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Rum and Coke 

Arena Bar and Grill, 5760 West Park Avenue; 314-646-7171.

Is this seat taken? No, no. We're not trying to hit on you; we're new here. We've driven by a few times and have always been intrigued by both the outdoor putting green and the white icicle lights that hang even in summer, so we finally stopped in. We're here for work. Yes, really. It's our first week penning this column: We head out for drinks, write about them, and get reimbursed for it from corporate. Ha! Nice try, hot shot. It's a shoestring budget and though you seem very nice, no, we can't pick up your tab.

Arm-wrestling, that's how we landed this sweet-ass gig. You wouldn't know it to look at us, but we owned the other columnist hopefuls. It was really something, that day at Drink of the Week HQ. It was like that super-human strength moms get when their minivan pops out of gear in the driveway and rolls onto one of their kids, and they lift the whole thing right off of their child with one hand — while eating a chicken-salad sandwich with the other. And then they go on Montel. We don't have kids, or even a goldfish, so this was the first time we've ever experienced a burst of adrenaline like that. That's how much we wanted this thing.

Since you asked, this column was actually Randall Roberts' brainchild. In his 2004 feature story "Raising the Bar," he wrote: "Oh, the world is an amazing place, and the proof, if you pay attention and your heart is wide open, is in our recipes, our blueprints. It's in what the drunken Southern writer William Faulkner called our ‘puny, inexhaustible voice,' one that manifests itself as the signature drink, or recommended wine, or drink of the week." Amen. After a decade of cranking out such gorgeous prose for the RFT, he's moving to LA. It's nothing personal, just one of those once-in-a-lifetime offers he couldn't refuse. A great guy. He'd like you.

Yeah, that's us who played these seven songs for $2 on Arena Bar and Grill's juke, so don't be whining about Credence Clearwater Revival's "Lodi." It's barely three minutes long. We could have played eighteen for $5. The bartender, Jack, has worked here since the beginning of the year, by way of Balaban's and Culpeppers in the Central West End. On Sundays he has groupies who've followed him here. He doesn't usually work Wednesdays, so we're glad we caught him. He likes Rod Stewart. "Maggie May" is coming up and it's for him.

It was a rum and Coke. When we got here, we asked Jack to make us whatever. We couldn't decide what to order for our inaugural column. Too much pressure. But we tell Jack we don't like things that are too fruity, and so he suggested a rum and Coke, saying that's how his wife would describe him — not too fruity. He's right. And it's just what we needed.

We're staying for another. We'll have what you're having.

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