9:05 p.m. Drink #20: Whiskey & Coke.
When people ask Matt Meyer about The Stagger's long-rumored reputation as a gay bar, he says, "'Yeah. It's true.' It's a filter to keep closed-minded people out."
It's not a gay bar, though. At least not according to two other people I met who identify as gay and handful more, but they say it probably is the most LGBT-friendly bar in town.
"There's an open mindedness that you don't find elsewhere," Meyers says. He met his fiancée here five years ago. "It's a thinker's bar," he says. " You can sit next to a sociology major and discuss life an death." Then, he starts telling me an origin story about the "Play that motherfucking Urge shit" chant at the Urge concerts.
Tuesday: • (1) Stag
12:08 p.m. Drink #22: a bottle of Stag
Stag has turned on me. It lingers sweet on the tongue, sits hollow like a bag of marshmallows in my stomach and kicks like a buck in rut. I order water and a roast beef and ham sandwich for chasers.
I slouch on the barstool, pick at my lunch and talk bluegrass with Bobby, the bartender. It's my fifth day here, but feels like it could be my tenth. I take the night off. I don't go to a bar.
Wednesday: • (2) Bloody Mary (add clam juice) • (1) Jagermeister shot • (1) Sambuca • (1) Whiskey & Coke • (1) Whiskey & Diet Coke (an awful accident)
9:15 p.m. Drink #23: Rail Whiskey and Coke
BJ Bertels pushes copiers and fax machines for a living, but on Monday and Wednesday nights he likes pushing shuffleboard pucks "with the boys." He takes care of the board and has been organizing annual tournaments here since 1987. He often wins.
His girlfriend is performing with the Duct Tape Duo Trio at the open mic. Right now, she's sitting onstage at a percussion kit of chimes, woodblocks and a crash cymbal and clacking drumsticks above her head.
Bertels has grey hair, glasses, and a goofy of demeanor you might see in a 17-year-old. That's how old he was when he first came to The Stagger. "I parked my motorcycle right on the sidewalk," He says. "I wasn't of age, of course, but I was tall enough they didn't ask." He's 6'5.
He drinks a Stolichnaya Orange with club soda and watches the stage.
Thursday: • (1) Sierra Nevada Summerfest • (1) Stag • (1) Stag & A Pickle (dill)
7:30 p.m. Drink #31: Stag & A Pickle
It's the last night of my residence here and my 27th birthday. I sit to the left of the beer taps, where most regulars sit.
I eat a shrimp po' boy with my Stag and chat with regulars, Lindsay and Matthew Schmitz and Mike Barth about jobs we worked as teenagers. I slide a pickle spear into my bottle of Stag. The conversation rubbernecks like that pickle was a turd.
Stag & A Pickle, I tell them. It's tasty. Makes it a dash briny, like how some old guys drop salted peanuts into their beer. My grandpa used to do that. The pickle is just a variation I learned in college.
I take a sip. They squint their eyes and exhale in disgust. Everyone doubts until they try it. I pass it down the bar. "Oh, that's actually not bad," says Matthew. Lindsay and Mike also try it and echo his reaction.
I finish what's left of the salty beer, my 31st of the week and my last, and ask the bartender, Tim Earley for my tab. I shake his hand and thank him for the hospitality.
I say a few more goodbyes at the end of the bar and head towards the door. Matthew orders a Stag & A Pickle.