Smile Politely

10 ways to lose your C-U virginity, part 2: Losing it on a pubcrawl

Editor’s revision: As an ongoing series, here’s the first article in the series, which debuted last week. (PS)

10 ways to lose your C-U virginity, part 2: Pubcrawling: A Clear Path to Gastric Lavage

Your stomach isn’t the only thing that’s gonna be pumped.

Rebecah and I decided to write our next lost “Virginity” debacle on the assorted hangouts in C-U where a person might get to know some locals and get a cheap buzz on. We took our respective significant others along to referee and drive us around, and a good time was had by all. The only request I made of my fearless leader was that we take pictures of the graffiti in our respective restrooms in each place we hit. Here is this week’s winner:

Rebs decided we should meet up at the Brass Rail in Downtown Champaign. Turns out I’ve walked by this place at least a dozen times since I blew into town in May, but I didn’t know it was a bar until I saw someone stumble out the side door. My co-editor was leading this descent into degradation. Like many youngsters will be this fall, I am a newbie to C-U’s colorful collection of cocktail joints, and she is the seasoned vet.

My dive director was already nursing a cold one at the bar when I got there. I was greeted by cozy wood paneling, a friendly barkeep, and  a cash only exchange for booze.

Not a problem. Hamm’s are always $2.25 at the Rail, and the hard stuff is reasonable. In fact, this is the first place I’ve been to in town that offered small bottles to go when you want to take your party elsewhere.

I looked down at my feet at the kick rail expecting to see brass, but no dice. A Yelp review said the bar turned over the long hunk of metal to help the war effort a million years ago. I did not verify this with my friend behind the bar because I didn’t want to look like an idiot.

Rebs and I hashed out some SP business until the S.O.’s showed, then we moved to a booth. I’d like to say the booth was cozy as well, but it’d be more accurate to say that it was painful. Rebs is a small little thing and skittered in there like a spider monkey. I was reduced to tears, unfortunately, as I repeatedly banged my knees on the solid steel supports underneath.

She told me that Al Pacino’s Scarface often ran on loop on the TV aimed toward the back of the “shotgun” bar. Today, the barkeep was oscillating between a baseball game and  Sam Cooke, nice and loud. It was almost 2pm when we started and I wisely decided to order some food before I started pouring the poison.

I saw a big sign that read “Butch’s Pizza,” and asked if anybody else needed a gut bomb, and ordered a small pepperoni. I had already placed my order when I realized that our first stop didn’t have a kitchen.

Again, not a problem. Fridge + Pizza + Microwave = Gut bomb. I’ve had worse.

We didn’t get to chat with the locals much, but there was an older gal with an oxygen tank that seemed nice, and the presence of a Hamm’s Christmas tree atop a “Friends — The Board Game” box made me smile.

Bentley’s was dead for a Friday afternoon, though Rebs verified that on a good night this is the place to catch bartenders dancing on the bar, local band Upshot (they have a regular gig at Bentley’s on Tuesdays), and karaoke from the soul.

Today’s adventure was a bit tamer. After ordering a few beers, we sat back to take the atmosphere in. This is a place with ornate, old-looking ceilings and a bobby hat over the bar.

Toilet paper was missing from the ladies room and Bentley girls have little taste for graffiiti. Similarly, the mens room was lacking paper towels and the only graffiti was illegible, and scrawled across the bottom of an innocent vending machine.

The breath freshener and the advil came in handy, but whatever you do, avoid the gum at all costs. They must not have replaced it in years. It was really old, stale, and chewy.

The only request I made of my fearless leader was that we tumble into The Tumble Inn Tavern. Maybe it was the name, maybe it was the size of the place, I’d driven past it and wanted to check it out.

Really glad we did.

A fixture in Champaign since 1947, the Tumble Inn is family owned and immediately reminded me of home. I took a picture of the front door and when I walked in a gal was waiting for me and laughing.

I must’ve looked like a real jackass.

The rest of the crawlers stole in after me, and wisely pretended not to know who I was.

I tried to explain my “touristy” behavior to my new friend, Roach, and that I was doing a story on a C-U pub crawl. She quickly forgave me, and I was able to catch up to my peeps before they got out the back door.

The Tumble is definitely the place to go if you like The St. Louis Cardinals or the color red. Everything is red. Red plaid floor, red plaid bar, red ceiling, red barstools, but they did put up some pennants up for the Chicago Cubs just to offset everything.

Our bartender introduced himself as Jason, and the wife ordered my usual as I inspected the the graffiti in the little editors’ room. He was very nice and accepted our cash (only) in exchange for our libations. The ladies room was clean of drunken defacements, and men’s room followed suit.

Then, I saw it… 

Now, I’ll admit that I’d had a few rounds by this time, but when I saw “d-e-a-t-h” written in relief red across the white cinderblock wall, the hair stood up on the back of my neck and I sobered up pretty fast.

I thought I’d suddenly become the lead character in a Japanese horror flick, and that at any moment a seaweed-encrusted little girl with black eyes was gonna crawl out of the toilet and swallow my soul.

I splashed water on my face, and when I was convinced no one was following me through the mirror, I made my way back to the party. I felt better when I walked by their huge display of old Tumble Inn T-Shirts just outside the ladies room.

Once back to the fun, I was glad to see my crawlmates had struck up a conversation with Theresa (Roach), and her nephew Mark.

Ahh… There it was.

This is what I’m accustomed to. People unzombified by the world of rectangular hypnotizing machines that we pack everywhere with us. People actually capable of conversation, interesting stories, and polite interactions without having to check their “status” every two seconds? I’ll tell you what your status is the first time you pull that thing out while we’re mid conversation; it’s called being an asshole.

Mark and Roach explained to this neophyte, which places to try next, which places were too hoity-toity, and which places to downright avoid. It was helpful information but did not dominate our time together. It was the same way with Jason. They found out a little about us, and we found out a little about them. That is what The Tumble Inn is all about. Unpretentious people who tumble in to catch a bit of the game, have a few drinks and make a few friends.

We packed up our new list of haunts bid the gang goodbye and went on our way.

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