Friday, January 26, 2007

No, Oh No, Not O'Neil's. Why? You Bastards!!!

They finally did it. I saw the newspaper clipping years ago, but I'd forgotten. Or I didn't care at the time. Or I was too sad to recognize its reality. But I saw it with my own eyes moments ago. They killed O'Neil's.

Much of my mid 20s and most of my initial grown-up paychecks were spent at this pub. A tiny little whole-in-the-wall basement sort of bar, smoke clouds filling the place from the floor to the 7-foot ceilings, dark as night even if you were there for lunch, scaring off the Michigan Avenue tourists, one of the older bars in Chicago, to be sure, the place had history. And narrow - wide enough for Mike or Bridget behind the bar, the regulars seated on their stools, and one person to scoot gingerly (or drunkenly) behind them to the four tables in the back. And in the warmer months we were lucky enough to have enjoyed the courtyard in the back - a sunny little haven away from the plumes of carbon monoxide filling our lungs when seated on the sidewalk.

It was as close as we ever got to our own version of Cheers. They did know our names. They knew that we wanted Budweiser bottles in the summer and Maker's Mark in the winter. And we knew their names. Hell, Senor Juevos even took Michelle out one time (which may have been the beginning of the end, but that's a different blog). And Michelle always asked where Jessica was when I only showed up with OtherJason. And we'd be so happy when we got the bill and we realized that they'd bought our last few rounds (despite having to pay for the previous 14) that we'd leave a monstrous tip, ensuring our enjoyment the next weekend.

Man, we would just destroy hours of our life in that place. It was a black hole. One time, on Jessica's birthday, I'd arranged for a limo to pick her up to bring her to the restaurant where I'd meet her. I had a couple hours to kill so I stopped into O'Neil's with Senor Juevos for a couple of pints. A couple of pints later I realized that my couple of hours were up, resulting in the need for me to sprint down Michigan Ave in order to beat the limo, which I'd just watched pass by. Why are you sweating? she asked. No reason.

It seems like an exaggeration, but I'm quite certain that one evening that turned into night included the consumption of a solid 24 bottles of Budweiser - between only myself and Juevos. A case of beer without noticing. Just a few trips upstairs to the men's room during commercial breaks of whatever basketball game happened to be on.

And now they're tearing it down, as it's on the ground floor of a 3-flat that is in the way of some new glass and steel condominium atrocity.

So a toast:

To OtherJason's famous comment about Bridget: "she's like....a woman". True indeed.

To Polkadottas.

To my $10,000 t-shirt.

To Michelle - best cocktail waitress-turned-friend-turned-MIA ever. We miss you, wherever you are.

To Mike - calm and cool bar manager, and he couldn't have been older than us.

To Bridget's St Pauli Girl Halloween costume.

To Happy Hour turning into Happy Midnight.

To the only bar in Chicago to have Leinenkugel on tap, giving us enough reason to drink Leinie drafts for years.

To Robert, for introducing us.

To countless lost nights with my friends - Jess, Amanda, Eggz, and Schrowe.

To Schrowe.


Senor Juevos said...

I nearly fucking cried hearing the news and reading that blog. I felt like O'Neals loved us...wanted us...needed us. Just as we needed it. I would write a blog about Michelle and her GIANT chest but I was hammered on Bud Heavies and Makers and don't remember much. However, I will always remember the great times O'Neals gave me and my closest friends...a O'Neals. To Schrowe.

OtherJennifer said...

Wow - I wish I would have known you O'Neil's...Do bars go to heaven when they tear them down? Hmm....

Champ said...

I only went there a few times but I remember every time I hung out there. That was a great place.

There should be some kind of law against leveling cool bars.