Robin Wheeler writes for the blog Poppy Mom. She also has a strange attraction to drinking establishments with jars of pickled -- or possibly fossilized -- eggs. She reports on these dives for Gut Check every Friday.
Consider dive bars in Alton, Illinois, for a moment. Your mind went straight to Fast Eddie's Bon Air
, didn't it? Understandable. It's one of the most famous dive bars in the country. Famous dive bars -- that's an oxymoron. Not that I have a problem with Fast Eddie's. If you want to drink lots of beer and eat Hot Chicks on a Stick in a big crowd of strangers, I'm your girl.
Surely not everyone in Alton braves the tourist-filled crowds when they want to have a beer and catch up on the neighborhood gossip. However, most of the bars I found beyond downtown Alton were empty and sporting for sale signs. It's a tavern ghost town.Woodstock Lounge
sits in sight of the Clark Bridge. Jessica the bartender says, "We're a biker bar. We got beer, Jack and Cuervo. That's it." There's slightly more behind the bar, and several patrons have an affinity for Rumple Minze
The bartender and several patrons included me in their conversation like they already knew me. I wondered if I'd been there before and didn't remember it.
We spent hours talking about our pets, kids and creepy-crawly creatures that scare us. Jessica shared photos of her two twenty-pound white cats while another patron told stories about his cuddly pit bull and fierce Yorkie. Jessica astounded us with her extensive knowledge of Star Wars
and Resident Evil
. She has a background in aeronautical engineering and mathematics. She'll also kick your ass if you order a cosmo.
I think I want to be her new best friend.
A regular bought a round for the bar. I passed, since I was planning to leave. Silly, because two hours later I was still there, talking to Jessica and a 23-year-old young man about the importance of proper birth-control education and how to raise children properly.
Fast Eddie's might get all the press, but it's not the place to tell bike tales while sharing your snake phobia.