Day Drinker: American Pride and Angry Letter-Writing Alive and Well at The Ox Sports Bar
Who says you have to wait until the sun goes down to have a good time?
At 7 a.m., my good friend and Day Drinker play date, Ronda, pulled alongside my car in the Ox Sports Bar parking lot, tucked behind a Circle K on 32nd Street. We were trying to yawn ourselves awake. Ronda had the good sense to bring a bag of doughnuts to keep our impending breakfast brews company and spark our senses with a little sugar. We were still wiping the sleep out of our eyes as we walked through the front doors of the Ox, barely noticing the U.S. flag, softly waving to and fro signaling the start of another day in America.
Inside it was cozy, clean and warm. Expectedly sports-bar-like, but more toned down: pool tables bathed in the soft glow of overhead lights, dart boards surrounded by trophies of local teams and players, and TVs -- lots of TVs. Thankfully, they were all turned down, giving us time to get to know the only other person in the bar -- and the one behind it -- Denay.
Denay looked like Pippi Longstocking -- if Pippi had been on the lam for the past 40 years. She had a large, toothy, mischievous smile, twinkling eyes, a few freckles; and although her hair was long and blondish-white. But if you closed your eyes, it was red, parted down the middle and . . . Whee! Pigtails were flying off her head. Oh, Pippi, please take us on one of your crazy adventures.
Denay gave us our first round of Bailey's and coffee. Okay pours, not the best we've had. The mugs were white, emblazoned with "USA" graphics and "God Bless Americas."
"Here's to Day Drinking and doughnuts!" we toasted. Our American mugs clinked.
Denay told us she was 51 years old and semi-retired. She worked a string of go-nowhere gigs before landing at the Ox. Her shift is three days a week, always in the mornings. She enjoys her job. Her boss leaves her alone and she likes the regulars.
She said she needed to get a couple pots of coffee ready for the crew she called "The Breakfast Club." They come in every morning to shoot pool. It used to be an after-work affair, but since most of them have lost or changed their jobs, it's mostly a daybreak diversion.
We go outside for some fresh air and are almost run over by a red, beat-up pickup truck with an American flag sticker on its side, hastily pulling into the parking spot in front of us. A large, full-bearded man sits behind the wheel, and a dog that looks like Petey peers at us from the passenger-side window.
The big, bearded man is huffing as he struggles to get out of the car. He approaches us, head tilted downward, exposing a shiny, red "RUSH" logo emblazoned on his black ball cap.
"Mornin', ladies," he says politely. "Can you tell me how to find the Black Canyon Highway? I'm lookin' for the Southwest Gas Company."
"Can we pet your dog?" we ask excitedly, making our way to the open window.
"I wouldn't do that," he calmly warns us. "Breeze doesn't much like strangers."
"Oh," we say, disappointed, and then ask, "everything all right?"
"Those sons-of-bitches at Southwest," he says, defeatedly shaking his head. "I'm on hold for 20 fuckin' minutes trying to get a question answered. I finally said, to hell with this, I'm goin' down there to talk to one of those assholes. Now I can't find the fuckin' place. Jesus Christ."
We point him in the right direction, wish him well, and wave goodbye to the super-cute dog we can't pet.
Back inside the Ox, the bar has filled up. The Breakfast Club is playing pool and drinking coffee, and there's a dude with -- what else? -- an American-flag skullcap playing video poker. We change up our drink orders: a Bloody Mary (spicy with lots of olives) for me and a Greyhound for Ronda.
"You want A-1 sauce and blue cheese in your Bloody Mary?" Denay asks.
"You should have it. It's good." Her smile would make us believe anything. She mixes the concoction in front of us and tells us that one of her regulars brings in the blue cheese for his own Bloody Mary's, but this morning, she's going to share it with us. Love Denay. Good people. I take a sip. Whoa. Yummy. Like liquid steak. I take a long, meaty pull on it.
We hear a voice next to us. It's coming from a man in a paint-splattered shirt, drink in one hand, and the other pointing at the televisions.
"Hey, how come people buy these fancy TVs and stereos if they can't see or hear no good anyway? Now, I'm the old guy in the room, and an American, and when I grew up, we didn't need a color TV to tell us what colors things were supposed to me. You see a black and white tree - you know it's green. A waterfall - you know it's blue. I'll tell you who proved that black and white is more beautiful than color - Samuel Adams."