Aug 24, 2013

Malickey's Pub: It's a bar for the kids - with a house, maybe a chicken (thanks to the snake) and no drama

Malickey's: The drafts come in jars
The hairy guy's report:

It's still summer, after all. We should all be at the beach.  So we turned to Google and typed "find beach bar in bay city, michigan".

The first result shows the Applebee's on Wilder Road. Maybe somebody dumped beach sand in the parking lot. We'll skip it.

Other results include the Mussel Beach Drive-in on State Park Drive, which we're sure is great for a coney dog and soft-serve ice cream. But not so much for a beer. There's a listing for a place in Standish called White's Beach Tavern & Grocery, which sounds intriguing. But it's in Standish.

Clearly, this was not Google's greatest hits.

But wait. Another local blogger praises Malickey's Pub on South Madison for "best sex on the beach." And the bar's Facebook page tells of an '80s beach party for Saturday night. Bingo!


Yeah, yeah, we know. Sex on the Beach is the name of a cocktail, not an activity, and it's got stuff in it that we don't usually drink. But this all sounds as close to a beach bar in town as we're going to get. There are waterfront places -- like Dockside downtown and Hooters on the west bank of the river -- but they don't come with beaches. Even the dear-departed Sand Bar on the Middlegrounds didn't have an actual beach.

Malickey's isn't anywhere near an actual beach either, of course. CNN recently came up with a list of the world's 50 best beach bars,  and Malickey's wouldn't have come close to making the cut. You won't find anybody there with sand between their toes sipping rum-and-Cokes under giant umbrellas.

Co-owner Janice at the bar
In fact, on the afternoon we dropped in, we didn't find anybody at all -- except for co-owner Janice sitting at the bar, sans sand.

Henny Penny the chicken wasn't in either. Or the snakes. Or the dogs and cats. (Henny Penny, says Janice, was brought in from a farm in Caro to feed one of the snakes. But the snake wasn't hungry, so the chicken became one of the pets.) The lizard is gone, and the hedgehog died (we didn't ask how).

The animals aren't really barflies but live in the family house, which is attached to the bar  (where they've been known to make an appearance). The occasional critters fit right in at a bar that's become known for its diverse crowd -- "a big mix," says Janice, including a clientele that's 10% to 20% gay. "Everybody gets along," she says.

There's a pool table (Harry beat our friend Doc in dramatic come-from-behind fashion), darts and electronic bar games. Some tables have an inset board for playing chess or checkers (the bar has game pieces). Some euchre players show up regularly.

Bud Light, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Bell's Oberon and Third Shift are on tap at varying prices (the PBR is $1). Drafts are served in Ball jars. And Harry got his Manhattan, but the house style is with Southern Comfort and no cherry but with grenadine; it's a bit different but good. Food options are limited -- burgers, little pizzas and corn dogs.

Decor is the usual assortment of beer signs, along with a couple of plastic Falstaff Beer wall display cups. A fake fireplace gets turned on in the winter. A fake rooster stands on guard
Hours posted on front door
near the front door. Actually, the front door is kind of fake, too: It's for exiting only; the real entrance is in back.

The bar has had various names through the years -- Feather's, Bo Jo's and Hunter's. Janice and her husband bought it about six years ago and renamed it Malickey's (pronounced with an emphasis on the first syllable) -- a smushed-together contraction of their last names.

In a previous incarnation, Janice said, things often got out of control and the bar had become a beacon for cops. That's gone, she said. "We don't allow any drama or fights."

But the whole place -- bar and house -- now is for sale. There's a price, but it's negotiable, Janice says.

Why'd they buy it in the first place? "The kids wanted a bar," she said.

Hey, some kids want a car and their parents get it for them. So why not a bar, if that's what they want? At least you'll know where the kids go at night.


The bald guy's report: Howdy Doody
and Singapore Slings, of all things,
and a bottle of Drambuie for the ages


The first thing I wanted to get straight was how you pronounce the bar's name.  I think we can all agree on the "lickey" part, but what about the first syllable?  There were three possibilities.

It could be "Muh-lickey, emphasis second syllable, (with a tip of the hat to Leo Malicki, the patron saint of Bay City Legion baseball) not an uncommon name in the South End.  OK, so technically the Polish pronunciation is "Muh-leet-ski"  but if I said "Leo Muhleetski,"
Sign on side wall
maybe 4 people would know who I was talking about vs. untold hordes pronounced the other way.  OK, maybe not "untold hordes" but I have no idea how many people remember Leo -- keep in mind we're talkin' "old school" here but I'm sure a lot.

It could be "Ma Lickey."  Don't laugh.  There was a bar in the same area owned by a guy named Gwizdala and he called the bar, understandably, "Gwiz's."  My ex-brother-in-law's ex-wife, being from an area where there were no Polish people, thought the sign read, "Gee-Wiz's" (actually, not a bad name for a bar).  And Trix's, you'll recall, had an epic "sign-fail," so you never know.

Or is it "Maa-"  as in "mass" , which yields a result like the biblical name, "Malachi", only ending with an "ee" not "eye"?  And while I'm thinking about it, when's the last time you heard anyone name their child, "Malachi"?  Almost never and yet it's a pretty cool name.  I see my entire life different  had I been a "Malachi".  But I digress.

