The Strip was alive last weekend.
A-day attracted fans of all types from far and wide. They came not so much to scout out the Tide’s 2012 roster as much as they came for the spectacle. People who aren’t even heavily invested in college football come because they know that they will be entertained, if not by the football then by the after-party.
The Strip was a madhouse. Around ten o’clock, University Boulevard was an impassable sea of people waiting to be admitted to various bars and restaurants. By one o’clock, the sea had grown larger and more restless. Many were still seeking admittance to Rounders and Gallettes; many more had just re-emerged and were looking for the next leg of their Saturday night adventure.
I was looking for some fun of my own, so I entered the fray. I was quickly disappointed.
First stop: Rounders. There was a line to get in, and most of those in it were already falling down drunk. The crowd outside was composed of about five parts skankily clad women for every two parts Division 1 Athlete. I think I know what they were there for, and it wasn’t a casual drink. I didn’t really see myself fitting into this jigsaw anywhere, so I kept moving.
Next: The Houndstooth. Recently named a top 50 Southern Bar by Garden and Gun magazine, whom I consider to be an authority on such matters, this place got my hopes up. The first warning sign was that the portico was overflowing with white men in PFG button-ups and Columbia short-shorts. Undeterred, I poked my head in but was nearly blinded by the aggregate effect of 40 HD television screens blasting me with ESPN. I’m not sure why people would pay money to get drunk in front of a television, so this wasn’t really my thing. I found the inside of this barn to be a lot like the people who were out on the portico: dull, flavorless and without character.
I had come to the intersection of University Boulevard and Red Drew Avenue. I peered around the corner. On the left was The Red Shed. It seemed to be attracting the same crowd as the Houndstooth, and struck me as a wannabe Gallettes. Across the street was Horny’s, but with one-way glass for windows and a name like Horny’s, it was just too big of a risk.
Deflated, I turned to head home, when I noticed an unsuspecting black door in front of me. Set against a white-brick face, it reminded me of the monolith from Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Might it hold the promise of transcendence, as the monolith had done for Dave Bowman in Kubrick’s classic? The sign above the door contained a warning: “Thick smoke, dim lights, loud music.” The opening bars of the “2001″ theme music began rolling through my head. As the score reached its crescendo, I pulled the door open.
What character! What community! Simple in its arrangement, yet decadent in its decor, I had arrived at Egan’s. The gathering of people was an eclectic mix of students and townies, hipsters and normal people, black and white, greek and independent, all gathered peacefully in the name of having a nice time. Consequently, all conversations were magnificent. I had truly entered a higher realm.
The people here knew how to handle themselves. There were no sloppy drunks getting in the way of our group having a fine evening, and we were able to enjoy ourselves free from fraternity house antics.
The music was glorious, the drinks well made and the bathrooms acceptable. Aging photos of patrons enjoying themselves in Egan’s lined the walls and speak to the long tradition of this being a welcoming spot for independently minded people not suckered by the lifeless, corporate shams that hog most of University Boulevard. As the University continues to gobble up the Strip bit by bit, commercial chains are beginning to crowd out havens like Egan’s. We should be thankful that one such place still exists and patronize it heavily. God save Egan’s — the soul of the strip.