A Karangahape Bar in Santa Fe

It was around 7pm in Santa Fe, New Mexico and we had just left a brew bar in search of a different vibe and we certainly found it.

Struggling to find our way into a ‘happening’ part of town we passed an underground bar with music blaring and a few people standing having a cigarette at the top of the stairs, implying to us that there were likely quite a few more people inside the bar. We made a quick decision to have a drink at the bar, spurred on by the lure of people and a social atmosphere.

One of the cigarette smoking gang, a large, muscly, tattooed, bearded, biker looking dude (who turned out to be the bartender) asked to see some ID before leading us down the stairs towards the music and darkness, and we followed obediently, unsure what we were walking into.

The first thing that hit me was the grunginess of the bar. I was immediately transported to a bar on Karangahape Road back home. The place was small, dark, had blaring music, a tatted bartender, graffiti and posters covered all of the walls and the faint but undeniable smell of urine lingered in the stale air. No more than 5 punters were situated around the bar and looked up at us as we walked in.

In that moment I mumbled to Oscar under my breath, ‘let’s just have one quick drink then get the hell put of here’, which he enthusiastically agreed to.

I made a quick trip to the bathroom and what immediately caught my eye was an unusual stick figure drawing on the wall with the text ‘fuck your face’ and a speech bubble presumably added by another stranger which said ‘this art will be famous’. The toilet was certainly an entertaining place to be, and one could spend some time there reading all of the different inscriptions on the wall and appreciating the ‘art’.

I avoided the urge to linger in the toilet as I was thirsty and wanted a drink. On being advised that no wine is served at that bar I order a gin & tonic, and ended up in a great conversation with the bartender who despite appearances was a very approachable and likeable guy. Originally from Texas, his grandfather is or was the mayor of a small town in southern Texas where segregation still exists and where his hired ‘help’ live on the back of his ridiculously large plantation. He said 10 years ago the welcome sign as you entered the city said ‘Don’t let the sun shine down on your black ass’, and that the town was labelled the most racist town in America, and is still racist today. Disgusting stuff.

Whilst talking to the bartender about racism, UFOs, and other random things I get tapped on the arm by a guy next to me who is commenting on how cool the Mexican tattoo is on my forearm. He then points to a jovial skeletal day of the dead figure tattooed on his arm with a Mexican hat, mustache, and who looked like he was having a good ole party and he said ‘my cousin’ as he pointed to it so I exclaimed ‘oh cool your cousin did that tattoo for you’ to which he replied ‘no, it is my cousin. He’s in the afterlife’ which I couldn’t help but smile at as he had depicted his cousin in such a happy, almost comical way.

We got chatting to Carl with his dead cousin tattooed on his arm and with his mate Jäger who is a cop and before you knew it we were 5-6 rounds deep, and having a great time. We then drunkenly decided to call it a night and bid goodbye to our new American friends, but not before Carl had offered to Oscar to come round to his place in the morning and shoot one of his many guns, an AR-10 shotgun (as Oscar had been saying he wanted to shoot a gun while he’s here) and not before Oscar had attempted some self defense moves on Jäger in the bar which was hilarious as Jäger was extremely tall and completely indifferent to the surprise attacks.

We then caught a $5 taxi ride home as the government in Santa Fe subsidizes cab rides home to avoid drink driving and all in all it was a fantastic night. Although not sure it was entirely worth it with the long car ride the next day and the emergency stops we had to make.

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