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CHEE CHEE CLUB REVIEW (Downtown San Diego)
The Chee Chee Club is located near San Diego’s famous downtown red lamp district. A few blocks from the cities courthouse and a few steps from a major trolley station. Giving this historic area a high volume of traffic and just the right amount of seedy elements to keep the yuppies at bay. A friend of mine says “It takes character to do some daytime drinkin on a school day.” (Nick Bone) And this place dispenses a cast of characters that would put a John Waters movie to shame. One can poke their head in at any time during their regular business hours and leave with an amusing anecdote about a crazy overheard story/conversation, or be witness to a moment you wont soon forget. Not to say that this place is dangerous. As a keen sociological observer, you can feel safe taking in the wildlife here.
I started visiting The Cheech a little over a year ago. Initially going in to unwind after a days work, but staying alert of my surroundings and keeping an eye out for pickpockets. From my first few visits to this traditionally dimly lit place I noticed that there is a surprising amount of people that choose to wear sunglasses indoors and at night here. Im not sure if thats for aesthetic purposes or some sort of subcultural signal unbeknownst to me. A sense of adventure that is all but lost in todays modern man, needs to be rekindled and the thick midst of the concrete jungle is a perfect place to start.
A kind greeting is usually the first thing you hear as you enter, either from the barkeep or a random patron attempting to string a sentence together. You pull up a barstool and check out the libations. Im assuming its for safety purposes that the bottom shelf liquor is in plastic bottles. The cheapest beer IS NOT Pabst Blue Ribbon but Natural Light, which Im sure is done to make this place feel more like home for a lot of folks. The bartenders are good at what they do and have way more than adequate conversational skills on both a common and intellectual level. Freddy and Michelle make you feel like they’re amusing hosts at a dodgy dinner party. As you relax and look around, you’ll see at times a very eclectic mix of individuals, who on an average day can range from, older chicken hawk style men “cruising” for boys to conquer/ flamboyant femboys dancing to Cher/ Rock N Roll degenerates that work nearby/ young hipster kids “slumming it”/ Pool sharks/ your average drunk/ men in nice suits trying to sneak in a drink where they think no one will see them and from time to time…..a regular crowd of peeps.
The Urban legend that goes along with this place was told to me by my close friend and North Park Urban Historian, Chris “Silent” Henry. The Cheech has been around since the Fourtys and with its current since the sixties. San Diego’s Red Lamp district in Downtown became the hotbed for all of the Sailors that passed through town. All the worldly vices a young man could desire. Knowing the militaries stance on homosexuality (I can only imagine in those days it was worse) Sailors looking for a good time with other men had to go a little further away from the crowds and venture into the east village of Downtown SD. The Chee Chee Club provided the safe haven for those brave sailors. So its tradition remained for years ahead.
An anecdote that sticks out in my mind happened a few months ago. Some friends and I were unwinding and taking in the scenery there, when we noticed two guys sitting separate from each other on a booth in the corner. As our drinks became shallow they grew closer and closer, until we noticed they were gone. They hadn’t left through the front door or else we would’ve noticed. Where had they disappeared to???? The bathroom! we thought. I pulled out my phone and started filming, handed it over to my buddies Wayne and Hymie and the video above is what they caught.
They titled it as “Fag Bursting” not because any of us are homophobes, Id like to point out. But because its just plain funny.
A good social media presence is a necessity nowadays and The Cheechs Facebook posts are in my opinion top notch. Sarcastic yet friendly and perfectly worded. Please do take a minute to “Like” their page and see what Im talking about.
The price list has also got to be the best in the area. Cocktails, wells, beers (domestic, premium and import) range from three to five dollars! The jukebox has a surprising amount of good punk rock and pop. The Cheech also offers itself as a venue for artists. Come for the drinks, come for the conversations and wildlife and I promise if you stick around long enough. Reality TV, Maury Povich and Jerry Springers writers all combined couldn’t make this up.
Having stumbled upon this great restaurant through a popular app, I feel like a fool for not having come here before or any of its other locations. The 80s pop on the radio and modern booths left me wondering what the angle of this place was going to be. It didnt follow the chalk board and kooky menu theme that most young and hip restaurants are going with. Which I admire them for. Not only am I a huge fan of breakfast, but Im also a fan of sleeping in whenever possible. This place is open late enough that a respectable scumbag like myself can eat a proper breakfast. I ordered the strawberry and banana pancakes with a side of eggs and bacon (they come scrambled by default. A bold move that I also admired) The food arrived at our table within 10 minutes. I was taken aback with the plates presentation and garnishing. The 3 high stack of pancakes was topped off with powdered sugar and a sliced strawberry. Strawberry slices were cooked perfectly level into the pancake on top. The plate had squiggled lines of what appeared to be blueberry jam and sliced bits of apple and grapes along the perimeter of the plate. As I cut into my heap of doughy goodness I noticed that bananas began to emerge from the bottom pancake. to which they were smoothly cooked into as well. Our server returned several times and made sure we stayed well equipped with accoutrements throughout our meal to take this challenge head on. The pancakes were perfectly cooked and had a hint of sweetness in the batter also. The house syrup is in a plastic squirt bottle on the table and tasted like a mixture of honey and maple syrup. To the victor go the spoils and well deserved acclamation in this case. With prices that wont break the bank and attentive staff both in front of the house and obviously in the back. I plan on returning here as often as I feel that urge for heaping portions and an attention to detail thats normally reserved for high end restaurants, or at least places that are priced as such. At $8, I challenge anyone to beat that.
