Jul 5, 2013

Trix's Pub: A bar with signs of a 4-tooth minimum (maybe), free beer tomorrow and a butt can today

Trix's: No fancy stuff, or preachin'
The hairy guy's report:

Setting off to see how far we could go into the South End before dropping off the edge of the Earth, we first stopped for lunch at Ole' Tyme at Broadway and 30th. It appears from everything inside that the intent is to name the place Ole Tyme, as in Old Time. But the signs outside say Ole', as in a Spanish sports chant.

It was a good lunch (a $3 Chicago-style hot dog for Harry, cod for Baldo and our comrade Doc). And after all, it's the food, drink and atmosphere -- not the signs -- that make a bar or restaurant.

But then it was on to Trix's Pub, and into some heavy-duty signage.
There's no happy hour at Trix's. There's no food beyond packaged snacks. But there are signs. Lots of signs. 

We're not talking about signs of a heart attack or signs from the dead or anything like that. We're talking about signs on walls and fences. And almost all of them are spelled correctly. Almost.

One sign outside announces "bar requirements" as shirt, shoes and "4 tooth minimum." Danielle the bartender told us they don't really check on the teeth.

Signs in the parking lot, just so it's all clear
Next to that one on the fence is another that lists rules of the tavern as "No peddin, no politikin, no preachin." Surely they meant "peddling," though a quick Google check for peddin turns up videos of young guys zipping around on very loud motorized scooters. You wouldn't want that in a bar, either -- not to mention the politikin and preachin. Last thing you need when you're trying to relax with a beer is someone trying to sell you stuff (besides another beer, maybe, or a burger). If you wanted to be preached to, you'd be in a church, not in a bar.

And we're happy to see there's no ominous-sounding dress code like we found on our recent stop at O'Hare's on Midland Street. A shirt and shoes seem reasonable enough (though if you don't have at least four teeth, you probably do need a drink).

We're going on about all this because the signs really are the defining decor for Trix's. (When we arrived on a stormy afternoon, the power went out for a bit but it didn't make much difference in the ambiance; the signs were still readable.)

Most places, for instance, just leave some sort of receptacle for cigarette butts outside the door. Trix's has a sign: "Please use butt can! Thank You!" (Actually, we're giving them the benefit of the doubt and assuming that the sign refers to cigarette butts. Any other use for something called a butt can is -- well, we're just not going there.)

No explanation needed
"Free beer tomorrow" says a sign inside. There are plenty of others; we won't even try to list them all.

You might find it all hokey. But at least there's something to read. Think of it as an educational experience. If you want to get serious about it, you can look for all the grammar errors. We won't spoil it here, but one sign on a fence outside reads:
    Trix's motto
    Thirst in
    thirst served 

Doc (whose hair level falls about midway between Harry's and Baldo's) had to explain that one. He grew up nearby, wouldn't you know.

Speaking of thirst, Trix's has Bud Light and Busch on tap. Shells are $1. We salute the simplicity of having just one light beer on tap, since as far as we can tell they all taste the same.

Trix's opens at 7:30 a.m. (noon on Sunday). There's no fancy sports stuff, only a pool table and darts. "They just come here to drink," said bartender Danielle, who has an impressive Japanese cherry blossom tattoo running across her right shoulder.

And sometimes, she said, they get a big crowd for themed party nights. Last one was graffiti night (sheets of paper and markers on all the tables). Before that was pajama night, which frankly sounds a lot more interesting.

If you ever need a drink after a rough flight into James Clements Airport, Trix's is the first bar you'll find in town. Bring pajamas, just in case.

The bald guy's report: Good times in Vegas
and, alas, sad signs of a shrinking world 

All my adult life, I've been 6-feet 1-inch tall.  Then, three doctor trips ago, I measured 6-feet.  Next trip 5-feet, 11-and-a-half.  Last trip, down no more but now I'm an inch-and-a-half shorter and starting to worry:  What if I'm not done?  If not, how small am I going to get? Visions of the Indian Rope Trick gnaw at the edge of my psyche. 

Of course, this shrinkage with age is not unheard of -- quite ordinary, in fact --  and yet it's one of those things you hope is never going to happen to you.  And on today's trip, I'm forced to confront other realities and shrinkages.

