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Escaping Carnival at Mick's Irish Pub



Gentle reader, minor collapses are to be expected. Nay! Welcomed.  Kindly catastrophes of body and spirit burst forth like dryads from the oaks, slinging tiny fistfuls of poppy dust. And we are saved from ourselves. For the way to Mardi Gras is long, and along that way, we sometimes must rest.  My full intention was to write from some famous watering hole along the Uptown parade route, dear friends. But beset by the hepatic rigors of the past few weeks, strategic retreat was my only option. I needed somewhere out-of-the-way. Somewhere I could have a quiet drink and a few friendly bar games to salve my Carnival anxiety. And so it was that I made my way after a small ordeal into Mick’s Irish Pub on Bienville.      

 

Saturday had been a late night.  I’d been bidden to work the previous evening unexpectedly – a victim of the inevitable Mardi Gras no-show. And may he die a beggar. Rising then late on Sunday, I missed the Barkus Parade I wanted to catch on my way Uptown.  

 

The great Anvil of Time weighed down upon me, friends. My weekly work schedule was thick with ink. Editor Mintz worried me like a hound for his free content, and I had not yet visited my target bar.  Nor had any thought been given to my Mardi Gras costume. I was sure to be outdone again by my cruelly clever friends. And lo! It came to mind that I had jury duty this week at Orleans Parish Criminal Court! O rascal Fortuna! Thou dost lift thine blindfold to draw my lot…

 

And I was also hung-over. Badly.  

 

I found Lil’ Matty at Canal and Decatur. Seething masses bawled for beads from the day parades. The Krewe of Alla rolled up the wide avenue to lethargic, afternoon fanfare. Admittedly, a glorious sunny afternoon for a parade. 

 

“I’m not doing it,” said Lil’ Matty when I suggested we skirt around the parade and head Uptown. I needed to be on the river side of the route, and that meant crossing into the blocked-off, Carnival dead-zone around the Convention Center known ominously to many as “The Box.”

 

“No way,” he repeated. And with that, my will was broken and we weaved out of the Quarter to find a cab. Lil’ Matty could use a little respite as well, it seemed.  

 

Mick’s Irish Pub inhabits the sleepy-wide thoroughfare of Bienville just before City Park Avenue. The hale live-oaks and widely varied housing conjure Utopian images of the working class. To stand on that corner of N. Bernadotte is to know Mid City. Bars like Mick’s are the defining features of that salty face.  Light green building with Kelly green trim. Shamrocks. A picture window in the front displays the overtly racist, fighting Irishman. We went inside.  

 

The tavern was a muffled kind of quiet, nearly empty. The typical neighborhood bar.  Square room. Pool table in the center. Lots of slatted wood, once dark and polished but now nicked and smudged. The L-shaped bar frames the back and left, spacious and filled with plenty of backed, cushioned barstools. And all the usual memorabilia is present. Photos and awards and sports stuff. But most of the pictures, and even some sports jerseys, are in frames. Old and beat-up, but still in frames. Care has been taken here over the years.

 

Mick’s is a kind of cop bar, from what I understand. The emptiness did not surprise me. Every police officer in New Orleans is either sleeping or working this time of year. Pressed to the limit. Only a few greybeards sat grumbling at the bar watching Kanye West perform on the television. Kanye West?

 

“Goddamned Kanye West…” breathed Lil’ Matty.  

 

“Grumble, grumble, grumble,” the greybeards seemed to agree.

 

“I forgot it was the Grammys tonight.”

 

Matty and I were ID’d most vigilantly at the bar. The raven-haired bartender with straight-cut bangs inspected our licenses carefully. And I must say, I have arrived at a point in my life where I very much appreciate that request.  Primarily, my own poor judge of age is the reason. It simply won’t do to be seen inadvertently leching. Banish the minor, I say! Lest we become ensnared in some trifling affair of statutes. Secondarily, because even Mr. Magoo could not mistake me for a minor. 

 

Mick’s has about a half-dozen selections on tap and a good, wide variety of bottles, plus all the usual liquor. Nothing too fancy.  We settled on a couple of Smithwick’s Irish Ales, poured in proper-sized, large pint glasses. Dirt cheap at four bucks apiece.  

 

Lil’ Matty stood sipping his beer, staring up at the television screen in horror. 

 

“Let’s go play some games,” he spat, not looking over at me.

