[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 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.]
If you ever find yourself bored, poor and (heaven forbid) sober, you'd better hope you're near Fourth Street in Long Beach, for here is truly heaven on Earth. This infamous drag of dives stretches for six blocks and plays host to several legendary, dank holes: Fern's, Ashley's, the Red Room. But if you need a break from that, head into the V Room, that delightful bar that's even dark in the daylight and equal parts kitschy and creepy (the Haunted Mansion kinda creepy, not the Yellow King kinda creepy, that is). Despite the alcohol pouring cheaply and steadily for tattooed ruffians and scoundrels, this bar is where otherwise-rowdy punks head to hang their hats and have a mellow time in their own element.
Sure, the bar flirts with the craft-cocktail world a bit, but it does so in its own way, with pisco sours for $6 and crafted martinis at the same price. There's also a variety of playful shots such as the Breakfast Shot--a mix of Jim Beam Maple, orange juice and a slice of bacon--and the Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Fireball whiskey, RumChata, butterscotch schnapps and a graham cracker rim. Since the bar opens daily at 6 a.m., no other breakfast is needed for the day. No beers are on tap, but Tecate and PBR are $3 all day every day.
In a time when even the most storied dive bars have converted to an Internet jukebox, the V Room has kept its CD jukebox, a relic that has become a local treasure partly because of its rarity, but also because it's stocked with punk, oldies, classic country and beyond. Rest assured you can come in here and not hear Pharrell or Katy Perry. And music was the subject of conversation when I walked in one night about 9. At the bar, the group next to me was talking about legendary hardcore LA punks the Minutemen and a reunion of sorts. "Now there's a name I haven't heard in a minute," one guy quipped, and they all joined together in laughter. Farther down the bar, one man in a dark-gray Black Flag shirt sat quietly and drew or wrote in his black notebook for hours.
I myself drew on scrap napkins and bits of paper found in my purse to entertain my brain between drinks. I looked over at the man sitting next to me in the blue Suicidal Tendencies hoodie and backward blue cap. "Are you an artist?" he asked.
"I used to be," I responded. "I stopped drawing a while ago, but I want to get back into it." As coincidence would have it, the young man was an artist himself. He showed me examples of his street art and beautiful portraits of nude women against graffiti.
"What should I draw?" I asked him. He paused. "A taco riding a bicycle." And so I sketched out a few key parts of a taco riding a bicycle before diving into it. Twenty minutes or so later, I handed him the paper square of "Taco Riding a Bicycle©." "I fucked up the hands, but here you go," I said, slapping the paper down on the wooden bar. He smiled. "Yup, that's a taco riding a bicycle, all right," he said before Instagraming it. "I'm gunna put it on my fridge."
"Well, that means a lot," I said, "but you don't have to do that."
"I'm going to," he said, grabbing the sketch. He then headed to his home down the street. As the night went on, the bar filled up steadily. Seats, then standing room became increasingly scarce, but we all managed to play nice. People were ordering behind me, and I didn't pay it much mind until one of the pretty young tattooed bartenders looked over my shoulder and said, "Are you crazy?"
I turned around. "Are you seriously smoking that inside?" she asked a young man behind me, pointing toward the door. "This isn't Vegas, take it outside," she said, and our side of the bar laughed aloud.
When he came back in, sans cigarette, he said, "Sorry, I didn't know . . ."
That's drama here, and sometimes, that's all you need.
BEST QUOTE OF THE NIGHT: "That's a love song. You know what else is also a love song? 'You Can't Always Get What You Want.' Now that's punk rock."
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FAVORITE PIECE OF FLAIR: The brightly colored Hank Williams painting hanging in the back room.
The V Room, 918 E. Fourth St., Long Beach, (562) 437-4396.