YOU WALK OUT of the beautiful St. Johns Twin Cinema, where you've just seen a movie and downed a pitcher or two of beer. You take out your phone to get directions home, only to find that at some point during the movie, you spilled beer on it. "How do I get home?" you ask, and with a pronounced slur, your drunken phone answers:
1. Walk six blocks northwest before realizing you live east of here. Smell fried chicken in the air and decide to stop in at the Ranger Tavern (9520 N Lombard). Play some pool while you wait for your chicken dinner. Get the mashed potatoes. Marvel at the "NEVER A STRANGER" sign. Feel at home. Leave anyway.
2. Turn back toward town. See the name of a movie on the theater's marquee; consider seeing it until you realize you just did—like, an hour ago. Find out if it's Tuesday by seeing if it's open mic night at Slim's (8635 N Lombard). If it is, enjoy a lecture and a supposedly authentic cowboy song from "The Other Man in Black." Don't be self-conscious when, between songs, he says, "Back in the 1920s, a person who drank hard liquor was called a 'common drunkard.' But the bleeding hearts went into their bleeding heart think tank and decided to rename the common drunkard with the kinder, gentler, more scientific term 'alcoholic.'" Get bummed out by some awkward open-mic comedy.
3. Continue east. Consider the Fixin' To, but reconsider after seeing people playing shuffleboard. Walk on Lombard until assaulted by sounds of rowdily drunken high school teachers. Enter Leisure (8002 N Lombard), order a drink, queue up some songs on the jukebox, and then head out to the patio. Stay until teachers start trickling out. Be surprised by how early it is.
4. Stumble toward the Perch (7505 N Lombard). Find out if it's Thursday, Friday, or Saturday by seeing if there's karaoke. Sing a song. Get a Jell-O shot. If the bartender offers whipped cream on the Jell-O shot, say yes. If she doesn't, request it. Watch a friendly, encouraging patron sing Billy Idol and scream hate and bile during the instrumental breaks.
5. Continue east on Lombard. Enter the Sundown Pub (5903 N Lombard). Try not to listen to the white bro roundtable at the window table. Do not interrupt when they start earnestly discussing identity politics. Focus instead on the absolute sloppiest game of pool you've ever seen played in your life.
6. Continue down the road past the Twilight Room, Chill N Fill, and Darcy's. Somewhere in the dark stretch along Columbia Park, begin to regret not stopping at one of those bars. Lombard curves slightly—continue toward Mock Crest Tavern (3435 N Lombard). Try to enjoy live blues without worrying that it likely originates in the suburbs of Portland. Get a pudding shot.
7. Continue east on Lombard. Stop in at the Farmer's Barn (7421 N Denver) to feel young again, no matter how old you are, by comparison to the clientele. Note the sign: "You don't have to be a farmer to enjoy the Barn." Wonder if it wouldn't help, though.
8. Continue east on Lombard toward N Interstate. Happen to look over your shoulder and see the sign for the Tiny Bubble Room at Lung Fung restaurant (2025 N Lombard). Stop in. Try to figure out how the black-and-caramel faux-leather booths seem to be absorbing all of the light in the room. Don't make eye contact with the couple dry-humping at the next booth. Feel sad for some reason.
9. Carefully cross Interstate and I-5. If you are a certain kind of gay man, enter the Eagle (835 N Lombard). You have reached your destination. If you are not a certain kind of gay man, continue east to Piedmont Place (736 N Lombard). Don't worry, you haven't accidentally broken into a recently shuttered diner/underground ska venue. Have a beer and shoot some hoops on the patio.
10. Continue east on Lombard, and slowly realize that there won't be another bar for miles. Reach Javier's Taco Shop (121 N Lombard) and earnestly thank God for 24-hour tripa burritos. Look west to see where you've been, but just see a sign that says, "GOT LAUNDRY? OK SEE YOU SOON." Call an Uber.