“Larry-Oke” and Road Spikes at the North City Tavern

Starsky and Hutch would fit right in.

Walking into the North City Tavern is like crashing a party in the basement of an unfamiliar neighbor who perpetually has three broken-down Buicks parked on his front lawn. On the karaoke mike is a small black woman in a raincoat, butchering "Hotel California." The furniture is a collection of office chairs, mismatched tables, and shabby couches. While there aren't more than a couple pool tables here, the folks who play are serious enough to bring their own sticks. The wallpaper is maritime-themed, and the bathrooms are down a couple steps from the rest of the bar, the sort of quirk that goes unnoticed until after six or seven beers, at which point those stairs might as well be road spikes. The North City's name sounds like the sort of place where Starsky and Hutch would meet Huggy Bear, and its decor hasn't been updated much beyond the year that show went off the air. As luck would have it, it appears actually to be a bar where cops hang out. To wit, on a recent Tuesday night, a wiseacre regular signs a couple lawmen up to karaoke "I Got You Babe." (The karaoke here is called "Larry-oke," a peculiar moniker given that the karaoke jockey is female.) The cops are good sports about their homoerotic pairing, and give way to an old boozer who can't be bothered to get up from his stool. No matter: The KJ hands him the mike at the bar, which isn't all that far from the staging area. He proceeds to belt out a respectable version of Otis Redding's "Dock of the Bay," a fitting anthem for a bar where nobody's in a hurry to do much of anything, except maybe tie one on.

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