Meg and I met in college, but it was after graduation when we became really good friends. Those were the “LA Years,” which are legendary for many reasons, but chief among them is the mischief made by me and my blonde counterpart.
We were both a little lonely. She, on the heels of a breakup; me, with a boyfriend who worked 100-hour weeks. We started making dinner together a couple of times a week – Hamburger Helper, mac and cheese, pasta with marinara – which eventually morphed in to hanging out pretty much every night.
She had a cat; I had a cat. She liked Bud Light; I liked Bud Light. It was one of those easy friendships where the question isn’t do-you-want-to-hang-out, but -where-and-when.
On a typical weeknight, we’d convene with our respective cats at one of our apartments. The cats would play, and we’d drink cheap wine or head over to the local bar, where we’d hang out for a while, shooting pool or playing darts, and then coyly tell whatever guys were hanging around us that we had to go home and bathe our kitties. (Which was totally true, and I mean that literally.)
Our favorite bar with a little dive called Del’s on Santa Monica Boulevard in West LA. We could walk there from Meg’s apartment. The beer was cheap and the jukebox was well-stocked with classic rock. It was the antithesis of the typical LA bar scene, and it was perfect.
Del’s was totally our bar. Our “Cheers.” Everybody knew our names. I can’t even tell you how many nights we spent at Del’s. Hundreds, probably.
Sadly, though, all eras must end. Meg started grad school and moved up to Northridge. The Valley. A long and treacherous journey from LA.
But I missed my friend, so fairly regularly, I packed up Emmy and make the trek up there. Kraft dinners were just as lovely in The Valley, but one thing was missing. Our bar.
One day, I got an excited call from Meg. (This was before texting, kids.)
“I FOUND IT! I found our bar,” she gushed. “Get this: it’s called the Candy Cat. A cat bar! I drove by it earlier today. We have to try it!”
I completely agreed and immediately planned a trip up to the Valley.
A few nights later, with bellies full of mac and cheese, we left the cats (shampooed and blow-dried, of course) to play and headed over to this promising new establishment.
Now, if you have half a brain, you can probably see where this story is going. But Meg and I don’t even have a quarter of a brain apiece, apparently, because we charged ahead cluelessly.
“There are cats on the front window!” I squealed as we pulled up.
“Oh good, there’s parking in the rear,” Meg noted, turning in to the driveway.
We parked and walked toward the back door.
“Dude, check out that girl’s shoes,” I whispered with a slight nod toward a young woman smoking by the curb, looking sullen in a trench coat and platform heels.
We smiled smugly and quietly congratulated ourselves for being the kind of chicks that go to the bar in flip flops. We were rocking ponytails and tee shirts. We didn’t need to try so hard.
Two bouncers loomed over the door, from which muted Def Leppard blared behind. One asked for ID and a $5 cover, and immediately the other cut him off, gave us a once-over, and waved us in. “They’re cool,” he said.
Hell yeah, we are, we thought.
We crossed into a brightly-lit room. A little too bright. There were a lot of lights. Colorful lights.
“It’s…a theme bar?” I said, genuinely confused. There were two bars and a pool table but why did it seem to be all guys…?
Then we saw the boobs.
The cartoon cats. The rear parking. The platform heels. The cover charge.
What happened next is the kind of moment you remember forever; when I think of Meg and our friendship, those next few seconds pretty much say it all.
A look passed between us. It said: Convey no emotion. We cannot leave now, we’ll look stupid. We have to act like we totally meant to come here.
“You get the cues, I’ll rack ’em?” I said.
“Sure. Bud Light?” she replied smoothly.
So we hung out for a couple of hours, shooting pool, chatting with random people, singing along to classic rock, trying our best to give off a casual, we-come-here-all-the-time vibe. And it was almost like being back at Del’s again…but with more sparkles. And more boobs.
In the car on the way home, we recapped.
“That was fun but I think we should, you know, keep looking,” Meg said.
“Yeah…I don’t think that’s our bar,” I agreed.
We never did find our new Del’s, and eventually Meg and I both moved out of Southern California and on with our lives. Although we haven’t lived in the same city for years, she’s still one of my very best friends. On the rare and happy occasions when we do get together, it’s like nothing has changed. We still share a brain – and yet somehow, even with our combined craniums, lack common sense. It always leads to good fun.
Meg’s getting married in a few weeks. This weekend, I’m in Miami for her bachelorette party.
I can’t promise that we won’t accidentally end up in a strip club – excuse me, I mean a theme bar.