Ever heard that saying about how little man really knows about the ocean? You know, how he supposedly knows more about space than he does of the ocean’s deepest, darkest depths? Well that’s sort of how I feel about the Mid-Cities. I honestly think I know more about Los Angeles and its surrounding environs than I do about the mysterious suburbs northeast of the Fort. Once, a long time ago, I referred to them out of frustration as three large growths metastasized around the main artery between Fort Worth and the airport, choked and throbbing with chain restaurants, sports bars and about 8,000 clogged onramps. So I sought to better understand these enigmatic wastes and unlock their potentially beautiful secrets, in this case, three legendary dives, The Starlite Lounge, the Den and Volcano’s.
My previous drinking experiences in the Mid-Cities involve two house-parties about twelve years apart, and at both of them, I was so hammered I could have been hanging out in the fields of Mars for all I knew. But I did find people to drink with, which meant that there must be places to get drinks other than some dudes’ refrigerator. I got in the Erin Gray (my van, repurposed here for the purpose of research and exploration) and set out at 9:30 for Volcano’s. At 10:30, I still had not found it. I’d like to point out that my disorientation was not the fault of the bar’s. I’m just terrible with directions. But, I reasoned, these places aren’t that big, so maybe if I just exit somewhere, I’ll bump into it eventually. This succeeded about as well as you’d think, and my next thought was, Jesus, did that sign just say “Colleyville?!”
At this point, I was desperate for a beer, and finally, I saw some green neon. I exited, parked, and, encouraged by the sound of “Stranglehold,” wandered into Papa G’s Sports Bar. Now, I generally don’t like sports bars, but what with the aforementioned desperation and all, I swallowed my inner snob and bellied up for a Pacifico. The joint was packed, but I felt totally out of place, so I downed my beer and returned to my quest. At 11:30, I was on the right track, though I was beginning to feel as if I had entered the eerie, evil weirdness of Stephen King’s The Wastelands. But low-and-behold, there, across from the Bell Helicopter plant lie The Starlite Lounge. And it looked pretty divey, though it smelled like Chinese food, probably on account of the fact that it serves Chinese food. Anyway, I was confronted with a heretofore unknown (and probably apocryphal) fact: HEB bars often have gambling facilities. There was a poker game going on, and some slot machines, and from the juke came a cover of “Viva Las Vegas.” Not quite what I expected, but whatever. I finished my beer and headed to the The Den.
Now, since The Den is on Industrial Parkway, I had to make a decision to either look for it or give up and go to a strip club. But I soldiered on, to my eventual disappointment. If the Starlite Lounge was not quite my cup of tea, The Den was like a glass of motor oil. Or marbles. There. Was. Karaoke. And in between the “performers,” there was… Nickelback. Of course, the song was “Rock Star,” broken up into snatches of bumper music, and the entire bar was knowingly signing along. I was the proverbial square peg at Papa G’s, but at the Den, well, I was a guy who doesn’t like Garth Brooks and Nickleback in a place where they are revered as gods.
I never did find Volcano’s, though I hear that it is more up my alley. And to be fair, all the folks in those other bars were having a blast. If you’re into poker and karaoke, you know where to go. For me, I’ll let the Lost Dives of the Mid-Cities stay that way.