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Rock of ages 

Author's forward and disclaimer: Welcome to the first installment of our new, bi-weekly nightlife column, "Barfly on the wall." As the name attempts to imply, I'll be exploring bars and other gathering places (mostly bars) incognito.

            My intention isn't to spy on people and expose their embarrassing nocturnal exploits to the public. That is, unless you're a recognizable public figure, at least to our libel lawyers.

            For example, say you show up at Jeremiah's on Monroe Avenue during a Monday Night Football game --- like the one last September 16 --- on a motorcycle, with a biker buddy just as bulky and leather-clad as you are. You both proceed to annoy and intimidate staff and patrons alike with your Bally-meets-Budweiser machismo for a half hour or so. Then you get back on your cocky little crotch rockets and rev them loud enough to drown out all conversation inside the tavern for most of a minute. In that case, I may be moved to write that when, for the first time in my life, I witnessed an entire bar erupt in relieved applause upon a patron's exit, one of those patrons was former Amerks star Scott Metcalf. I might also add that the other was, as both boasted to everyone in earshot, an employee of high standing in the company run by a gubernatorial candidate whose last name rhymes with "Gosh, I dunno."

            I hope that's clear. Thanks for reading.

For this inaugural column, I've decided to write about an establishment that exemplifies my first experiences in Rochester's nightlife scene: The Rock Bar, at 655 Monroe Avenue.

            The Rock reminds me of the old Rolling Rock on Alexander Street, among dozens of other places. It's essentially a keg party where you give someone a couple bucks every time you want your plastic pee cup filled.

            On a recent Wednesday night, the Rock was filled with what seemed like exactly the same crowd I used to see at the other Rock years ago. All the girls were young and beautiful; all the guys young and brutish --- at least, as brutish as anyone can look wearing Abercrombie & Fitch and an earring. And much like my experience at Rolling Rock, everyone acted as though I didn't exist.

            Maybe they're ghosts, I mused: drunk drivers who died years ago and were sentenced by vengeful deities to strut around on sticky floors, pick petty fights, and squawk like chickens in a factory farm forever. Booming Top 40 rock and pop is the soundtrack to their eternity, lukewarm Coors Light the only relief for their unquenchable, Camel Light-induced thirst.

            But no, I realized upon reflection, they may seem transparent and scary, but they're real. And just like my friends and me when we were their age, they'll get a little older and move on up the street to bars like Oxford's, J.J. Flynn's, and Woody's --- places with a little more class, or at least glasses.

            The Rock is a primitive version of those watering holes. Male patrons pee in a trough. It's decorated with beer mirrors and posters of thugs --- The Sopranos, Goodfellas, The Godfather.

            I know it's not necessarily fair to pass judgment on a bar designed to appeal to people a decade younger than I am. But I loathed meat markets like The Rock when I was 21, and hundreds of subsequent visits to such places never changed my mind. Furthermore, I suspect there are drinkers-in-training there these days who feel the same way I did, and they should know they're not alone.

            There are only two reasons guys go to these joints: cheap beer and chicks. But you can only get so loaded and bloated on buck Bud drafts before the shallowness of the scene sinks in. At that point, you realize that even if you meet the girl of your dreams that night, should she ever want to go back there again, you'd dump her. And where would you end up the next weekend, still single, bored, and poor?

            Chances are some place with the same nickname as a prison and just as many ways to escape.

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