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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Wellcome Bar and Restaurant – 2074 Mission Street

In the brightly lit bar music played in the background at a volume that was acceptable by bar standards but not so loud that you couldn't hold a conversation. A rattling thud punctuated the ambiance before I received a quick punch in the arm by Henry sitting next to me.

I had arrived in a rush an hour earlier, when my need for a restroom overtook me and I had to race three blocks from 19th to Wellcome Bar between 16th and 17th. Deciding whether or not Wellcome Bar (the double ll is not a typo) and restaurant qualified for Mission on Mission was easy. After navigating around the handful of questionable characters lingering outside - some tweaking out, others begging for money – with the exception of a family near the front of the bar having dinner I could see that the rest of tables were empty – a solid indication that the patrons didn’t come here for the food.

Crossing the threshold to the bar felt as if I was passing through a curtain of drugs and danger as the stragglers in the entry way gave me the once over. They had to wonder where this guy in a royal blue dress shirt and slacks came from and why he was walking into Wellcome.

Wellcome was manned by two employees -- a chef doing his thing underneath a ceiling partially covered by a blue tarp and a bartender/waiter/busboy/bathroom-bouncer who was serving drinks, taking money and even took the time to interrogate me to ensure I was a paying customer before handing me the bathroom key. Although there was a menu on the wall, I figured I better stick to a $3 Budweiser draft than to venture into the food arena – I placed $5 on the bar, and practically ran to the restroom.

I eventually made my way back to the bar to enjoy my Bud and as time passed I found myself watching the basketball game, and eavesdropping on a conversation between a group of drunk middle aged guys talking about music and growing up in the city. Every so often one of the guys would dance his way towards the door arms waving and hips swinging to take a peak at the action on the street or to grab a smoke.

I spent the rest of the time hanging out with my aggressive neighbor, Henry. A self proclaimed "penny pincher," Henry had wrapped his pennies in a napkin for safekeeping before he decided to educate me on one of the bar's games.

There is no hustling allowed at Wellcome Bar – which was proclaimed on a sign hanging below the TV. That said you are allowed to play dice against the house. This isn’t the first time that I have come across a house game on Mission on Mission but in this case Wellcome Bar’s “Horse” far out strategizes Chonchola’s duels of “Heads & Tails” for the basic fact that there are more than two variables. Horse is your basic poker game where each player chooses the best five dice hand after two rolls – best “hand” wins. For each game, the house bets three juke box songs to each $1 put up by a patron.

Henry and I played a few rolls after which he landed his fist in my arm. Unimpressed by my rattle-thud, he demonstrated his rattle-smack. According to Henry, the rattle-smack is critical to Horse— more for the fact that it asserts your dice rolling prowess than for anything to do with dice. Lucky for me, Henry was so disappointed by the lack of passion in my dice rolling that he was willing to teach me on how it should be done.

Assuming you win Horse, you face yet another challenge – picking songs on the jukebox. These gentlemen are music connoisseurs and they aren’t shy about heckling song choices that don’t meet their scrupulous taste. Playing heads or tails at Canchola's and horse at Wellcome, I'm learning some fun time killers on these Friday night Mission on Mission trips.
As a thank you for my dice tutorial, I gave Henry $1 to select some “adequate” beats to take him into the evening and send me on my way.

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