Photo: Merla/Shutterstock

On Going Out in Lawrence, Kansas

Restaurants + Bars Narrative
by Joseph Griffin Jan 30, 2013
This story was written as an assignment for the MatadorU Travel Writing program.

Saturday night. Dancing fever. The only cure is to get down and boogie. ’70s funk and soul. Bump ‘n’ Hustle with DJ Cyrus. The Eighth Street Taproom.

It beats uppity conversations over fruity martinis and overpriced pints of Guinness a few doors down at Henry’s Upstairs. Although that time some stripper was trying to get every guy in the bar to buy her drinks was interesting…maybe I’ll pass on Henry’s tonight. Or a couple of blocks south — on 10th and Mass. — there’s the Replay, a local institution where everyone eventually congregates like it’s some type of drunken purgatory and only God will decide if you go home alone or not. But that’s where you go after you’ve been everywhere else, so you can make your last-ditch effort and drink PBR from cans.

I’ll try my luck at the Taproom.

I pay the $3 cover and go in. The bartender knows my name. He’s been working there so long the place would seem empty without him. I order a pint of the Kansas City-made Boulevard Wheat and go downstairs to dance. A bachelorette party comes in. Strange. Usually they pass by and go next door to the Sandbar. Maybe they want to dance tonight. I know I do. The DJ knows his stuff. The downstairs of this dive bar is now a dancefloor.

Everyone’s dancing. The bachelorette party. The townies who have lived in Lawrence their entire lives and probably always will. The students from the University of Kansas out on the weekend getting their kicks. The drunk guy who is entirely oblivious to anyone else on the dancefloor flailing his arms and legs wildly to the beat of a song that perhaps only he hears.

I’m not here with anyone. You don’t have to be. After a couple of drinks, you start dancing and forget about everything else for a while anyway. You forget about the people upstairs playing pool. You forget about the people out on the patio smoking cigarettes. You forget about all the people drinking away their sorrows. All the hipsters trying to make the play on some girl they’re momentarily in love with. All the people with lousy jobs and thwarted creative drives. All the pretentious conversations that happen in a college town. Hopes and dreams, stuff that may never happen, fears and regrets and all the bullshit from the daily grind. It’s just you and the music. Just let me dance for a while, that’s all. Leave everything else outside.

The smoking ban. I step outside for a cigarette. Soon, I find myself surrounded by the bachelorettes. All of them are drinking mixed drinks through straws shaped like penises. All of them are smoking except for one. She says, “Smoking is a disgusting habit.” I can’t help but interject, “You’re saying this as you’re drinking through a penis straw?”

I’m made an honorary member of the bachelorette party. We all go back inside and dance.

***Explore the world party scene with 101 PLACES TO GET F*CKED UP BEFORE YOU DIE. Part travel guide, part drunken social commentary, 101 Places to Get F*cked Up Before You Die may have some of the most hilarious scenes and straight-up observations of youth culture of any book you’ve ever read.***

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