 

A short set of wooden steps at the far right of the bar leads up into the labyrinthine body of the building. And this is the true draw of the bar: the games. Mick’s Irish Pub is a kind of knackered Dave and Busters for neighborhood alcoholics. Or more pleasantly, locally, and accurately: a Barcadia with a soul.

 

Immediately up the stairs, a long, narrow hall runs down to a single dartboard.  Behind that, another door open on a small room filled with arcade games. Sit-down Hydro Thunder Game: out of order. Multi-play arcade game. Two pinball machines.  

 

Beyond the narrow hall and the arcade-game room, a spacious room opens up like a wide cavern. The plank floors are painted green and worn down. Cozy tan couches, positioned in an L-shape with coffee tables in the center make for a welcoming front. Behind that, long, folding banquet tables hold up a Jenga set made from two by four blocks that have seen Job’s share of abuse. To the left, a long shuffle board table with a lit scoreboard hanging over top waits silently against the wall. Three dartboards lit with track lighting are spaced evenly on the back.  

 

“This has a good feel to it,” said Lil’ Matty.  “I like this place.”

 

And indeed my companion was right. The room has a good feel, a homey feel.  Even in the silence, the memories of laughter seemed to hang about it like the pleasant smells of comforting things. Leather. Rich pipe smoke and a well-heated winter room. Lovely decay.

 

We started on the shuffle board. Lil’ Matty seemed to think his experience playing shuffle board on computer games gave him some inherent advantage over me. As I suspected, this proved a false presumption. I rained down decimation upon my friend like Scipio upon ancient Carthage, trampling the sand of the table like salt into the earth of his pride.

 

We took our turns buying the pints. And by the time my compatriot and I got around to the darts, we were hard-pressed to find even the board.

 

“They gave him that award as a goddamned sympathy vote!” Lil’ Matty protested as he returned with two fresh pints. “That album sucked shit and he’s had way better ones that he never won anything for.” Lil’ Matty was on about Beck.  He agreed, at least in part it seemed, with the humble Mr. West.

 

We spent the remainder of our night at the giant Jenga set. Matty and I amused ourselves with the graffiti scrawled upon the blocks. Curious and cryptic misspellings of ambiguous intention such as, “My Ant is Gay,” and, “You can’t be funny and cleaver.” And titillating vulgarities like, “Will eats butthole.”

 

“Hoof Hearted?” Lil’ Matty read in confusion from one of the blocks. “What’s that?  Some kind of Satyr-love thing?”

 

My friends, my wish is ever to convey some little story, weave some small narrative through a bar or event in an attempt to capture some picture of what it is like to pass an evening therein. The loud and the raucous offer themselves up easily for description. But the noble neighborhood bar on a quiet night away from the action, in the heart of a community, can be slow to yield its secrets.

 

The front bar was filling up when Matty and I made our way out. A middle-aged man and woman, both in jeans and with their own pool cues played at the green felt table. The greybeards at the bar had gotten drunk and degenerated in a heated discussion. Something about the welfare of a ne’er-do-well friend. A big guy with a walrus mustache had a laptop out at the table. Normal stuff.

 

In the truest sense, Mick’s is a Public House. Places like these stand at the center of our neighborhood lives, indispensable. Both open and sheltering. A place for a party and a place to hide. When all the world demands what you cannot give, then come in. Have a pint, out of the glare.

Previous Drinking Culture Adventures:

Houseguests During Carnival

Kajun's Pub

Delachaise

St. Roch Tavern

M.R.B.

Sazerac Bar

Sparklehorse Grill at Carrollton Station

The Saint

BJ's

Thanksgiving at the Fairgrounds

Verret's Lounge

Crown & Anchor

12 Mile Limit

Halloween on Frenchmen & Lower Decatur

Bacchanal

Brothers III

Siberia

Lucky Pierre's

R-Bar

Introduction

The text above is a column and expresses only the opinion of the author, not NOLA Defender or NOLA Defender's Editorial Board.

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Mardi Gras Zone
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Contributors

Renard Boissiere, Evan Z.E. Hammond, Naimonu James, Wilson Koewing, J.A. Lloyd, Nina Luckman, Dead Huey Long, Alexis Manrodt, Joseph Santiago, Andrew Smith, Cynthia Via, Austin Yde

Photographers


Art Director

Michael Weber, B.A.

Editor


Listings Editor

Linzi Falk

Editor Emeritus

Alexis Manrodt


B. E. Mintz


Stephen Babcock

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