Gettin’ Ripped at Hero’s

It’s Friday afternoon happy hour at Hero’s, and I have everything I need. The bartender, who goes by the name of Whiskey Dick, poured me a drink that seems to be about 60 percent booze. I’ve also got a Styrofoam bowl full of Pizza Man pizza, which the bar has provided for free. A hi-def TV is pumping out random garbage with crystal clarity. Most importantly, aside from the small group of office workers having some kind of after-work cake party in back, everyone here is keeping their mouth firmly shut.

I feel like I’ve choked on my own vomit and gone to heaven.

Most people still think of Hero’s by its former name, the Pioneer Bar, which is appropriate because not much has changed since the place switched owners. The outside still looks like a barn, and the inside still looks like the basement in the last scene of The Blair Witch Project. The bartenders still pour cheap drinks at full First Street strength. The Troll is still sitting at the end of the bar by the video poker machine.

In the back, it looks as if someone attempted some sort of remodeling project, tearing the paneling off the walls to expose the brick underneath, but then gave up halfway through when they realized that it’s impossible to polish a turd. Not just impossible, but impractical — if you want to attract flies such as myself, you need the right kind of bait.

What’s attracting me right now is the thought of that cake in the back of the room. The way I see it, sometime within the next 45 minutes, a balance will be reached creating the perfect circumstances for me to grab some free dessert.

First off, Whiskey Dick’s pour ratio will probably bump up to about 75 percent alcohol if I’ve been tipping right, which I believe I have, giving me the social courage to nudge my way into their group and help myself.

Secondly, most of the more conservative office workers back there will bolt for the door as soon as politely possible, leaving behind the red-faced, slurring angels who brought them here in the first place, who will undoubtedly recognize me as one of their own and practically hand-feed me the stuff. All I need is one more cocktail and a little bit of patience.

Already, the volume level in back has increased. The tipsiest members of the group are now huddled around the jukebox, while a couple of the others are clearly plotting their exit strategies.

Meanwhile, one woman is shrieking out some sort of anecdote about her run-ins with politicians. “Gary Doty and Norm Coleman smelled really, really good!” one woman shrieks. “You can’t help, but smell them!”

“I think my own personal hell would be to be trapped in a room crowded with people listening to Neil Diamond and Anne Murray,” says another.

Up front, Whiskey Dick is dumping an entire bottle of Captain Morgan into a water glass for me as reality television is taking over the hi-def set. A couple of the guys at the bar are muttering about whether the current douchebag on 1 vs. 100 has any chance of outwitting Oscar the Grouch. “No way,” says some guy, chewing on the last mouthful of congealed Pizza Man pizza. “Fucker’s done for.”

With happy hour over and the free pizza gone, a few more people start piling into the bar and filling up the corners. Someone takes the initiative to dim the house lights, dampening down the ugly in the room by a substantial margin. Warren G’s “Regulate” blares out of the jukebox, and some of the office workers start dancing, while others start playing darts and the rest practically run for the door.

Though I didn’t watch too closely, I’m pretty sure that when Whiskey Dick made this drink, he poured in the booze, then briefly held the soda gun close to the glass for a second without pressing the button — just enough to introduce the idea of Coke to my drink, but nothing more. All of the apes and sluts down at Ace’s mixing attitude with Absolut Mandrin need to take lessons from this guy. He knows how it’s supposed to be done.

“Aaaaaah!” screams a woman using both hands to support herself against the jukebox. “There’s Jewel, but no Tool!”

That’s my cue. There’s one piece of cake left, and it’s time for me to make my move.