It was a typical night on Railroad Avenue as I hurried past a shouting match on the corner of Holly Street. A few underage kids were hanging around outside the Horseshoe Cafá©. However, it was not a typical night for Raising the Bar. It was an AS Review staff outing to the Ranch Room—the Horseshoe's full service bar—and I had high hopes of writing the best damn Raising the Bar yet.
I found AS Review editor in chief J. Adam Brinson sitting heroically alone in a dark corner. Above him was a mural of a cowboy leaning through a window. The mural seems to be painted over another, similar mural, which makes it seem like you are seeing double before you have even started drinking. A chandelier made from a wagon wheel hung from the ceiling. Brinson bought the first round of drinks, and we sipped on Jack Daniels until assistant editor Casey D. Hall arrived. Hall mulled his drink options until Brinson decided to buy him a Bay Breeze.
The Ranch Room is a dark, windowless little cave, which makes it a great place to watch a college football game or an episode of “American Gladiators.” The service is friendly but unobtrusive, which makes it easy to relax. The single pool table is in the back, away from the general seating, so you won't have to edge your way around it to return to your table with your hands full of drinks. There isn't much standing room, which keeps the place from getting uncomfortably packed on a Friday or Saturday night.
There were only a handful of patrons in the Ranch Room on this particular Tuesday night. Events editor Erin Miller sauntered in at 9:35, ordering a Boundary Bay Scotch Ale on Brinson's tab. After buying six drinks, Brinson had only spent $17.75, giving credibility to rumors that the Ranch Room is one of the most affordable bars around town. At 9:44 p.m., The Flaming Lips' “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song” came on the juke box, and the future of the night began to look bright.
Emily Barker arrived and ordered a Long Island iced tea. Barker and Miller talked about men and made witty banter while Brinson considered possible names for a drink containing whiskey, cream and coffee liqueur. I liked “The Nihilist.”
Confessions of The AS Review
The seafood platter arrived at 10:27, and the feeding frenzy began. I grabbed handfuls of prawns with a total disregard for table manners. Around this time, the conversation turned to video games. Hall told us that in high school, he and his girlfriends would make female characters on EverQuest, an online game, just to hit on other men. After trying out pick-up lines such as “I like your axe,” Hall and his friends would inevitably reveal that he was a man, and, I can only assume, his female character would run away giggling. Brinson confessed that he used to create gay and lesbian couples on Sims. He quickly added the only reason he did it was just to challenge the status quo.
Next came the revelation that Barker used to subscribe to Nintendo Power. She did not own a Nintendo 64, but she still read articles about the games that came out for that system. At age 11, Barker spent much of her free time pretending she was Link from The Legend of Zelda. She even did her hair to look like Link's in front of the mirror each night before going to bed.
My biggest complaint with the Ranch Room is that they no longer have the classic video game “Big Buck Hunter.” My trigger finger was itching to shoot at some big horn sheep. Instead, they have a bowling simulator called “Silver Strike 2000.” I was skeptical at first, but the four of us decided to shell out a dollar each to try our hand at video game bowling. With Hanson's “MMMBop” playing on the juke box, it was almost as good as the real thing.
It was approaching midnight. Miller had left earlier. The bar was almost empty and the chairs were already up on the tables. Hall pushed random buttons during Emily's turn, which seemed to help her game. After the requisite 10 rounds, Hall bowled a 66, I bowled a 77, Barker an 80, and Brinson a 108.
At the end of the game Brinson thumped his chest and proclaimed, “That's why I'm editor in chief!” We all entered our initials, which prompted us to begin telling each other our middle names. Once Brinson learned my initials were S.G.R.—despite the fact that I told him my middle name is Gary—he insisted on calling me “Star Gate Reno” for the rest of the night.