There is a practice known as “bar hopping” that refers to visiting more than one bar in a single evening. This nomadic lifestyle is most common in college students on spring break. As I am seasoned well beyond the ramen noodle & wet t-shirt years, I prescribe to the more sedentary “bar plopping,” which is the nightlife equivalent to nesting. I find a place I like, plop myself down and remain there all night. I honestly do not know how loyal patronage can be a bad thing. But evidently it labels me as “boring” and “lame.” SO on a recent trip to Cedar Rapids, I decided to forego my stationary habits and just go with the flow. (My anxiety level went up just writing that statement.)

Now if you recall, a previous Iowa Roadie blog described an afternoon luau at “Just Coz Tavern” in Cedar Rapids. Remember…potluck by the pool table? Batman bathrooms? Anyway my husband and I were coasting on tropical fun (and the Almond Joy pudding shots), as we found our way to the nearby “Playtime Tap,” located in the Cedar Rapids Kernels stadium vicinity.

I confess that from the outside, Playtime Tap was a bit intimidating with its welcome wagon of bikers out front. However, with our senses dulled by the previous luau’s rum punch, we weaved our way through the leather-clad crowd and entered Playtime Tap, where we were warmly greeted by the bar’s patrons. Unfortunately there were so many patrons that we could not sit at our traditional counter spot, and instead had to settle for a regular pub table.

I was worried that displaced from our normal seats, we would not be able to engage with the other bar customers and therefore not experience Playtime Tap in its fullest (and most dysfunctional state). But my fear went unfounded, when a spunky middle-aged woman marched up, and introduced herself as Marge, or “Marge in Charge,” as her friends call her. Marge is a single mother who works in a bank, and drives uber part-time. She explained that while weekends are normally the best time to drive uber, she was taking the night off to celebrate her loafer sister’s birthday. (Her words, not mine.)

To commemorate Loafer Sister’s birthday, Marge invited us to play “the can game.” (Party goers…take note. This game will revolutionize your future festivities.) The “can game” turned out not to be a game at all, but rather a unique drink lottery. There is a can marked with seven numbers, and under each number is a list of 3-4 alcoholic shots. In the can are seven numbered poker chips. One draws a poker chip and then chooses a drink under the corresponding number. Unlike other “games,” there are no losers; unless of course, you don’t like one of the specific drinks under your number. I, myself, was able to select a shot of McGuillicuddy’s mentholmint schnapps. This was kind of like an alcoholic mouthwash…but in a good way. I pondered the implications of switching Scope out for McGuillicuddy’s. While I was fairly confident this decision would have no negative consequences to my oral hygiene, I was not as certain that my employer would approve of this new health regime.

Besides the can game, Playtime Tap also served pudding shots. (This must be a Cedar Rapids thing.) But instead of the candy bar flavors offered by Just Coz Tavern, Playtime served an apple pie pudding shot. This frozen concoction uses REAL fruit, so one could almost justify the apple pie pudding shot as a health food. (Much like justifying chocolate as a vegetable, as it originates from the cocoa BEAN.)

With my mouth minty fresh and my body rejuvenated from some fruit, Marge in Charge asked if my husband and I would like to follow her to another bar called Gilligans, or “Gillie’s” for short. So like lemmings following its leader, we followed “Marge in Charge” to Gillie’s. (Hopefully to a better outcome than the lemmings, whose leader will march them into the sea and certain death.)

Gillie’s is another neighborhood bar, and contains one of my favorite things ever…a CLAW GAME! This is an evil carnival staple that entices you to spend LOTS of money to try and grasp cheap little toys with its motorized claw. It looks so easy, but that cheap stuffed bear is NEVER within reach. True fact…It is even MORE out of reach following mentholmint and apple pie pudding shots.

Unlike Playtime Tap, we were able to sit at the bar where I struck up a conversation with a very pleasant young lady seated next to me. She told me that she was 23 and had followed her boyfriend to Cedar Rapids from out of state. (Another lemming!) She and her boyfriend had since broken up, but she remained in Cedar Rapids. She currently worked next door at The Smoke Shack. And even though her goal was to ultimately pursue a career in law enforcement, she explained that she got a discount on cigarettes at her current job so it wasn’t so bad. I was not sure how to respond, so instead I offered to share my very tasty cheeseballs with her. Because nothing says “You Go Girl” like greasy, deep-fried cheese.

After saying our farewells to “Marge in Charge” and the Smoke Shack worker, and wishing Loafer Sister a final “happy birthday,” my husband and I decided to head back to our hotel. However, on the way, we passed a little bar by the name of Cooter’s. And while the name dredged up thoughts of little bugs (I KNOW… those are COOTIES), we could not pass up one more stop on the sketchy Cedar Rapids pub crawl.

Cooter’s was a tiny establishment with just two seats left at the bar. While they did not have a claw game or pudding shots, they had something even better… Bar Bingo! Bar Bingo does not use traditional bingo cards, but a deck of regular cards. Patrons pay $1, and are dealt two cards. The person with the two highest cards (poker style) gets the pot. This is really simple as one either gets the two highest cards, or lucks out with a pair. But the fun does not end there. You now put in $2, and the dealer starts calling out cards. The first person with both their cards called gets this pot of money. I have to admit, this was far more fun than traditional bingo…but just as costly as the claw game.

As the game basically required no skill, we were able to visit with the patrons around us, including the 50-year-old woman who did not know her card suits. (We had to explain that a spade was the card that looked like little black shovels.) We were fortunate to win a couple of games before bar bingo ended, and a live band began. We collected our stack of dollar bills and headed out. My husband and I both reflected that we were tired and wished we could call a cab… or an uber.

If only “Marge in Charge” hadn’t been celebrating Loafer Sister’s birthday…

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