[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 this week as our bold editor-in-chief, Gustavo Arellano stumbles into the dive bar scene to find crazy stories, meet random weirdos and guzzle good booze.]
Is it possible to do a story about a business in Stanton without making it all about . . . you know, Stanton? The answer, of course, is no. No other city colors everything and everyone within its limits like OC's most-ridiculed town. Run a fancy business such as Park Ave.? People inevitably mention the miracle of it existing in the Colton of Orange County. Own a sorta nice place? Critics will mention the city's frizzled masses, its excess of Breaking Bad scenarios playing out daily on Beach Boulevard, the sadness that is the City Council closing the parks a couple of years back because of a lack of funds to maintain them. And if a crazy crime occurs? Well, it is Stanton. . . .
Even this review of the Corner Pocket is all Stanton. The lowslung dive is a glorious time capsule of the 1980s, down to the shitty country music, cottage-cheese ceiling and cutouts of naked Playboy models in the men's room that find all the Bunnys shaved down to a wispy landing strip per the preference of yuppies. It's in an industrial area just down the street from Orco Block's headquarters and a block away from the awesomely named Standustrial Street. Right next door is the ever-growing Bethel Romanian Pentecostal Church, who'd no doubt try to save some souls at the Corner Pocket if they knew the fun going on inside. For here is rollicking beauty, the type of place where hipsters stay away in terror because this is working-class Orange County at its gnarliest. In other words? Stanton.
Dave the Mountain and I swung by early on a Saturday, and Neil Young and AC/DC were on full blast. On one side of the bar, patrons quietly nursed their drinks; the rest centered their talk on the two pool tables. True to its name, the Corner Pocket is a billiards bar, with numerous fliers advertising weekly tournaments and a sign letting patrons know games are free with a one-drink minimum.
Dave and I tried to talk, but the atmosphere was too surreal for mere chatter. Nothing but gawking for us: women wearing bandannas and Zig-Zag T-shirts with no sense of irony. White men in their 50s who never left the working class, all gnarled skin and squinty eyes borne from a lifetime of honest work. A gal in her 50s dressed in a frilled, faded blouse circa 1992. A token younger girlfriend, who writhed all over her grizzled guy in her Lululemon finest and even slow-danced with him to "Always and Forever."
"If everyone here were Mexican," Dave said with a big grin, admiring the working-class joy of it all, "this would totally be a paisa bar."
And I haven't even mentioned the Jell-O shots. What passed for craft cocktails here for the cute bartender (who was wearing the simplest, skimpiest little black dress this side of a boudoir) was a Screwdriver–but what do you expect from a dive that sells Hot Pockets as an entrée? Instead, a huge, multicolored paper announced that the aforementioned shots sold for a buck. I haven't seen a bar boast of them in forever, so I ordered one. "Why, sure!" she chipperly said, as she opened an old-school freezer (the small kind built into walls) and produced a tray of pineapple and strawberry delights.
"I made a batch two days ago," she said, as Dave and I saw that almost half of them were already gone. Better cocktails awaited us at Playground in downtown SanTana; crazier times would happen even later for me at the 500 Club (a column for another time). Seriously, Jell-O shots in 21st century Orange County? How retrograde, how declassé, how . . . Stanton. But when you're drinking in a 'burb that has an out-of-focus bird of paradise flower on its home page, you don't argue. I ordered a pineapple shot, and it was just like its hometown: fucking OLD SKOOL.
FAVORITE PIECE OF FLAIR: The four-pack of mini-Sutter Home wine bottles behind the counter. So 1980s!
LINE OF THE NIGHT: "I'm a lot like Raymond!" Line sung to Neil Young's "Old Man" about one of the regulars.
The Corner Pocket, 10781 Dale Ave., Stanton, (714) 952-1437.