Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Where Everybody Knows Your Name - Part II

The long overdue sequel to an earlier post.

So - I may have misjudged Tradewinds when I wrote about it last year. What can I say - I'd only been there once.

I don't know when exactly Tradewinds became our Da Vinci but I do know why - trivia.

To backtrack for a minute, Marty and I have been playing trivia since 1999. We started out playing NTN trivia - now known as Buzztime at a random sports bar in Houston called Fumducks. With NTN, you are not only playing against the other bar patrons, but against thousands of other players nationwide. It quickly became clear that there were bars where trivia was taken seriously (Fumducks was not one of those bars) and so we quickly graduated to Catbirds, a sliver of a bar in the Montrose area where trivia ruled.

We went so often we quickly became regulars (to the point that Bronwyn, the bartender, invited us to her wedding which happened to be a clown wedding because she and her fiance were both professional clowns - but that's another story). Catbirds was tiny, and while competition was fierce, we always played for bar score (versus individual personal glory) and we frequently topped the charts. We even formed a team for Tuesday night Showdown (one of the weekly games on NTN).

When we moved back to NY, we stopped playing trivia mainly because it wasn't any place convenient (which actually surprises me. Given how many bars there are in Hoboken I am surprised not one of them offered it). But just because a girl doesn't play for 5 years, doesn't mean she doesn't love it.

Marty & I easily picked up the trivia habit again as soon as we moved down here last year. We started out playing at Buffalo Wild Wings in Hickory. We'd work together to best the local crowd - trying to prove that our respective educations and knowledge of miscellaneous facts was superior.

Then - the first night we were at Tradewinds, I swore that I noticed NTN on one of the TV screens. It wasn't a focal point for me that night - I was more interested in karaoke to be honest - but then a few weeks later I was out of town and Marty stopped by on his own. As it turned out - we'd struck gold.

Not only did Tradewinds have trivia, they had individual screens set up along the bar every 2 - 3 stools. And the food was good.

So we started going. And we went back again. And again. And again.

We got to know the bartenders - Marie and Elsa. Some of the waitresses - Lynn, Michelle and Erin. We got to know the owner Steve. The chef Chris.

We'd walk in and without asking, someone would pour us a drink. If the bar was crowded, they'd find us room. Frankly, I felt a bit like Norm.

But beyond getting to know the staff - we also got to know the regulars (which goes to show that the premise of Cheers is not that far fetched). We started out competitive - once again, me and Marty versus everyone else, determined to show our smarts. But I missed the Catbirds days. The days of bar score. And so I think I got kind of loud one night and started shouting out answers and encourgaed these fellow trivia geeks - yet strangers all the same - to do the same. At least - that's how I remember it but it's been many, many months (and a couple of drinks) ago.

Still, slowly but surely, we got to know these guys. First - by their trivia handles. Sumo. Coach K. Wabbit. T-Rock. Jason. Loc. Then by their names. John. Dave. George. Rick. Jason. Carl.

It was all casual - a random game of trivia here and there. But as with Catbirds, we eventually graduated to the next level.

This time, the catalyst was live trivia. Hosted at Buffalo Wild Wings in Hickory on Monday nights to drive business on an otherwise slow night (this was long after Monday Night Football had come to an end), Marty and I stumbled onto live trivia quite by accident. But it was fun. Different. And so we started going weekly to play. Unfortunately, the indivudals we played against on NTN banded together to form a team of 8 (called All the Kings Men) and no matter how smart we were, no matter how much we knew, it was nearly impossible for the 2 of us to best the 8 of them (the one night we tied for first, we drew and lost).

So we asked the guys from Tradewinds to join us one week. They did and our team grew from 2 to 6 to 10 to 16 at our max. Eventually cell phone numbers and emails were swapped and weekly plans were made. Even non-trivia plans. A weekend BBQ at Jody's one week. A poolside gathering at Carl's on July 4th. And of course, we started kicking ass at trivia (which went a long way to satisfy my ultra competitive streak).

Anyways, it's amazing how much can change in the course of a year and amazing what jewels you can find in a small town.

You go from being a stranger to a regular to a friend. And Tradewinds went from being just another random bar in Lincolnton to a must see stop on the J. Peterman Reality Tour when you come and visit.

And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your...