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The Mix 

TGIM

Wednesday, Dec 20 2000
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No creature could be more decadent than the Monday night drinker, no habitat more suitable to the species than old North Beach. By 10:30, the hordes of tourists and other sidewalk-cloggers have long since vanished; parking spots beckon on Columbus. At Specs' 12 Adler Museum Cafe, twangy, soulful country tunes fill a dimly lit room stocked with exotic masks, old photos, and a walrus tusk cribbage board. Restroom graffiti announces that "Scott Tiegs peed here." The place is a dive, but in the best sense of the word, and embraces the Monday night drinker like an old friend. Wine comes in two shades, tap beer in one (Bud), and the crowd of around 20 proves as eclectic as the décor.

A youngish cat named Fitz stands at the bar drinking with a friend -- a bona fide Monday tradition. Patrons say they're dreaming up scripts, are under the impression it's Saturday, are nobly sacrificing a productive Tuesday to entertain out-of-town friends. After 32 years in business, a few things have changed at Specs': "The women have gotten younger, and they don't like me as much as they used to," says a gray-bearded hipster named James, a longtime regular. "Other than that, it's exactly the same -- life at its best."

Meanwhile, Jimbo the bartender recommends a Chartreuse -- a sticky, cracklingly fiery, 110-proof liqueur served straight up with a soda back. "It'll get you where you're going," he promises. "Or, as some people would say, "The magic carpet ride.'"

The carpet stops at Gino & Carlo (b. 1942), where televisions and neon beer signs hang above a packed house. Frank Sinatra rules the jukebox, and two pool tables are fully occupied by a local-heavy crowd that rarely starts trouble and should never, ever be messed with. People love Gino & Carlo like life itself: "For me, it's the most wonderful place a person can come," says Jim, a 30-year regular, who's as thick as an oak tree and equally gnarly. Mark, a groundskeeper, says his choice is obvious. "I live in the neighborhood, man, and if you live in the neighborhood and you're drinking on a Monday night, you drink at Gino & Carlo."

A nearby Irishman agrees, buys a round of shots, and then it's off to the city's oldest drinkery -- the 139-year-old Saloon. By 1 a.m., rockabilly band the Bachelors loiters out front, taking a permanent break. Though the tiny, timeworn Saloon will see its share of carousing in the days ahead -- locals sipping $2.50 afternoon well drinks, blues lovers coming for the 10 weekly live shows -- for now the place is empty.

The quiet lasts until 1:20, when restaurant types Michelle and Amy drop by and order shots of the Italian bitters preferred by many in the industry: Fernet Branca, with a ginger ale back. The women head to Specs', where Fitz hasn't moved, everyone knows everyone, and the crowd has thinned to a half-dozen of the heartiest Monday night drinkers. Then comes the sweet part of the night, when any illusions of a fruitful morning have long since been abandoned. The party lasts until closing time, when, as required by law, Jimbo turns mean and unforgiving: "Drink 'em up!" He rings a bell so loud it could shatter God's eyeglasses -- a sure sign Tuesday morning has begun.

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Greg Hugunin

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