November 5th, 2009

Montrose Pub Crawl: Whimsy on Westheimer

In 8 Words: Halloween, Whimsy, Boondocks, Bunnies, Poison Girl, Etro, Catbirds, Westheimer,

Full disclosure: I have NEVER liked Halloween. I don’t know if it has something to do with a buried childhood trauma or an aversion to scary movies or something else that escapes me at the moment. In any case, it hasn’t even cracked the top ten days that I look forward to during the year. In an attempt to step outside the box that I’ve created for myself, I made the choice this year to hit the town on Halloween this year. Not only that, but I was even going to dress up. The only question that remained after all these lofty decisions was where to go. That’s where the Montrose Pub Crawl came into play.

The Montrose Pub Crawl came to my attention via the Regular Scoop on 10/26 in a not so ironic twist. As the week wore on, it became a more attractive  option, even though there were a couple other  party invitations. A few of my friends planned to attendthe event and I made up my mind that the Montrose Pub Crawl would be how I would spend my first Halloween out in Houston. The fact  that  it was for a good cause (Houston Area Women’s Center) was just an extra incentive to partake.

Around 5:30, having woken from a nap to take the edge off of the morning’s festivities (University of Houston defeating Southern Miss on the gridiron) I decide it is high time to head down to Westheimer. I gather all the essentials and throw my costume in a paper bag to be put on later. I am still a little uncomfortable with the idea of pretending to be someone else  and chose to put it off until later. The event starts at Cafe Brasil at 6:00 PM, which is on the corner of Dunlavy and Westheimer, but my friends are not going to join the festivities until later, so I swing by Paulie’s to grab some grub instead of eating alone amongst the costumed denizens.

As I drive to Paulie’s, I see the first small groups of costumed pedestrians beginning to loiter around the blocks on Westheimer that are taking part in the pub crawl. The only real fear that I have is that my costume will not be up to snuff. On Halloween sticking out like a sore thumb is a fete only accomplished by those that don’t attempt stick out at all.

After dinner I park on Hawthorne near Mulberry, a decision based on both logic and availability. The spot is equidistant from either Poison Girl or Etro, either of which could happen to be the final stop of the night for my group. I suit up while sitting in my car. Coveralls, steel-toed boots, hard hat, and safety glasses transformed me into a roustabout. The least sooty roustabout I’ve ever seen, but a roustabout nonetheless.

I walk the few blocks from my parking spot to Poison Girl, hoping that my friends are there. Phones go unanswered, which doesn’t help my nerves. I stride, confident and cocky, down Westheimer, as a good roustabout should, survey the scene underneath the short brim of my hard hat. I walk in after showing my ID to the man at the door. This seems like something of a conundrum. All bouncers should be given the night off on Halloween. Their jobs are fruitless for one long night.

I walk in and see my friend, dressed as Billy Mays, standing by the bar talking to some friends.  I mosey on up and try to squeeze my way through the humanity in order to order my first libation of the night which proves to be a difficult task. The area between the bar and the wall at Poison Girl is narrow to begin with, but nearly impassable with one hundred people in mostly oversized Halloween get-up packing the space. I head back to the entrance, hoping for better luck in grabbing a bartender’s attention.

One of the ladies behind the bar finally makes eye contact with me and I ask for two Lone Stars. They’re not serving Lone Star tonight, but they do have Milwaukee’s Best, so I quickly change my order. Who doesn’t find an ounce of comfort  to drink an old college favorite at the bar? I happen to find 12 ounces of comfort in my order.

As I turn around, two of my friends have found their way from the cramped back patio of Poison Girl to my spot in order to put drinks in their empty hands. Among us, we have a roustabout, fighter jet pilot, the shocker, Billy Mays and the bunny from Donnie Darko (who took the cake and landed in the header image). A motley crew, we are indeed.  We stand around for a bit as I’m double fisting, trying to finish up before we head out to the sidewalk for a trot down to Boondocks where, supposedly, the rest of our friends will be meeting us up.

We exit and make our way out into the not so chilly night air. There seem to be just as many people on the street as there were inside the cramped Poison Girl. We walk past the miscellaneous shops, tattoo parlors and restaurants as we head East on Westheimer. Photographers are out in force, inviting  people to take a second and pose. Of course I’m not one of those few that wowed the paparazzi.

Boondocks is even more crowded than our last stop. I’m surprised that they haven’t started a line outside the bar. But, I find my way to the bar more quickly than Poison Girl. This, however, does not speed up the process of actually getting a drink. With the fighter pilot as my wingman, I order four PBRs (Pabst Blue Ribbon for those of you not “down” with the lingo) and we turn to go outside to meet our newly arrived friends, adorned in matching Heaven and Hell costumes. We stake out Boondocks for almost two hours and the crowd thickens with each passing minute. Even if we wanted to leave, the process would take a half hour just to find the exit. So, we take turns taking orders and making the journey back to the bar for refills.

For the most part we just stand around witnessing the whimsy on Westheimer. Rat Fink, Rock, Paper AND Scissors, a hammer and nail combo, Mickey and Mallory Knox, Max (from Where the Wild Things Are), the Swine Flu… At every turn there is a new and unique costume. From whatever cross-section they take the nominees for “best costume” it will surely not be indicative of everyone. With all of the action going on around me I can’t help but daydream of what I should dress up as next year. Have I finally become a Halloween convert?

As Halloween approaches midnight and the conclusion of the holiday, we are faced with a decision: walk down to Catbirds for the grand finale or head across the street to either Anvil or Etro. We leave Boondocks, bidding farewell to bountiful PBR and cross the street, at which point half the group heads down to Catbirds and the other continues straight on to Etro. Apparently, we hadn’t discussed the plans thoroughly.

The half that I follow find a spot in line for our IDs to get checked one more time and then file into the loud and strobe lit Etro for our last drinks of the night. It finally feels like we’re in a club again and not part of the throngs of Halloween. Then again, it always feels like an alternate reality every time I go to Etro. I find a spot at the bar to grab a Budweiser and a man dressed in drag tries to strike up a conversation with me. Yep, it’s the same as it ever was.

[Check out the photos of some of the great costumes at MontroseCrawl.com]

— Paul

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