However, according to Janice (one of the owners), who was bartending that day, the winner is #3, a compendium of  the last names of the two owners, "Malenfant" -- a name familiar to most Bay Cityans and "Hickey" -- also familiar, at least to old Catholics, from a bishop by that name (and the unwitting foil of countless pubescent snarks over a man of the cloth and "hicky" in the same sentence).

My next question is  reminiscent of an old joke.  Man, craving seafood, walks into a posh New York restaurant and asks the maitre'd, "Excuse me sir, do you serve crabs?"  To which the maitre'd replies, "Of course sir, we serve everyone.  Right this way."  Keeping in mind that saying don't make it so, I had read elsewhere Malickey's  was "a gay bar."  So imagine the question, "Does this bar serve gays?"  "Gay, sad, we serve everyone .  Come right in."  Janice explained the clientele as "diverse" and "gay-friendly."

And here's my piece of investigative reporting:  According to Mr. Google, the latest definitive study on this matter was done in 2011 by the Williams School of Law, UCLA, whose analysis concluded that approximately 3.5% of the American population is
Stroh's is not forgotten ...
homosexual (defined as gay, lesbian, bi-).  And, according to the handy-dandy Bay City Bar Guide (Harry's, not mine; I can't find mine), excluding Auburn and including Essexville, there are 74 bars in Bay County.  At that ratio there should be 2.59 gay bars in the Bay area.  If Malickey's is the only one (and I hasten to point out it's only "gay-friendly," not "gay-exclusive"), then someone out there needs to kick it up a notch. I sense a tremendous marketing potential here.

When asked how she came to own this bar,  Janice replied, "The kids said they wanted a bar, so we got one."  Man, I see now just how low I aimed -- all I ever asked for was a damn Howdy Doody marionette.

The decor is standard bar decor- -- signs, mirrors, posters, etc., with a few notable exceptions.  One,  a faux "rescue" electric fireplace. Someone was going to throw it away
... nor is Falstaff
and someone else said, "Hey, put it in the bar."  According to Janice, it's a great atmosphere-setter in the winter -- sitting in front of one has a magic allure, reaching a primeval part of our psyche -- and kicks out a lot of heat, too.

Another is a pair of plastic Falstaff chalices.  They're probably supposed to be goblets; I think Falstaff would more likely drink out of a "goblet" but, maybe it's the old altar boy coming out in me. These looked more like chalices.  Making them notable is the fact Falstaff beer went out of production in 2005, thus making these chalices instantly a more valuable collector's item for anyone who does that.

And finally, is any bar really complete without a stuffed chicken?  I don't know where that came from ("from the egg, stupid, answering the age-old question"). I think Janice told me

but I don't remember, a recurrent theme anymore.  That too may have been a "rescue" artifact. ("Duh!  Like someone not a psycho would intentionally kill a chicken and have it stuffed purely for decor?" ) 

Hmm, I seem to be having an internal dialogue with myself, that too a more frequent occurrence. It could be a sign of age or wisdom.  I'll go with "wisdom--seeing more than
The chicken
one side of an issue."  'Course, could also be the dreaded D word, "dementia" ("or 'drunk'").  Anyway, when I saw it I thought of yin/yang of the American classic "Comin' Round The Mountain" -- Oh, we'll kill the ol' red rooster when she comes" -- it's innate cruelty and yet it's practical hospitality.

Kinda like the yin/yang of our visit.  Unlike past sojourns where access to the bartender was limited by necessary commerce, since we were the only ones there this time we had the bartender/owner all to ourselves. Yet, there being no other clientele made it impossible to assess and comment on the bar's "friendability." (I just made that word up; if the NFL can have "escapability," then I can have that.)  Nonetheless, we appreciated the unfettered access to Janice as she answered our many questions affably and friendably.

Like new and exotic drinks.  Janice ticked off a bunch of drinks they have and their ingredients.  Before we get into that, let me remind you I come from an era where a Singapore Sling was the exotic new kid on the block, made with grenadine syrup, gin, sweet and sour mix, club soda and cherry brandy.  Two boozes- -- gin and brandy -- and essentially fruit punch.  Liquid candy. 

But, going to my notes, now at  Malickey's you can get a Blue Motorcycle -- consisting of vodka, rum, gin, Curacao, Sprite and a couple more ingredients I wrote down but now
The scene inside
can't decipher.  ("Probably eye of toad and tongue of newt with a dollop of hair of the dog).    If you're not a biker, how about Liquid Marijuana  (completely legal)  or Lemon Drops or 77 Sunset Strip? 

The common denominator of all these drinks is they're all a booze-on-booze-on-booze-etc. concoction, taking 4 or 5 different boozes to make.  A far cry from the days of scotch-and-soda and a shot and a beer.  Next place I go to that has fancy drinks, I'm gonna ask if they can make a Singapore Sling -- not that I want one, just to see if there still is room for such a thing.  I hope I don't get laughed out of the place.

