Sometimes when you love a place it creeps up on you. You don’t fall hard and fast right away, and it’s definitely not love at first sight – it was never that pretty. It’s a gradual thing that builds up over nights and then months, until it’s hard to think of the last ten years without it. But you remember your first time.
Hungry Brain is a bar without a sign, but you remember it’s just past Oakley. You’re 19. You like bars. You’re too chicken to get a fake, but your friend works the door and lets you in, accepting the cupcakes you’re carrying with a nod. You asked him to look he other way just this one time because it was your friend’s birthday, just this one time, and he does. He lets you in the second time too, then the third and fourth. “You don’t cause any trouble,” he says in his froggy, rasping voice. “And you bring treats.”
There is no special occasion the fifth time but it feels significant. You drink cheap gin and tonics and look around at a space that resembles a sort of cool older cousin’s basement, if that cousin had a stage and decent beer. It’s comfortable, like a low-key house party where you know enough people to make it familiar but there’s some strangers to keep it interesting. The lighting is low and that makes you confident. There are couches and tables. The tamale guy comes by around 10.