[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 newest nightlife column Dive, Dive, My Darling. Read this week as our bold editor-in-chief, Gustavo Arellano takes over for web editor Taylor "Hellcat" Hamby and stumbles into the dive bar scene to find crazy stories, meet random weirdos and guzzle good booze.]
There's apparently a Chapman University tradition that dictates seniors hit Paul's Cocktails off the Orange Circle the morning of Graduation Day for a precommencement drink. That sure wasn't around when I graduated from the private college in 2001 (nor was its infamous Undie Run, for that matter). And such a august ritual certainly doesn't mesh with my Paul's tradition: nearly getting into fights.
Oh, I never sought them--they just came. One time, a cholo kept trying to hit me up, not content with me claiming a P.O. Box in Anaheim as my set. Another year, a lowlife out of Ask the Dusk had a problem with my pal and I talking in Spanish so early in the afternoon--if I remember correctly, he called us wetbacks, spics, beaners and wabs (and did I mention that the gabacho was darker than us light-skinned Mexis?). And I can't remember the exact details of the third near-fight, except it involved a girl I once knew, a jealous boyfriend, how he once fainted when she broke up with him for me, and how I laughed about it at a dinner party years before. In each case, a wise, sober friend stepped in to avert me cracking a pool cue over someone's head, and that was the Paul's I loved: a rough-and-tumble hole filled with locals ornery enough to keep the hipsters and bros at bay forever.
So imagine my surprise when I hit up Paul's on a recent Friday night along with the Jeffs who own the fabulous Chapter One: the modern local in SanTana, Hall and Jensen. (Also in tow were two politicians, whom I won't mention by name because I promised our drunken escapades would be off the record--first and only time that'll happen, so consider yourselves lucky, cabrones!) The two Jeffs, the two pols and I were ready to dive it, ready to have illuminating conversations with random weirdos, so we got a taxi ride from downtown SanTana with a guy who called himself Mo but whose license said "Mohammad" (make us drunken kaffirs say your name, son!). He dropped us off, and we were excited . . . until we walked into a college bar out of Tempe.
Gone was Paul's dank; in its place were bright lights, a bunch of flat-screens and a digital jukebox that blasted songs slightly too cool for KRTH (Gladys Knight & the Pips' version of "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," James Brown's "Night Train") but very out-of-place at an OC working-class bar. The old signs, slate-wood walls, bar and pool tables were there, but what happened to the shuffleboard? One section had turned into an ottoman-filled room where gals chirped away while their guys tried to act blue-collar by ordering generic beers.
There was not a grizzled local in sight; in their place were Chapman kids who were so darn happy and nice it made me downright depressed (thank God I didn't run into one of my former students here, although I'd hope that staffers with The Panther would end their nights at the Cherry Pit off Katella Avenue, which makes the old Paul's seem as classy as the Balboa Bay Club). Everyone was talking and smiling, and I was half-tempted to use the old "This place is dead, anyways" line from Swingers on the Jeffs and the pols to get the hell out of there--just wasn't our scene. So we did our double shots of Jameson, got in a cab and went to Memphis At the Santora for a nightcap.
Places don't stay the same, I understand. But oh, Paul's, how I miss the old you. Chapman's a great school, but it's slowly turning the barrios and hoods around it into one giant, genteel kegger. Or is it that I've changed, that I'm no longer the angry young man of a decade ago, and you remain the fine establishment you still are in your current incarnation--and it was I who was the scuzzball back then, not you? That latter theory can't be true, as the two Jeffs, myself and a group of activists nearly got in a fight with a bunch of wabs at a paisa bar--but that's another story for another time. . . .
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GO HERE IF: You're looking for coeds and chubby Chicanas who never went to college and are looking to party.
OVERHEARD: "Are you going to wear a G-string or a thong to Undie Run?" asked one blonde of another.
Paul's Cocktails, 207 W. Chapman Ave., Orange, (714) 639-2480.