The Hustle and Flow of the Rose Garden

If you’re homesick for Washington Park, Ill., they’ve got your Mickey’s waiting.

Washington Park, Illinois, is a suburb of East St. Louis, Illinois, which is a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri. Each of these places is exponentially grittier than the next, and all of them make the toughest block in Seattle look like Palm Springs. Or at least I thought so. Then I visited the Rose Garden, a shotgun shack about as far north as you can get within the city limits on Lake City Way. If there are any natives of Washington Park (Ill.) who currently reside in Seattle, this is the bar for you, at least on the nights when there isn't live music. However, on this night, there actually is live music, in the form of a freestyle rap circle that occasionally forms outside the front entrance. The regulars here, save for a super-sweet dude with dreads named Boogie, have trouble sitting still; they spend as much time outdoors and in the bathroom as they do at their barstools (they must have small bladders). The jukebox plays a constant stream of rap—and not the sort of "conscious" rap favored by Seattle's overhyped, rainbow-colored scene. The rhymes we're talking about here are deep and dark; think David Banner getting your pussy wet, wanting to see you drip sweat. The few ladies in the house dance like strippers (coincidentally, Déjà Vu and Rick's are both within walking distance), the drinks are gloriously stiff, there are Mickey's Hornets in the cooler, and a couple of the tables are set up for checkers. But another thing about the Rose Garden: They really don't like it if you try to take pictures in the bar. They also really don't like it if you try to take pictures of the bar's exterior from a speeding car. In fact, after 'Lil Scoop tried to do so (witness the crappiest photo ever to run in Seattle Weekly), one of the freestyle rappers gave chase in a white sedan. He was probably just upset that we didn't pay him for the rights to take his photo, because he's definitely going to become famous next week. Hustle & Flow might as well have been a documentary—that's how real that shit was.

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