sorry, Money Ham.
Money Ham had actually sat with us a couple of times at DCW as well, but we hadn’t spoken before (that I recall). Evil had recommended us to one another as toy collectors who lived in the same vicinity, but you know how that goes. I mean, I have a number of good friends that I speak with regularly but only see a couple of times a year. That’s what a weird work schedule and parenting do to you.
So we hung out with Money Ham the rest of the night and he’s a pretty cool cat. And I’m not just saying that because he might well read this, which I’ll prove in a minute when I talk about how bad the first band was, some of whom also might well read this (sorry, guys).
I did at some point found out why Familiar Guy seemed so… familiar. He was around back when I was in a band and was hanging around with the Pig-Dogs. I’m almost positive he was in one of the actual punk bands as well, but it didn’t really come up. “Familiar Guy” is a pain in the ass to type, so I’m going to call him Wilson because he is. Once I heard the name I remembered him a little better.
Eventually the first band – The Letmedowns – started playing, so we moved to the bar at the back of the music room to watch and – sadly – listen.
I don’t want to be mean here. I was once in one of the worst bands you could ever hope to hear and I don’t want to go throwing stones at anybody. But I’m not going to lie, either. There may well come a day when The Letmedowns are a solid act that plays good and interesting songs. They may have songs that you can hum along with and play for your friends or put on your MySpace profile so it will play when the spammers go there to make requests that you be Friends with MySpace Comedy Now! When that day comes they might have to change their name, but as of right now it could not be more appropriate. In all honesty it seemed to be more a lack of preparedness than a lack of skill, but I’m not the best judge of that. Whatever it was, I just wanted it to be over. And after a final song that seemed to be the guitarist literally going insane while singing; it was.
Many people yelled unflattering things at the band as they packed it in. I can’t say it was uncalled for (although you should know that everybody there seemed to be friends with The Letmedowns). In defense of The Letmedowns, the sound in The Last Watering Hole was abysmal. I’m sure I have been in places with worse sound, but I can’t remember them. Everything sounded too high-pitched and distorted.
Next up was Horrible Idea. 
They were easier to listen to than The Letmedowns and were just chock full of youthful enthusiasm. The singer/guitarist has clearly watched many, many punk rock videos. Not every Horrible Idea song was a winner, but overall they were pretty entertaining. They did one song that name-dropped every band they had ever listened to. It would have been clever if it wasn’t so annoying. At one point the singer jumped off the stage and ran around the floor for a little while, then sang the rest of the song from the couch beside the stage. He also took his NOFX (remember that) shirt off to reveal a physique only marginally better than my own. 
Mrs. Troublemaker swooned over this display of raw, youthful sexuality. I think it’s the only reason she liked Horrible Idea best that night. They were perfectly fine, but their drummer really should stop his attempted harmonizing (though it could have been the Hole’s terrible sound).
Note: The Last Great Watering Hole hosts a metal night:
Money Ham and Wilson unknowingly mocked this flyer to the gentleman who had produced it and presumably hosts Metal Night. I can’t say they were wrong.
As with most of my stories that involve the consumption of alcohol, there were a couple of other interesting things that happened that I can’t quite place in the timeline. Here’s the first:
There was this squat little blond running around pawing at most of the guys in the music room. We’ll call her Nancy, because she kind of looked like that bitch Nancy Grace (don’t you just want to punch her in the face? I don’t advocate hitting women, but man…). So Nancy was carting her fat ass all over the room, trying to get play from anybody with a cock. At some point during Horrible Idea’s set a small group had formed to my right where Money Ham and Wilson were sitting. Mike and Dom from the Pig-Dogs were over there, as was the singer from The Letmedowns (who is a nice man and a dapper dresser and has a voice that I like but is in a band that I don’t). Nancy decided she needed to sit with this group of hunky studliness, so she went to the other side of the music room to get a bar stool. Me and the missus were sitting at the corner of a sort of bar thing behind what was probably intended to be a dance floor. There was a pool table right behind us, meaning we were sitting in the easiest means to gain access to the forward portion of the music room. This didn’t really matter because the eight people in the music room pretty much stayed in there all night, and anybody else walked the long way around the pool table to get by. But Nancy decided she needed to bring that bar stool right through where we were sitting; so wielding the damned thing like a lion tamer, she headed towards us. My wife leaned towards her just before impact was imminent and said – and I quote, “I don’t think you’re going to fit through here.”
Just like that. Not sneering, not being a jerk; simply stating a fact that Nancy had somehow failed to recognize. So Nancy turned her bleached self around and went the long way to sit next to Money Ham and Wilson. Once she got situated she loudly proclaimed, “I guess I’m just a member of the fat ass club!” Nobody disagreed that I heard and Mrs. Troublemaker – recognizing bile that I missed (a talent women seem to have) – tried to smooth things over by falsely proclaiming that she must, too.
Note: The only reason I can come up with to explain Nancy taking such immediate offense to an innocent comment about the logistical improbability of fitting a bar stool that is roughly 24” wide through a space that is roughly 5” wide is that she had her fat ass on her mind. The fact that none of the fine young men she had been nearly sexually assaulting all night must have been weighing on her more heavily than said posterior. So, when a question of something not fitting somewhere was posed, her immediate reaction was that it was related to the thing foremost in her otherwise empty mind – her fat ass.
