[Editor's Note: We all know local music and dive bars go hand-in-hand. So in the interest of merging the two together on Heard Mentality, we bring you our weekly nightlife column Dive, Dive, My Darling. Read as our bold web editor, Taylor "Hellcat" Hamby, stumbles into the dive bar scene every week to find crazy stories, meet random weirdos and guzzle good booze.]
I could smell the ocean as I walked the few steps from my car to the mouth of the Hobbit hole that is Turcs. The overgrown foliage engulfing the outside is a familiar sight along this stretch of PCH--the bar has been here since 1953, after all.
Thoughts of a less-than-welcome last visit crossed my thoughts. I had pissed off a weekend night bartender about a year ago after commenting on her slow service. "Who the fuck even wants this girl here?" she yelled to the bar. "Raise your hand if you even like this bitch!"
The patrons on the patio responded with an enthusiastic, "Yes!" But the experience left a sour taste in my mouth, and I hadn't returned since--until now.
This time, how would the real regulars, the Sunset residents in the bar before sunset, take me?
There was an elderly gentleman on the stool nearest the door. "Hi!" I said, unsure if he was checking I.D.s or just looking out the door.
"Hi! How are you?" he responded in a very friendly manner.
Sam has haunted Turcs since its opening day (back when it was spelled with a K). Oh, how I wish I had heard the stories he could have told--if he had knocked back whiskey with John Wayne or Errol Flynn, since the local lore insists both screen gods were regulars--but his son soon came to pick him up.
I then pulled up to the bar, where longtime bartender Joy greeted me by pouring shots of Fireball. It was 4 p.m. The interior is even more charming than the outside, with two fish tanks behind the bar and other old nautical décor, such as the shelving holding the liquor made of badass anchor chain. There's a cozy fireplace to sit by in the front bar room, and pool tables and bathrooms in the back.
The man sitting next to me, wearing a red Wizard of Oz tee and blue puffy vest, quickly engaged me in conversation. "Name's Bart, like Simpson, as in the show," he said, putting out his hand. He has met The Simpsons creator Matt Groening ("However you say it," he says) twice, and he told the cartoonist he owes him residuals because he's the real-life version of Bart Simpson.
"So you're a troublemaker?" I asked.
"No, I wouldn't say I cause trouble. I let someone else come up with the idea, but I move it along," Bart qualified.
"Ah, you're an instigator then."
"No, I'm not an instigator," he continued, taking Bart Simpson's characteristic I-didn't-do-it stance.
If you ever wondered what that young, spiky-haired Simpson grew up to be (ignoring the flash-to-the-future episodes), it could be a successful salesman who traded his lucky red cap for a leather fisherman's hat to put over gray hair. "I don't like that four-letter word," he remarked. "My hair is light black and dark white." He was kind enough to offer me some sales advice as we drank together (which I'm going to keep close to my chest because times are tough, you know?).
As I took Bart's life lessons, I got waves and smiles from folks down at the end of the bar, and old Sam from the door came up to us.
"What are you doing, talking to my wife?" he asked Bart while taking my arm. A man from the end of the bar came up. "Is this old man bothering you?" he asked, introducing himself as Brian. I laughed and said not at all
Then it was time for Bart to leave. "I'm on a mission," he announced, putting on his floppy hat and bidding farewell. "I have to get presents for my kids and grandkids and my out-laws."
"Would you like to join us here on this side of the bar?" Joy asked me. Flattered, I moved over a few seats, closer to the salty regulars, receiving warm greetings from Fireman Brian, husband and wife Joni and Ron (also neighbors of Joy), and more. They gave me another shot of Fireball as a welcome, and we spent the rest of the afternoon joking, laughing and reminiscing about the Sunset Beach of yesteryear.
I walked in as the only person who didn't know everyone by name, and I left with everyone calling me by mine. Thanks for the warm welcome back, Turcs. BEST QUOTE OF THE NIGHT: "I've seen this guy naked--it wasn't pretty!" Brian, about a fellow regular and friend.
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FAVORITE PIECE OF FLAIR: The aquariums behind the bar. Watch the puffer fish named Sunshine as Joy talks to him: He wags like a dog when she gives him attention.
Turcs, 16321 Pacific Coast Hwy., Sunset Beach, (562) 592-2311.