Going back to T-town this weekend after a good two decades was a bit of a surreal experience. Back then there was no sign on University Ave. informing you that you were on the strip... the transition from the placid landscape of rolling lawns and stoic brick architecture on the campus to the ramshackle cacophony of the clubs and restaurants let you know just fine.
But while the era of dingy bars with tons of charm, great music and cigarette smoke thick enough to slice and serve on a plate might be over, they have not become completely extinct. Egan's Bar at the corner of University and 13th is an unrepentant throwback to an earlier era of watering holes on the strip and God love 'em for it.
Bo (our very own ChineseDentist) knows Bloody Marys.
A great dive bar is a delightful thing. It's gotta have that undefinable combination of amiable bartenders, colorful regulars and mineshaft darkness that Jim Atkinson once laid out an eloquent exegesis about that I won't even attempt to match in this limited post.
Egan's is the kind of bar where every morning is a Bloody Mary Morning and that goes double on gameday. Open at 8 a.m. there are plenty of regulars on hand ready to prime the pump for a long day of drankin' in preparation for kickoff. This is the kind of place the regulars aren't just known by their name, they are all known by their nicknames.
The music is excellent. Not just because it boasts a fantastic mix of solid classic stuff, quality modern tunes and the occasional offbeat item to keep you guessing but also because the volume is set perfect - loud enough to permeate the atmosphere of the place but not so loud you can't converse with your new bar buddy. And, I am told, the live music is swell also.
As the last holdout of an earlier era on the Strip, Egan's has become a bit of a museum as well. The walls are full of the usual college town bric a brac - photos of regulars, football memorabilia and whatnot - it also has a collection of items that commemorate the cultural history of University Avenue. There are newspaper clippings of the legal battles fought by the clubs, pictures of the former neighbors and other items of a similar bent.
This particular bit of memorabilia on the wall simply broke my heart to see. Vinyl Solution was one of the greatest record stores I've ever shopped at and it's passing is a true tragedy for music lovers. I still have the records by Jerry Dale Mcfadden, Eric Landis & the Squires and The Woods I bought there. And I still kick myself in the ass for not picking up the copy of Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music they had for sale at one time.
After the game Saturday, Egan's was the perfect place to be. Bo said later that it was the "craziest he's ever seen" but meant it in the best way possible. It was crazy in the kind of euphoric atmosphere where everyone is having a great time; not the bad crazy that ends with someone getting glassed and the cops come.
Everyone wanted to talk about the game and the season and what the next two months could bring. There were a passel of LSU fans who showed up to drink in excess and dance with pretty girls to forget the loss. And every time Julio's touchdown run was show on the bar TVs everyone stopped whatever they were doing and yelled "JULIOOOOO!!!!"
Egan's was the perfect place to be after a great game in the middle of a great season of Crimson Tide football. And I can't wait till I get the chance to go back.