Happy Hour Scene: The Usual

The Place: The Usual 5519 Allen @ T.C. Jester 281-501-1478 www.theusualpub.com/specials.htm The Deals: Discounted wells and domestics from at least 4 to 10 p.m. during the week - check website for details.

The Scene: The last time I went to The Usual, I overhead a woman tell her husband via cell phone that she needed to go shopping and would be home late. She hung up, and she and her group of friends started talking with me and my date while we finished a game of eight-ball.

Actually, they mostly talked to my (hetero female) date. This was a group of women who preferred the company of other women, the cagey cell phone user maybe included, though it was difficult to tell with her.

(A friend of mine who worked as a deckhand on a charter fishing boat out of Seward, Alaska, once pissed off his legendarily gruff captain by asking if the vessel came equipped with gaydar. That has nothing to do with happy hours. I just like the story.)

That wasn't surprising - I'd heard The Usual has become a popular lesbian hangout. That time, I was one of two men in the bar. But when I stopped by with my younger brother this week, the grown-up after-work crowd was more of a 50-50 split. It didn't make a difference. Whatever your preference, you're probably not going to feel like you're invading anyone's turf when you drink here. Ripcord for girls, it is not.

The patio is relaxing in the late afternoon, or it is for the time being. The shade created by the single-story building and nearby oaks starts winning out around five, and there are maybe a month's worth of decent breezes left. The trains that run on the tracks 50 feet from the bar don't even blow their horns anymore. Dinah probably said "fuck this shit, I'm going to grab a $2 Tecate and do some karaoke with the girls."

I had a couple of $1 Lone Stars (an all-day Tuesday special) with my brother before we had to leave for a family get-together. I thought about calling my dad, telling him we needed to do some shopping and were going to be late, and ordering a couple more rounds, but I knew there'd be drinks at dinner. Family first.

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