In my 20’s I used to dream of opening my own bar. I wanted a place that I could hang out with my friends, drink cocktails and listen to cool music. The early to mid 90’s had loads of places that were dimly lit with mismatched furniture and served cheap drinks over loud music. We call them dumps now, but back then they were temples. Augenblick. The Borderline. Ten-56. Iggy’s and Tuman’s Tavern a/k/a the “Alcohol Abuse Center” (the originals, not the re-located or scrubbed up versions). These were the perfect representation of what my 25 year-old self believed night life to be. My plan was to find a similar dive-y location, put a few bottles of booze on the shelf, stock the jukebox (remember those) with Pixies and Pavement CD’s (and those) and – voila! – the bar would be packed every night. Easy as 1-2-3, right?
It would be called “The Velvet Elvis.” Not because I loved the music of Elvis Presley. I didn’t and don’t really. Not because I loved the music of Elvis Costello. I did and still do. It was mostly because I really liked those kitschy velvet posters that I had seen hanging on the bedroom walls of my friends older siblings while growing up in California during the 70’s and early 80’s. Some had a cool Led Zeppelin insignia. Others paid tribute to Rush or Foreigner. But the most popular were of the “King.” The original Elvis. The one from Memphis. For whatever reason, I was obsessed with the idea of creating one of my own. But mine would depict the cover of Elvis Costello’s first album “My Aim Is True,” and would serve as the official logo for the bar. I guess it was my attempt to be “ironic” and “cool.” Two things I’d always chased but never caught. I was certain that if I could just get that velvet Elvis Costello poster up behind a bar, people would come in droves and overnight I would become a scion of Chicago nightlife. There would be no suit and tie or briefcase in this boy’s future.
But, alas, it never came to fruition. Not enough cash. Not enough guts. Too much common sense. The reasons for never doing so were plentiful, but most of all, my “adult life” got in the way. Law school, jobs, girlfriends, a mortgage, a wife, our pug Bailey. On the ladder of priorities, opening my dream bar always managed to fall onto a lower rung. At this point, I wouldn’t trade the life I did lead, and still do, for a night behind the bar at The Velvet Elvis. But, sometimes, more often than I’d like to admit, I still dream about it. Just a little bit more adultly. If that is a word. And if it isn’t, it should be.
So here we are now, nearly 20 years later, me in my 40’s, and the reality has set in that The Velvet Elvis will never exist in the real world. At least not with me behind the bar. But in the virtual world of the blogosphere, anything is possible. So without further adieu, here are the drinks I would serve and the music I would play if only…….
Welcome to The Velvet (Elvis) Costello.