Saturday, July 5, 2008

Mik-n-Mac's 11th Anniversary

Mik-n-Mac’s Lounge Steel Anniversary Luau

We stumbled upon the place pretty much by accident. It was moving day, and we were wiped out from hauling my many belongings all the way from Seattle and finally up the long flight of stairs that led to my new downtown Cd’A apartment. Nothing in the world sounded more refreshing than a frosty pint of cheap American brew and some stale, fusty air-conditioned bar air in which to unwind. We decided to just meander the block and a half over to the closest tavern, which happened to be the infamous Waterin’ Hole, a name which was far too glamorous for such a fug-encrusted, sweat-stained pit of redneck hell. Thirst won out over trepidation and we made our way inside from the harsh glare of the summer sun, down the stairs and into the dungeon.

As our eyes adjusted to the dark we started to notice a few things. The scummy ambience was gone, replaced by the sparkle of cleanliness and plenty of insane green paint. Lamps shone that hadn’t seen bulbs in years, and inches of toxic dust had been wiped away from atop ancient bar fixtures. Also quite noticeable right away was the difference in clientele. It was late afternoon, a time when the Waterin’ Hole would have been at its most rowdy, but the room was peaceful and uncrowded. A group of ladies sat up at the bar snickering and chugging bottles of Miller Light, which almost gave them away, but it wasn’t until we saw their softball jerseys and feathery mullets that we really started to clue in.

“Something tells me this ain’t the Waterin’ hole anymore” I said as I examined the rainbow flags and gay pride stickers decorating the mirrors and shelves behind the bar. “Welcome to Mik-n-Mac’s Lounge” smirked the barkeep as she drew our pitcher of beer. “I’m Mac and this is my partner Mik.” Mik and Mac, also known as Rita and Kirsten had been looking for a space in which to open a “non-discriminatory establishment”, a lounge where their many friends and folks of all backgrounds and cultural persuasions could come to relax and dance and be themselves without the threat of being verbally or physically attacked for being different. This was actually quite a revolutionary idea for Coeur d’Alene, back when the bars were full of the kinds of folks who didn’t look kindly at all on alternative ways of life and were just drunk and obnoxious enough to let it be known. “It’s been getting busy on the weekends, you guys ought to come in and check it out” said Rita as we finished our beer and vamoosed, ending the first of hundreds of visits to our new favorite haunt.

Back then, things were so low-budget that the DJ used to set up a folding card table and spin his set right there on the side of the dance floor. A busy night in the early days consisted of around thirty people who all knew each other, but eventually word got out and slowly our secret underground bunker was filled with refugees from other bars and those who came out of curiosity, to gawk at the “freaks” as if they were exotic creatures in the zoo. Actually, most of the newcomers were friendly, and bouncers knew how to uphold the “non-discriminatory” policy and weed out troublemakers. It was inevitable that business would explode; Mik-n-Mac’s was really the best, and sometimes the only real nightclub in downtown Coeur d’Alene and people realized how much more fun it was to drink and dance in such an entertainingly diverse environment.
A few summers later and people were lined up down the street trying to get in the door every weekend. The atmosphere became completely bananas, with glamour girls, motorcycle mamas, frat boys and drag queens fighting for a place in the drink line or for a square foot of dance floor space. At one point way back when, Rita bought out Mac’s half of the rights and she’s kept things bubbling along quite nicely ever since. Tonight, Rita and her crew are celebrating eleven years of Mik-n-Mac’s, a long time for any business and an eternity for a night club. While not as intensely busy as it once was, the place is still guaranteed to fill to the rafters with a mixed-nuts assortment of people by midnight every Friday and Saturday. Tuesday is Karaoke night with Jerry and $5 bottomless domestic beer and Thursday is 2-for-1’s. DJ Jason spins Top-40, Hip-Hop and club classics every Wednesday through Saturday at 9 p.m. Earlier this year, they introduced a VIP couch area which can be reserved for groups and a martini menu featuring about 50 varieties of the boozy treats. Most recently Rita has gone a bit high-tech, bringing in a new, UFO-like internet jukebox for your listening pleasure.

It’s comforting in an odd way how certain things are just guaranteed to happen at Mik-n-Mac’s. Christa will come in for her shift and immediately rearrange the napkin holders and counter objects to her exact perfect specification. DJ Jason will play certain tracks every night without fail, including “Billie Jean”, “Closer” and the truly awful “AC/DC Megamix.” It’s inevitable that someone will tipsily attempt “Margaritaville” every single Karaoke night and everyone will shout on cue “Where’s the salt, where’s the gosh-darned salt”. The hand-soap dispenser will most definitely end up getting high-kicked off the men’s room wall by some pointless, disrespectful drunk every Saturday night. Almost always, I’ll have a nice Kokanee in a frosty glass with a side of Clamato please. Like the thousands of patron-customized dollar bills stapled to the walls behind the counter, there’s just an attractively comforting repetition to the place that keeps regulars regular.

That said, there have been some changes worth paying tribute to as well. We still rue the day the popcorn machine vanished. It once served to fill sour, liquored tummies with therapeutic grease and salt but was banished after clean-up became a consistent hassle. Or the old jukebox which once so proudly blared Abba and Ani DiFranco and broke down so often that Rita threatened to push it out into the middle of 4th Street. We miss the Hot Dog guy out front at 2 a.m., we miss Vaseline Face and the Iguana, and most of all we miss Jackson, the fiercest and funniest cocktail server we ever had the privilege to know. So many faces came and went, so many conversations spent in varying degrees of sobriety with friends and strangers too many to name.

The Mik-n-Mac’s “11th B-Day Luau Party” kicks off at 9 p.m. tonight and you better believe everyone will be getting a lei, around the neck of course. DJ Kowax will be jetting in from the Las Vegas to show us his funky, mash-up style of spinning records. Wear you sexiest muumuu and come shake it like a jigger full of Mai Tais.


swivek said...

Holy Canolis - 11 years... I may have to do a tribute blog of my own. It was the very first place I stumbled into when I moved to CdA and look what happened.

Gee I wonder if people remember little ol me..

Anonymous said...

great place to dance...I club a lot and MnM is still the best 1...bladerunner