So I pick up Doc and head over to Harry's.  Doc asked where to this week?  It was east side time.  The last time I was in the deep South End, I'd seen an inconspicuous little place  I don't think I was ever in before.  As I recall, the sign said, "Trixie's".

Before embarking on this or any trip, Harry, the consummate journalist, likes to do his homework by learning what he can about a place online. He said their Facebook page has it as "Trix's" ... so WTF?  Wouldn't surprise me. O'Hare's, as I recall,  was unclear about its
Fair warning in the parking lot
name, as was Bailey's.  And sure enough, as we drove up, "Trix's" it is. However, nobody there called it that, nor do I.  A zillion movie and TV Trixies over the years, including Joyce Randolph, Ed Norton's wife on the old Jackie Gleason show who looked like someone who could own -- and be good at owning -- a bar took care of that.

Speaking of signs, signs, everywhere signs ... all kinds of signs around the parking lot, some cute, some even clever, some not, some unreadable due to wear.  But I applaud the attempt, a warm-up of sorts, getting you in the mood to have some lighthearted fun.  Going in, I half-expected the mandatory sign about being 21 to read "This Trix ain't for kids."  Alas, it did not (but I got to use "alas," which nowadays is darn difficult to work in a conversation and tickles a wordsmith no end).  As we entered, a couple of regulars were outside smoking and they greeted us with cheerful hellos.  A good sign.

Trixie's, however, was born under a bad sign.  Literally.  According to Danielle, the young
Danielle the bartender

and friendly bartender, when the current owners took over from Madeline's, the sign out front was supposed to read "Trixie's" (or "Trixi's").  How the end got left out is unclear.  No matter, as I said, cuz everyone calls it "Trixie's."  ( FWIW, I was in here before, when it was Madeline's" but it was smaller; that's why I didn't recognize it from the outside.  Danielle pointed out the addition line where Trixie expanded the joint by about a third.)

If Trixie's was in Las Vegas, it would probably be called  a "grind joint."  For those unfamiliar with the term, the most common definition is "a casino for low rollers."  But that's a gross oversimplification.  Don't be put off by the name.  Some of my favorite casinos are grind joints, not the least because they are. Most are downtown but some are/were on the Strip (O'Shea's, Imperial Palace, Slots-a-Fun, to name a few; O'Shea's and IP are now gone) and I've spent many an hour there.  Their forte is not glitz (although they try in their humble way)  but a friendly game, good prices and good service.  No fads, no frills, no fancy stuff. 

If you can read this, it's time to stop drinking
Trixie's is small with low ceilings. The bar itself is topped with formica. There are s no games, no food what ain't in a bag, two beers on tap (one regular, Busch, one light, Bud, but how many do you need?) and no air conditioning to speak of.  There is a "wall-shaker," but it was off because Danielle says it takes about 4 days to cool the place down. (Fortunately, it wasn't a very hot day and it wouldn't have mattered anyway because half-way through our visit, a storm knocked out the power.)

On the other hand,  they do have coolers in which there are other beers. And being intrigued by the TV commercials (to Harry's disgust because he believes fruit has no business in beer), I tried a Redd's Apple Ale and liked it. I paid $2.50.  Another bar I went to across town has it for $3.25.  That's what a grind joint'll get ya.  It comes down to this:  Whaddaya want, cheap drinks in a close, friendly atmosphere or air? Take your pick.  And after all,  we really only need air conditioning a couple hours a day a couple months a year, so what's the big deal?

Here's what else it gets you.  They had a raffle going and I bought an arm's length of tickets.  Normally, the seller splits them down the middle and hands them to you along with a pen for you to fill out. Here, Danielle filled them out for me.  Sure, it's small, but it's still good customer service -- as I said, one of the hallmarks of a grind joint.  One of the prizes was a $10 gift certificate to there and I said if I win that, we'll come back and I'll buy Harry and Doc and Rocky (a regular who we struck up a conversation with), a beer.  Hope I win.  Rocky does too.  But wait, there's more.

One of the problems with day-tripping is that you don't see the night-time personality of
A memorial on the ceiling inside Trix's
the bar.  In our case, this is by design.  We try to pick a time when we think/hope the bartender will be available for questions and we can catch a happy hour if it's available.  But we miss the extra things a place like Trixie's does. 

