[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 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.]
Placentia's Group Therapy Pub drew me solely by its name–not just because it's a clever play on words, but also because I participated in group therapy myself a fortnight ago. Before I committed myself to the loony bin, my favorite bar was my therapy. It was where I felt loved, unconditionally accepted, no matter my state of mind. It was a wonderful support group in moments of weakness. And this is how I imagine many neighborhood bars operate: a community of, if not like-minded, men and women of close proximity who can relate to similar happiness, sadness, anger or topics of interest, politics and booze. Group therapy, indeed.
Enough self-analysis: The pub version is a narrow bar that shares a strip mall with a Chuck-E-Cheese, a tasty sushi restaurant and a dry cleaner. We rolled into the only lit establishment in this strip mall at 9:30 p.m. on a Wednesday night and sat down at the first available bar stool toward the back. A friendly, bleached-blond bartender named Angie greeted us and proceeded to tell us about the beer program: When you get to 10 beers, you get a draft for a buck. More bars should do this!
Angie struck up small talk with her customers; it seemed like almost everyone except us were regulars resting their bones. She was perfectly attentive for running the bar by herself that night–even if I did spill beer all over her. Let me explain: I reached over to my right and knocked over my drinking partner's chalice of Great White. My only saving grace? I actually caught the glass before it broke! I did it very spastically, which resulted in spilling more beer and giving Angie a shower, but this clutzy fuck actually caught a glass!
The bar itself is brightly lit, with an Internet jukebox blaring hard rock from Rise Against and Lamb of God and hip-hop from the likes of Birdman, and V.I.C.'s “Wobble.” Red beer flags lined the ceiling, and the walls were splashed with neon beer-company signs, promotional sports memorabilia and framed concert posters touting vintage shows from Elvis, Chuck Berry with Buddy Holly, and Johnny Cash. Between the loud music and the young men hootin' and hollerin' during their darts matches, conversations were a bit hard to come by–it ain't a place for philosophizing, and that's okay. The patrons–mostly men in their 20s–more or less seemed to know one another and the bartender. On the television was the majestic, triple-overtime Game One of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Boston Bruins and the Chicago Blackhawks. Upon ending, someone changed it to the news, which broadcast an officer-involved shooting in Fullerton.
[ The bar went eerily silent. Thoughts of Kelly Thomas' murder came bubbling up in this bar only minutes away from Fullerton. Then a guy broke the silence. "Hey! It wasn't me! I was here the whole time!” Another guy was just coming back from the bathroom, when the first guy asks suspiciously, "Hey, where have you been, man?” The bar started laughing, and then the chatter resumed. The topic of the Fullerton P.D. and Kelly Thomas and the pending trial stayed on the surface for a while. It was unclear from the newscast if the suspect shot was armed or not, so we just hoped it wasn't a repeat of that horrific July 5, 2011, night. (Turned out the guy was armed, so Fullerton's bullies in blue were right for once.)
Despite that bummer at the end, it was a fun night, and we left happier than when we entered–which is what group therapy's all about, right?
OVERHEARD: Angie: "You're lucky I don't know how to spell your last name, otherwise I would have looked you up to see if you were in jail.” Customer: "Oh, my family already did that.”
GO HERE IF: You want people to think you're bettering yourself as a person instead of going to a bar. "Oh, sorry, I can't. I'm going to Group Therapy today.”
Group Therapy Pub 2965 E. Imperial Hwy., Placentia, (714) 528-9888; www.grouptherapypub.com.