My husband says I don’t like surprises. He claims that I lack spontaneity, and that I am a control freak. Now I would like to feign horror and be offended by such preposterous claims. (Whatever happened to “if you can’t say anything nice?”) Just because he has caught me in the act of unwrapping Christmas presents when I can’t stand the suspense, or that my vacation itineraries leave little room for sleep… Should that label me as “obsessive compulsive?” Does he not value the time-honored Boy Scout motto, “Be Prepared?”

So to counteract such negativity, I decided to throw caution to the wind on a recent trip to Cedar Rapids and visit somewhere not on the list of dives I had meticulously researched and mapped out (color coded and in alphabetical order). It was as if the “Just Coz Tavern” hijacked my sound judgment by coaxing me in with some supernatural crazy power. (Plus the giant $1 beer sign outside didn’t hurt.)

Lured in by the promise of cheap beverages, my husband circled the block and parked in front of a home that was having a garage sale… its primary inventory being 50 or more bicycles. (On a side note…I do not know how or why one could acquire that many bicycles. But I realized it was probably best I not dwell on the reasons for this vast collection. Another side note…we made sure to lock our vehicle.)

Anyway…Just Coz Tavern is a little neighborhood bar located in Cedar Rapids. It is open seven days a week from 8 am to 2 am. (Yes. 8 am. Every. Day.) It turns out that cans of beer are $1 only on Monday. (We were there on a Saturday.) But to celebrate the arrival of spring, Just Coz was hosting a luau. And a potluck. Patrons signed up to bring their homemade dishes, and there was a lovely buffet set up right there beside the pool table. I am sad to report that we arrived as the luau was winding down (at 3 pm. Whatever were they going to do until 2 am?), and therefore most of the food was gone.

What was not gone was the homemade rum punch served tiki style in party cups shaped in mainstay luau items like coconuts and pineapples. I, myself, chose a pink flamingo cup. Never had I felt so spontaneous… sipping my fruity concoction from a straw in a plastic bird’s head. I could almost hear the waves rolling up on the beach and smell the roasted pig over the luau fire. (Not to be mistaken with the potluck barbecue pork in a roaster by the pool table.)

My husband and I settled in at the end of the bar in the only two remaining seats…right next to the gentleman who had won first place in the luau dress up contest. I admired his head to toe Hawaiian attire…including his very festive shirt that had the F-word interspersed amongst the beautiful flowers. He confided that it was THIS shirt that had sealed his victory in the dress up contest. (I wonder if he knew T Shirt Man from the last Iowa Roadie visit to Gronigans.) I congratulated him on his triumph and admired his grand prize…a flask in the shape of a banana. He said this would come in handy on his next float trip down the Iowa River. (Which may or may not result in a mud fight like the last one he was on.)

I also met another gentleman that told me I reminded him of his wife. I am not sure that this was a compliment, as he explained that he and his wife were currently fighting which was why he was attending the luau alone. He kept trying to put his arm around me, and neither Banana Flask Man nor my husband attempted to rescue me…partly because Touchy Feely Guy had just bought them a round of tropical jello shots. (He preferred the berry blue.)

Now you may recall that jello shots are extremely problematic for me, and I have been chastised for using my hands. Truly, I do not know how else they can be consumed. I believe jello shots should come with some form of eating utensil, as they are physically impossible to slurp/eat/drink on their own. However noticing my aversion to alcohol-infused gelatin, Touchy Feely Guy suggested I try a pudding shot instead. A PUDDING SHOT! I had never heard of such a thing. I HAD to try this. My spontaneity level was certainly at peak capacity!

Just Coz offers several flavors of pudding shots, all of which are designed around candy bars. I purchased both a Mounds and a Snickers pudding shot. (Although I was told that Butterfingers is the most popular flavor.) Now one would expect pudding shots to be the consistency of pudding. Instead they are frozen and resemble the pudding pops that Bill Cosby used to promote before he found himself in legal trouble. (Touchy Feely Man might take a lesson from Bill.) The Just Coz manager explained that it took six months to perfect her pudding shots. I have to admit that these were incredible…even more so because they came with a spoon so elusive to its jello counterpart.

Besides pudding shots and the luau potluck, Just Coz hosts a series of “cook offs” throughout the year…including a tater tot casserole contest where the winner receives the prestigious “Darth Tater” traveling trophy…a Mr. Potato Head in a Darth Vader costume. Also notable were the signs designating the men’s and women’s bathrooms…Batman for men and Wonder Woman for women. What a confidence boost to be characterized as a DC comics super hero!

I truly wish we lived closer to the Just Coz Tavern as it embodied all things fun and spontaneous. Upcoming events included Alien Day trivia, a putt putt golf tourney, and the Cinco de Psycho bike ride. (Plus 18 hours of $1 beer on Mondays.) Just Coz is the epitome of a little neighborhood bar…in fact, I would not have been surprised if Norm had walked in and everyone had called out his name. Of course he’d have been wearing a Hawaiian shirt and driven up in the Batmobile…or maybe just one of the bikes from across the street.

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