For instance, as Harry mentioned, they have "special" nights, the last of which was graffiti night.  Danielle said the place was packed for that; cars had to park in an overflow lot.  Poster boards and markers were put on each table for customers to comment as the mood strikes them. Trixie's saved them and Danielle brought them out.  A quick scan showed nothing like the legendary, "Some come here to sit and think...," but there were a lot of comments and artwork. And the number was impressive -- they made a stack at least an inch high -- testimony to the popularity of this offering.  Like I said, grind joints try hard in humble ways to develop a loyal customer base.  Danielle didn't know what was next or when it would be but there would definitely be more, and she was looking forward to it.  So were Trixie's patrons, I would  hazard a guess.

Eventually, it was time to go and we bade farewell, but we weren't done. There were more
Signs, perhaps from better days
signs, bad signs, ahead.

Eager to learn as much as he can about his adopted city, Harry asked what was south of Trixie's because  it looked like there was more commerce to the south.  So we went on a little tour.  Eventually we went past the house Doc grew up in, past the smallest house in Bay City, past Uncle Tony's place (Tony Bielawski, longtime chair of the Michigan Bay County Democratic Party -- Polish Catholics, when we were baptized, it was in the name of the Father, the Son, the Holy Ghost and Uncle Tony).

But what sticks in my mind is south of Trixie's.  At one time, Broadway south of Trixie's was rife with commerce.  Across the street was Anderson Radio, then Paul's Restaurant, a Coca-Cola bottling plant, the original Mr. Hot Dog, Roth Cleaners, a Pacific Pride Fleet Fueling station,  Virgil Somebody's Shell Station (previously one of the premier service stations in town) and, at the corner of Broadway and the southern border of the city, Bay City Milling -- a thriving food distribution business with a fleet of trucks and dozens of good-paying jobs, now just used for storage.  Beyond, a big auto shop,  a machine shop, a roller rink (later a nightclub), a motel  and a laundromat. All gone.  OK, there's still the airport, a half-empty trailer park and a small marina but other than that, gone.  All gone.

So the answer to Harry's  question of what's south of Trixie's? Essentially nothing, Saginaw.  The whole stretch from Trixie's south is nothing but shuttered hulks rusting in their weed-choked lots.

So it's not just me shrinking.  My city is shrinking also and by "city" I mean "world."  Sure, I can turn on the TV or fire up the computer and get D.C. and Boston and Egypt, but they're not HERE. HERE is my roots, my family, my home, my world.  And again, not like it's a big surprise, we are, after all, in the Rust Belt. But like my personal shrinkage,  I just hoped it would never happen because it signifies a stark representation of shrinking horizons for our young, our future. 

However, driving down Broadway, seeing the boarded-up businesses and "For Sale" signs, these are signs I can no longer ignore.  And Trixie's, now the southernmost bit of commerce in Bay City, stands alone while the Sea of Hard Times laps at her door.  My earnest hope is that the shrinkage is done, that I stay locked in at 5-feet-11-and-a-half, that Trixie's withstands the onslaught and we both stay around long enough to see some rejuvenation.  That's my hope, that's my hope.

  The particulars:
  Trix's Pub
  2307 Broadway near 36th


Pete Kuttner said...

"Danielle pointed out the addition line where Trixie expanded the joint by about a third."

You are better men than I am. I would have needed to smoke the extra third of the joint to stay as long as you did. You should have read the light beer on tap as a sign.

But I'm glad I stayed to closing time as the trip south on Broadway was worth it.

BTW, IMHO the guy who writes FWIW can't dis the other guy for looking up "Trix's" on facebook.

Have one on me.
[hairy in front, bald in back]

Anonymous said...

Hello there! I'm Jessica, the bar manager of Trix's Pub. This try was great to read and want to thank you. We might not be the best looking bar but when you come in, you will be treated with respect and kindness. I thrive to make this bar better, and seeing an article like this makes happy. :)
Thank you

Kristal Latimer said...

Nice write up

Ashkey Houghtaling said...

Hello my name is Ashley, so glad to see something posted about Trix's Pub! YOU TRULEY MISSED the great music on the weekend they have awesome dj's and there customers are some of bay citys kindest and most respectful people around, never have I seen a group of bartenders more into making you feel at home! Not to mention the drink specials are outta this world. True there is no keno or fancy out door lounge area (BUT WHO REALLY NEEDS THAT ANY WAYS). The drink prices speak for themselves that its always happy hour here! The place is packed on weekends and new years eve every year is amazing!