Reminiscing of days gone by makes everyone feel comfortable inside. Anything from a song on the radio to a certain smell. A lot of things sound better in retrospect also. I remember hating every poppy Sugar Ray song that clouded the radio stations and now , I catch myself going along with the melody. Anyone remember C&c music factory? No one seriously attests to being a fan, but everyone screams along “Everybody dance now!!” after a few drinks and a dj throws on some 90s pop tracks, that are sadly now considered Retro. If there was ever a sign pointing in the direction of a retirement community, it’d be when your fond musical memories are retro. The hundreds of one hit wonders stuck in our heads.The teeny bopper magazines that showed us bedazzled denim jackets were “Bad” (remember when bad meant good?) Teen sitcoms where the main roles weren’t whores.
Good Nickelodeon Shows with way better production value and writing than now. My personal favorite was always “Salute your Shorts”.Not sure if it was my unobtainable dream of going to summer camp one year, or being away from my town for as long as possible as often as possible. It had the bad kid(Budnick),the fat kid(Donkey lips)..hell there was even a black chick. Im assuming that was Nickelodeons way of merging 2 minorities and calling themselves culturally diverse. These gems linger in our minds and on Nick at Nite from time to time now. But every once in a while we stumble upon a phrase or memorabilia from those days and it makes us feel all warm and fuzzy. A Thrift store is a perfect place to find cherished and forgotten items. Going on shopping sprees is a rare occasion when you’re poor. Seeing all these kids dreading ,bitching and crying about clothes shopping with their mom on movies and tv, made no sense to me and I couldn’t relate to that. Was it that they didn’t wanna be seen in public with their Mom? That they knew they’d end up looking like a square, given their parents taste in clothes? We didn’t have the luxury of bitching about that. Hand me downs were worn until they tore in an unrepairable way. The stretched clothes just meant they were broken in and comfortable to wear.The faded colors made you look like you’d accomplished a lot at 12. In a recent expedition to “Revivals” a thrift store located in In Hillcrest,ca. I stumbled upon a great article of clothing that made me remember all the crazy things about my pre teen years and early teen years.The all night phone calls…(seriously we were 13-14 and went to school.What on earth were we so opinionated about that we could talk for 8 hours at a time?) it was a “Camp Anawanna” T-shirt in perfect condition that I got for a whole dollar. Not to mention the plethora of other fine mens clothing that Ive purchased throughout the years at thrift shops for pennies on the dollar. Pretty much anything that caught my eye for a dollar or 2. All it takes is careful looking into what type of thrift shop your walking into (but ill get into that during another blog). The shirt instantly brought upon all those faded memorys and story lines from the show..Ugg singing the theme song and Pinski talking in his his pitched pubescent voice. Nostalgia can be found within many things for many people, so for us in our 30s. I foresee a flooding of our teenage wares emerging from the stacks of clothes and knick knacks.
Human emotions are priceless, but their triggers are easily found. A smile and warm flooding of memorys every time you put on a shirt is well worth the entire dollar. If for nothing else other than bargain shopping. Take a peek and you might find those hammer pants you thought to never see again. Or the collection of garbage pail kids you cherished so much…..A smile and possibly rewarding conversation starter when in public ( remember human interaction and socializing was alive in the 90s also?) All for a dollar.
A healthy buying addiction and out of general necessity :(small income): one learns to snoop out bargains within our neighborhoods, and a lot of our goods can be purchased slightly used. Lamps/clothing/some furniture and more. When buying used merchandise at any establishment one needs to be familiar with what type of establishment it is in the first place. Theres 3 types of stores for used goods.
First there’s the Thrift stores/shops.
These places have all kinds of merchandise from clothing to electronics,sporting goods,furniture etc. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, these could be considered the lower end of the spectrum. A lot of the stuff is damaged or shows signs of use. Some of the clothing may have small stains or holes. Prices ranging from pennies to $20 mostly. I feel these places serve people with moderate to humble incomes very well. When one isnt extremely picky and considering yourself handy, a lot of cool things can be extracted from here. But for the patient grasshopper and keen observer these are also the places where nice collectibles can be purchased for a few dollars and then either displayed or resold, “flipped” if you will. Ebay, Amazon and stores that specifically cater to reselling have made treasure hunting into a profitable venture, with several TV shows having spawned from this as well.
Secondly we have the more boutique style of clothing and retail stores. These places tend to hand pick their merchandise and attract a very broad range of shoppers. Buffalo Exchange is a good example of this.Where youll find plenty of the tragically hip and the trashy up & coming writer types i.e. Me, trying to upgrade their wardrobe. As distant from a brand whore that I consider myself to be, I too can admit to having Dolce and gabbana jeans hidden in my closet because they were $10, looked good and fit perfectly. These places are perfect for the snobby people that cant afford to shop at the high end shops, but wanna keep up or find stylish/kooky things they can mold with their style. Sometimes similar places will carry nice furniture theyve also probably hnd picked or sell among new furniture on consignment.
The 3rd type of place is what truly gave the used merchandise industry its roots. The Vintage shops. Really old stuff that somehow made it through the years with little to no battle scars to show for it. Even in the olden tymes there was old stuff. Most of them have an eclectic decor with all the stuff displayed neatly as its received. Our grandparents love coming here and see things that were normal for them. On the same token it makes me wonder with each years that passes by, when Ill begin to see toys of my Christmas past on display. Ive discovered Peewee Herman dummies at pawn shops. he man toys have sprung up for sale on Craigslist. Garbage pail kids, my little pony,California raisins and what are now considered to be vintage McDonald’s happy meal toys are coming up from out of the woodwork. and all of us in our 30s are loving it. Yes this is the full circle of commerce ladies and gentlemen. We cried so our parents bought us things as children and then somewhere in our 30s with what little expendable income we have, we shell out 4X or more to buy it again. Nostalgia carrys a hefty price tag.