AFTER A LONG WEEK tending bar at Mario's down in Burien (12803 Ambaum Blvd. S.W., Burien, 248-3113), I am ready for my night out. I awaken Sunday afternoon with visions of pitchers filled with Rainier, of tacos and hot wings, of guys coming to blows about whether Dilfer or Hasselback should be sticking their hands between a man's legs but, irony of ironies, my Seattle Weekly assignments are not the sort of places where hot wings occur. No, I have been asked to report upon the yuppie outposts of Belltown. Big forks. Cloth napkins. Yellow walls. It's enough to make you drink. Further pushing this fish out of water is the fact that no one in the Rolodex can afford to tag along. I am solo. As the sun goes down, I chug a 22 of Colt, pop Songs About Fucking into my Walkman, and wander down from Capitol Hill on two shaky legs.
Brasa (2107 Third, 728-4220) seems like a party waiting to happen, but at six o'clock on a Sunday, it's the staging area for a funeral. A glass of fancy bourbon steels me somewhat against the sterility of the puffy brass bar top. Behind me, polite diners chew softly to the static beat of digital high hats and Argentinean chanteuses. Wavy walls, angular accoutrements. Thick booze glasses, waiters strapped in black. A classy joint. I scratch at my beard stubble, down my drinks, and go looking elsewhere for trouble.
Axis (2212 First, 441-9600) looks sort of like Brasa, but all jumbled up, like both places got the same clay-colored restaurant kits on Christmas morning. With a name like Axis, I expected German machine-gun nests, Mussolini posters, epic naval battles in the Pacific Theater; there are none of these forces to contend with. There are, however, kamikazes, served to me by a bartender whose intense gaze hovers somewhere between Don Juan and Night Stalker Richard Ramirez. Feeling a bit peckish, I use my budgeted superpowers to acquire a plate of the Ahi Poke, a sculpted pile of blood-red raw fish mixed with bits of scallion and seaweed. Infuriatingly delicious. I savor every bite, but, like Brasa, the lack of bodies is lacking. It's seven o'clock at night! Where the hell is everyone? I want people to harass! To lie to! Where is my big night out? I want to peel my face back and screech like a boll weevil, but instead, I sequester more bourbon and back it with a fancy microbrew. Dum de dum. I eat, pay, tip big, and get the hell out. I am a perfect consumer.
At El Gaucho (2505 First, 728-1337), the good times begin to roll—well, comparatively. At least there's a piano player. On the various levels of the huge room, the open flames of bananas Foster catch my wandering eyes. More bourbon. More beer. More raw tuna. Yes, the entertainment on my big night out is being provided by that magnificent fish, the tunathis time tartar-style with onions and habaneros mixed in barside by venerable El Gaucho bartender Michael. The menu is entertaining, too: $96 for Chⴥaubriand? I giggle a bit, and some folks sit next to me. A mushroom inspector named Mary Jo and her buddy Daniel talk to me about the restaurant business. I claim to be a master carpenter and start begging for a job, and then I stop making sense altogether. I've gone pretty much directly from bored to incoherent. I pull it together enough to talk shop with the bartender, openly fantasizing about working at a place where I could clear $400 in tips and eat Chⴥaubriand every night. Flamethrowers from the watchtowers. Arm wrestling the piano man. Bananas in my backpack.
I stumble up to Fandango (2313 First, 441-1188). What does my autopilot want at Fandango? More bourbon, of course. More dark beer. I think Fandango is that same yellowish color as Brasa and Axis, but by this point, it could be Day-Glo orange with black-light panther posters. People are starting to fill the bar, holding their chins up like spoiled children. I pull at my drinks. Rub my head. Two tunas swim around in my stomach. Aren't I meeting someone later at the Summit (601 Summit E., 324-7611)? Don't they have Pabst at the Summit? Don't people wear jeans and talk loud at the Summit? I chug my glass of bourbon. Big mistake. It comes right back up with a little bit of tuna and a lot of brown beer. Puke fills my mouth, and I spit it back into my glass. This is usually an indication that it's time to move on. I pay—I think? I definitely accidentally leave my keys. I begin to walk weakly toward Capitol Hill. And then I find the strength to run.