Incidentally, of the many things that go into making such cocktails, one definitely not used is Drambuie, a bottle of which sat directly across from me, a necessary staple in one of my "old school" drinks, a Rusty Nail. It came out in conversation that when Janice and her husband took over the place, much of the inventory went with it.  The bottle of Drambuie, for instance.  According to her calculations, it's about 25 years old.  It was there when she got there and she's never poured a drink since then that called for it. 

I smelled it and it smelled fine.  I don't think booze goes bad with age.  At any rate, some day I'm going to go back there and order a drink with some of that Drambuie.  See if a 25-year old booze makes a tasty "Nail."  ("Or just another nail in your coffin".)  'Til I can report back on that ("or die"), if you go there, you might not want to order anything with Drambuie.

Time wore on, we had more beer, Harry a Southern Comfort Manhattan (he said it was good, sweeter than his usual because of the Comfort, but overall a thumbs-up), ending our day at the pool table in a most unlikely fashion and, in the process, Harry and Doc get new nicknames.

Doc, as you may recall, had a pool table in his basement growing up, a fact we will never let him forget.  You may also recall he larruped us good in our last outing.  Not so this
Doc and Baldo at the bar
time.  First game, 8-ball, he was whippin'  me pretty serious when lo and behold, he scratches on the 8; I win.  Next game by some mysterious luck, I won legit.  Take that Mr. Pool-Table-in-the-Basement Richie Rich.


In the third and final game, Harry and Doc squared off. In the beginning they were both playing defense, with Doc having a slight edge  It was at this juncture that Doc started calling Harry "Detroit Slim" and Harry dubbed Doc "Basement Fats."

It came down to this. Fats (Doc) had only one ball left, the 8, while Slim (Harry) had two, the yellow 2 and the dark-blue 6.  But he was 'twixt a rock and a hard place because the 2 was at the opposite end and the 8 was in the way of the 6.    The only shot he had was a cross-table bank that would leave the cue a long way from the 2.  Nonetheless, he lined up the shot, the thought noodling his psyche that he hadn't made one of these in months. But, steeling his nerves, Slim drew back the cue and with a smooth, confident stroke. Click!  Thunk!  Plunk!  It went in!  A roar went up from the gallery. Well, me and Detroit Slim anyway.  Fats groaned in disbelief.

After that shot, with eyes narrowed and breathing slowed, Detroit Slim briefly checked the 8.  It was still set up for an easy shot in front of the left corner pocket; if he misses, it's a slam-dunk for Basement Fats.  But there was that pesky 2 down by the right corner pocket and the  cue ball was at the opposite end.  Again, there was only one possibility, a long-range shot off the far bank and back to the right-corner pocket.  And, wonder of wonders, that's exactly what he did.

Fats and I howled -- he in despair, me in exultation.  Then Detroit Slim, who'd brought the cue ball back to the 8, plooked it in almost anti-climactically, game-set-match. 
Entrance is through the back door
Unbelievable finish. There was nothing left to do but high-five and, bidding Janice a raucous farewell, we left with the roar of the crowd (well, us) ringing in our ears.


And I could end it here and and should, except ...

... After I got home, the wife and I went to visit our neighbors. They're in their 80s. She's dying, rather unexpectedly.  Maybe it sounds silly to say "unexpectedly" at that age, although what age isn't it unexpected?    At least to the person?

But it came on suddenly.  A week earlier, she was fine.  I guess that's what happens after so many years.  Like my grandfather said, facing his own demise, "The body's a machine.  It wears out."

The hospital discharged her so she could die at home surrounded by loved ones.  She was in a hospital bed by the patio door so she could watch TV and also see their backyard and the wildlife -- deer, turkeys, rabbits, squirrels -- they loved to watch  We were in their day room along with their daughter and son and his wife and two grandkids.

Next to her was her husband.  The kids bought him a lounge chair so he could sit and sleep alongside her.  They told me that other than necessary functions he hadn't left her side since she got home.  She was so weak she couldn't lift her head but he reached out for her hand and she reached for his; two wizened hands scrabbling across a white sheet for the comfort of each other, they connected and held hands through our visit.

And I got to thinking about this scene and Janice having to explain about her place being "gay-friendly" and "diverse," code for people of every stripe and color being welcome, of the unfortunate necessity to have to thus label it and I hope every bar is gay, or mostly gay, that is, a place where you have a good time.  Where you can be happy and gay -- "gay" as in the Christmas sense.

So I think of my neighbors and the love they share and I think of the terrorist dinks in the world who would harm us, and the troubles that beset us -- economy, energy, environment, etc. and the haters out there. And in the end, life is so short.  In the end, there's no room for hate. All we have is one another. In the end, it's two hands reaching across a white sheet -- for validation as human, to know you're not alone.

And I never did get that damn Howdy Doody marionette.

  The particulars:
  Malickey's Pub
  501 S. Madison at 16th
  989-414-6667

1 comment:

Jim said...

Thanks for the memories. I used to deliver the BC Times to this bar. On Saturday afternoons, I could always count on Grandma Isabel, or Uncle Feathers to treat me to a pop and a bag of chips. The bar used to be named after Uncle Feathers. Hence the name - Feather's Bar.

Jim