It was 35 years ago today that Zippy and I had our first date. At the time, I lived in North Hollywood and he lived in Bakersfield. It was a tough time for me and I desperately needed to get away from my tiny apartment for a day or two, but was living in poverty and couldn’t afford anything. I knew Zippy through my brother (they’d gone to college together) and we’d recently reconnected via several phone conversations, so I brazenly invited myself for a visit.
Bakersfield is no one’s idea of a getaway, but I was thrilled at the prospect of being somewhere else. When I arrived that Friday evening (knuckles scraped and bleeding as a result of my hand slipping while prying a very stubborn lid off a bottle of the engine additive needed to keep my poor old car running), Zippy suggested we go hear some live music. Chris “Hammer” Smith and his blues harp were at Suds Tavern which was located in the Wall Street Alley. The tiny place used to be a fire station and fire horse stable, and reeked of character. And cigarette smoke (of which I was a contributor, ahem). We had so much damn fun, drinking beer and dancing dancing dancing. During Hammer Smith’s break, we ran across the alley to Guthrie’s Alley Cat where there was a pool table and even cheaper beer, then dashed back for more live music.
Fast forward: I ended up moving to Bakersfield for two years (before we moved to Anchorage) and we logged a lot of hours dancing at Suds and shooting pool at Guthrie’s. Turns out, plenty of people thought that alley was in “the bad part of town” and stayed away. To my mind, that scene was one of the shining lights of that hot, dry, and dusty city. I was thrilled when I met a fellow teacher who shared our love for that alley.
Alas, Suds is no more. It’s apparently now a restaurant called Two Goats & The Goose and, because I couldn’t find a photo of Suds, I’m including this image to show the exterior (with an accessibility ramp that was not present in the 80s).
Turns out, Guthrie’s Alley Cat is still in business which makes me very happy. All these years later, I’m very glad Guthrie’s was part of my introduction to Bakersfield. Mostly, though, I’m grateful Zippy graciously accepted my self-invite.