Mrs. Troublemaker went about her business after that, but Nancy apparently went on and on to the crowd of menfolk she had surrounded herself with; going so far as to send Money Ham a Friend request on Facebook. The reasoning behind this is spotty at best. Apparently she thought that this would let my wife know that the name of the fat girl with the great rack that she offended was “Tara”. Why it was assumed that my wife keeps up with Money Ham’s FB friends or even that Money Ham and my wife are acquainted at all is a mystery to me.
If you’re reading this: Hi Tara! You’re a fucking idiot!
Another Fun Phantom Fact about Tara – as she was attempting the seduction of Money Ham he pointed out that he was married. She gave this unquestionably awesome response: “Only dykes and married men like me, sweetie…”
Just makes your balls shrivel right up into your abdomen, doesn’t it?
Speaking of dykes, Mrs. Troublemaker was on the receiving end of some lesbianigans the single time she went to the bar alone. Another blond (LOTS of those in the ol’ Watering Hole) made several sexy-time comments to my wife while she was trying to drain the bar of Miller Lite (she succeeded – seriously, they ran out before we left). This girl will appear again later.
At some point during or after all of this nonsense, the Tone Deaf Pig-Dogs took the stage. Smedley of Smedley and the Space Cadets is now playing guitar with them. He was solid, but blew my mind during a pause when he and Keefe the drummer busted out some Slayer. Naturally, I totally failed to capture this on video.
The Pig-Dogs are always the Pig-Dogs. They aren’t ever perfect, but they’re always more fun to watch than anybody they play with. There’s just a certain energy they bring to the stage that is unique to them. I believe I’ve heard it referred to as… electricity. Seriously, though – it’s always a lot of fun to see the Pig-Dogs play or else I’d stop going. They have such a disregard for conventions that you can’t help but like them.
And now we get to Interesting Story Number Two (I apologize for topping 4,000 words and only having 2 interesting stories). During the Pig-Dogs set two of the Horrible Idea fellows decided to have one of those sad little two-man mosh pits. If they were trying to create a visual ideal of their band’s name, then it was sublime genius. If they were trying to get the other four people in the music room to slam around on the floor with them it was just stupid.
During the rambunctious interactions of these two gentlemen, a young lady who also happened to be on the “dance floor” got hit right in the eye. I know this because she immediately put her hand over her left eye and staggered up the short staircase that led off the floor. It was honestly kind of hilarious. She staggered back to where we were sitting, recognized (unlike Nancy/Tara the fatass) that she could not fit through the space available and took the long way around the pool table. The fact that she had the presence of mind to do this after such a grievous assault is nothing short of astonishing. I know it sounds like I’m being callous, but honestly – if you see two goons start to violently run into one another in your vicinity and don’t want them running into you; move. I do it all the time at shows. And I cannot possibly overstate how empty this place was. That chick could have moved anywhere at any time rather than stand there and wait for the punkers to ram her. So I laughed my ass off as she made her way to the other side of the club and was disappointed to discover that nobody else had seen it (they were all too busy texting each other on their fancy iPhones).
I spent the rest of the Pig-Dogs set moving back and forth between the front of the stage and the back of the room. At one point, this little guy that looked like a human bulldog wearing a red cap walked up beside me. My Phantom sense immediately started tingling. He just looked like a problem waiting to happen. Sure enough, he laid his paw on my shoulder and leaned over to me.
Hey bro…”
Nothing good ever comes out of a conversation that starts that way.
How long you been standin’ here?”
A little while.”
Well, bro, this little girl was out here a while ago and got hit in the eye by some dudes. You know anything about that?”
I had an instant resistance to this guy. He looked like some jocko frat boy and the girl in question had – as I said above – not been smart enough to run when she smelled smoke (or something).
Nope.”
“”Cuz she got hit in the eye and she’s pretty upset.”
Well, there were some guys slamming around earlier, but this is a punk show, man. I don’t know what to tell you.”
At this point it occurred to me that Jocko could possibly be looking for a guy in a NOFX shirt. Because it was two guys from Horrible Idea that were guilty and one of them was the singer who was wearing a – remember? – NOFX shirt. But I felt I could handle whatever might occur and I certainly wasn’t going to point Jocko in the direction of a couple of goofy kids that were just trying to have fun.
Jocko stood there – visibly processing what I had just said – staring at me for a minute, then pawed my shoulder again and said, “Thanks, bro.”
I stood there for a minute awaiting what I felt was an inevitable assault from behind. But Jocko had taken his leave. So I went back to our seats and told the missus about my little non-adventure. She asked for another beer.
I promise I’m winding down here, but I do feel that I need to mention the bartenders (tip them well, you cheap bastards). One was a fairly typical bartender who did her job and was pleasant. The other was slightly more interesting. We all agreed that she was stoned out of her mind. With every single order she would say, “Now you enjoy that, sweetheart!” as though she had never seen me before, despite the fact that I had personally fetched upwards of seventy beers for my lovely wife. It was very hard to get her attention and she needed a little extra help in understanding orders. But she was pleasant enough, and that’s more than I can say for a lot of bartenders I’ve dealt with.
Remember the blond who hit on my wife? Well she showed up again during the Pig-Dogs rendition of The Dead Milkmen’s “Methodist Coloring Book”. I have video of her “dancing”. The quality isn’t great (the dancing or the video), but here it is:

As the Pig-Dogs were winding down, I spotted Jocko talking to the guys from Horrible Idea. I can only imagine he saw a slightly smaller person in a NOFX shirt and felt more comfortable pressing the issue. He ended up leaving without incident, but you NEVER KNOW WHO’S GOING TO BE A NUT.
All in all we had a good time at The Last Great Watering Hole. Not as good as at the Clermont, but okay. I wouldn’t go back there again unless Faith No More was playing though. I give the place a 2 out of 5.

Until next time, stay creepy,
-Phantom

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