[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.]
"Fuck the 49ers!" bellowed the guy in a Packers shirt as he burst through the back doors of the 13th Frame Lounge with a girl in a Pack-ers jersey and toddler in tow. "Give me two shots and a pitcher of Bud Light," he announced to the bar. Even-keeled Jan asked what kind of shots. "Anything," he replied.
His woman walked several paces behind him, wheeling a bowling bag. Which certainly would be an odd thing to bring to a cocktail lounge were this '60s-style hangout not attached to the legendary La Habra 300 Bowl. It was as if the trio had a Walter Sobchak mo-ment after Green Bay lost and said, "Fuck it, Dude. Let's go bowling."
But this review isn't about bowling or even football. The 13th Frame Lounge stands on its own as a drinking establishment, with two large rooms, a stage, and decent liquor and beer selections. And for those who miss the days of smoking indoors at a bar, there's even a sealed-off smoking area with a flat-screen TV and a remote for you. Handling it all is Jan, who'll explain to anyone who asks that she came here on vacation from Canada with her husband a couple of decades ago and just never left. Stop by on Cinco de Mayo to celebrate her 25th anniversary of slinging drinks here!
Two young men sat to my left. I often get asked about my tattoos as an ice breaker, and the man nearest me (Sal, as I later learned) asked about my most morbid one, the one that has to do with dying. Why did I get it? "Many reasons, but one is, I'm afraid to die," I replied. "I'm hoping by seeing this every day, it helps me face that fear."
"I think we come back," Sal says. "We become a new person each time we die."
"I don't know about that," I responded. "How come I don't remember anything before this life? It's all blank before, like, age 2."
"It would be too heavy, too much of a burden to remember all of your lives," he explained. "But we do get glimpses of it. You know, déjà vu? You experience it then."
"No one is afraid to die," says Jan, jumping in. "Other than being murdered, the act of dying itself doesn't hurt. People are afraid to not exist."
"That's exactly right. I'm afraid that I've put in all this work in life, and then it's gone. Lights out. That's what terrifies me the most."
"If that happens, you won't be around to experience it, so it won't affect you," Jan explained.
Sal, his friend and I continued our existential discussion, trying to keep it as light as you can considering the subject. The two finished their drinks. "Hey, try not to worry about it," Sal told me before leaving.
By then, another young man had taken the spot one seat to my right. He had overheard the discussion. "I think we just rot in the ground," he said. His name was Joseph, and like me, he had come into the lounge to drink while his friends bowled on the other side of the wall, undoubtedly not having the same dark-toned discussion.
After Joseph left to join his friends, I watched The Simpsons on one of the few TVs behind the bar, trying to lighten up the night. One fellow drinker asked Jan if she thought the place was haunted. "I always joke about the lights turning on and off by themselves–which they do," she replied. "Whenever the owner takes pictures here in the bar, she captures orbs."
Luckily, a patron named Mike sat next to me and cleared some doom and gloom out of the air. "I just won $450 on keno!" he said proudly.
"Congrats, man, that's awesome," I said. "Wait, you can play keno here?"
"Yep, and I just won. This beer's on me! 'Course I spent about a grand to get there, but . . ."
As the Dude once famously mused about life, "Oh, you know, strikes and gutters, ups and downs."
GO HERE IF: You have a penchant for midcentury modern.
FAVORITE FLAIR: The classic popcorn machine that dispenses free popcorn!
13th Frame Lounge at La Habra 300 Bowl, 370 E. Whittier Blvd., La Habra, (562) 691-6721; www.lhbowl.com.