Matt is my usual wing man for excursions to questionable establishments. He possesses an even temper, can drink extraordinary amounts of beer, is a strong hand at foosball and shuffleboard, and is not afraid to wear shorts in the middle of January. He's also about twice my size and has no hair, both characteristics that might come in handy in a pinch. So Matt was an obvious choice to join me in my visit to 'Denver's Friendliest Lounge'.
I first noticed Mr. A's Lounge one day while driving home the back way from a trip to the rock climbing gym. Truth be told I was lost, down in the flats just east of the big Purina dog food plant that sits along the side of I-70. I could not help but notice a bar with a huge sign that says 'Mr. A's Lounge', and just below that 'The Friendliest Lounge in Denver!'. All I could muster was a 'wow', and made immediate plans to return.
A couple of weeks passed, and Matt and I broke free from our usual rigors for a brief night on the town. First stop: Mr. A's. You don't get much sense of security heading down to Mr. A's. It's located down a dodgy side street off Colorado Boulevard near the interstate, an area populated by warehouses, factories, rail yards, and chop shops. Not exactly Cherry Creek. Fortunately we were not deterred, as past experience told us that many of the best dives are located on the wrong side of the tracks. As we approached the door, another sign presented itself, one that I unfortunately did not see that first day when I was enamored by a place calling itself The Friendliest Lounge in Denver. This sign noted very politely that no one wearing their colors would be allowed inside. Interesting. Matt and I certainly weren't sporting our colors on this night, on the contrary, we weren't even members of any gangs that we knew of, other than maybe the Associated General Contractors of America. If that counts. We paused a beat, pondering perhaps a hasty retreat to Matt's truck, and a quick getaway to the nearest Chili's for a margarita. Our good senses prevailed however, and we stepped inside.
If you've ever seen the movie Animal House, you probably remember the scene where the boys from the Delta House end up at The Dexter Lake Club, looking for Otis Day and the Knights. That's us walking in to busy Mr. A's, though thankfully the music didn't stop. We quickly made a beeline to a corner near the bar. The place was very full this Saturday night, most people gathered around the bar that runs the length of the left side of the establishment, or sitting at tables scattered throughout. The standout feature, though, was the dance floor, situated right in the center of the action, with a small DJ booth at the far end. Around the booth gathered small group of females, jamming to the tunes.
Matt and I ordered two Coors Lights, but were told by the barmaid that they did not serve that and were given Coors heavy, in cans no less. We found a table near a rail that separated the dance floor from the seating, and occupied ourselves with some sports they were showing on a couple of crappy televisions. Before too long, we were approached by a large man that I had noticed earlier up by the bar. We were either about to be thrown out, or he was going to ask if he could dance with my date. 'Did you gentlemen order a couple Coors Lights?' He asked. We nodded, though letting him know that we were perfectly happy with our cans of Coors heavy. He set down two cans of Coors Light. 'Here you go then. Sorry about the confusion,' he said, and left us. A very nice gesture. Friendly even. Matt and I toasted our good fortune, and went back to watching crappy sports.
A short while later, we were approached by a few more of the friendly regulars, this time it was a couple of the ladies from the dance floor. They slid up next to the rail silently, like cougars. Next thing I know, Matt is headed for the dance floor. I marveled at his courage, while at the same time ruing him for leaving me alone. A second dancer leaned in close, too close. She had done herself up crazy for the evening (who wouldn't for a night out at Mr. A's?) but through all the renovations I could still make out a couple missing teeth, some serious mileage, not to mention a pretty obvious lack of sobriety. And she was probably old enough to be my mother. 'You gonna dance with me, honey?' Needless to say it didn't take me long to consider my options. 'Nah, I should really keep an eye on our table.' I responded. Didn't want to give up such prime real estate. 'Come on,' she gushed, flashing an impressive smile. 'Your friend is out dancin.' 'Thanks for the offer, but I tweaked my knee earlier today.' She sneered at me and went back to jiving with the DJ. Meanwhile, Matt was still doing his best to impersonate someone who knew how to dance. The song ended and he attempted to bail out, only to get pulled back on by his partner.
Mr. A's Lounge taught me that there sometimes is truth in advertising. All preconceived notions pointed to Mr. A's being someplace not worth venturing into, in search of dives or not. The sign out front, though told the tale, and by the time we left the bar that night, both Matt and I were sold on the fact that Mr. A's is indeed the Friendliest Lounge in Denver.
Mr. A's Lounge is located at the corner of 40th and Steele in east Denver. They serve cold beer in cans.
I decided long ago that the monotony of my daily routines weren't going to cut it long term. Sure, I still float through with some routine (wake up, shower, shave, clothes, hair, dog, food, boy), but I try to bust out whenever possible. Shake things up a bit. I'm not talking about anything transcendental, or finding Jesus or any nonsense like that, just exploring my surroundings a little bit and jumping out of the comfort of the routine. That's where dives come in. Denver is full of them. Places you can go that get your senses humming and make you feel maybe a little uncomfortable. There's that bar that serves a mean pizza and sits across from the holding facility for the county jail. There's that restaurant where you can order up a Head taco, if you can scrape together a little Spanish. When you see these places, you usually find yourself thinking, 'Who goes there?'. I do.