What would happen if a zombie apocalypse descended on Silver Spring?
Karl Ericson recently posed that question on his blog. This weekend, we'll know the answer. Well, sort of.
Ericson, a 33-year-old who lives in Silver Spring, helped organize the inaugural Silver Spring Zombie Walk, which takes place Saturday. The event encourages people to dress up as zombies, meet at the Silver Spring bar the Quarry House, stumble around the city for a bit and then reconvene for a showing of Night of the Living Dead at the AFI Silver Theatre.
Mmm ... brains.
It's not like Ericson has a zombie fetish. This will be the first time he has dressed up as a zombie.
"I had to do a little research on zombie costumes," he said. "It involves layers of makeup and copious amounts of fake blood to vomit out your mouth."
Uhhh ... sure.
Ericson's not alone, either. As of last week, about 50 people had signed on for the Zombie Walk, and about 50 more were listed as "maybes" on the event's Facebook page. Ericson thinks the undead ranks will swell to the triple digits. The movie probably won't sell out, but he's going to get his ticket in advance, just in case.
"We definitely expect a good turnout," Ericson said. "I'm just worried everyone won't fit in the bar. It's decent-sized for a little basement, but it does have its limits."
A couple of nights last week, you could find me perched on an old bar stool at the Backstretch Saloon.
Ever heard of it? Me neither, until I read about it in the City Paper. It named the Backstretch best neighborhood bar a couple of months ago, which piqued my curiosity.
Finding the Backstretch can be tricky unless you know the neighborhood. It's easy to spot from Cold Spring Lane, but you have to weave through the neighborhood a bit before you find it. Let the red neon beer sign in the window be your North Star.
There's not much room inside the Backstretch. According to a fire-safety permit on the wall, it's allowed to have only 35 people in there. The patrons play video poker, chat and stare at one of the TVs at either end of the bar.
One thing that sticks out about the Backstretch is that it has a digital jukebox. Digital touch-screen jukeboxes give you tons more selection than the old CD jukes. But I like the old-school ones better because the choices are usually less generic, and I like seeing the CDs spin.
I'm not alone in this dislike, either. The Backstretch's jukebox ate one guy's $5 bill, which made him slightly less than happy. That's putting it lightly. Fortunately, the bartender comped him the money, and he selected some Creedence Clearwater Revival.
The Backstretch has two beers on tap: Budweiser and Michelob Light. Both cost only $1.25 each. I dare you to find me a bar in this neck of the woods with cheaper draft beer.
Better yet, beers come in frozen glass mugs. Frozen mugs rank pretty high on my list of Things Awesome Bars Have. The first time I went to the Backstretch, I had a Michelob Light. Halfway through it, little pieces of ice broke off the bottom of the mug and floated to the top of the beer. Goodness gracious! It was glorious.
The smoking ban has been in effect since February, but the Backstretch still smells faintly of cigarette smoke. That's understandable. When people smoke inside a small corner bar for decades, the odor doesn't just vanish overnight.
Instead of spending a couple of bucks on "No smoking" signs, the Backstretch had someone write the words in black magic marker on a couple of pieces of white paper and hang them on the walls. And instead of hanging up that City Paper award, someone wrote "Best of Baltimore" on a dry-erase board behind the bar. Hee hee.
I had a different bartender each night, and both were spunky and attentive. And even though I didn't know anybody there, I got roped into a couple of funny conversations with some of the regulars. What more could I have asked for from a corner bar? Not much. That little neighborhood has something special in the Backstretch.
Zodiac's restaurant days are done. But the space at 1726 N. Charles St. might have a future as a live music venue.
I hear the Wham City kids are going to start hosting shows there Tuesdays (I'm waiting for confirmation from Wham City co-founder Dan Deacon).
A legitimate music space like this could be huge for Wham City. It has been searching for something like this for years.
I talked to photographer/promoter Jim Lucio, who plans on starting a dance party called Trans-Am there the first and third Thursday of every month.
When he told me the name, I asked, "Oh, like the car?" and he said, "Yes, and also like transsexuals."
As it turns out, there aren't many, if any, clubs or dance nights that cater specifically to transsexuals, and Lucio wants to tap into that market.
"I just thought it was the perfect idea," Lucio said. "I don't have to worry about imitators popping up."
Though Lucio plans to play mostly '70s disco music, he doesn't want Trans-Am to be a raging disco party. The space isn't big enough for that, he said, and he wants people to be able to mingle.
"It's a little bit of an experiment," he said.
The first Trans-Am will be next month. For now, the tentative name of the place is Zodiac Performance Space. It's certifiably snooze-worthy. I suggested something a little edgier, like "Z." Anything would be better than Zodiac Performance Space.
IF YOU GO
* The inaugural Silver Spring Zombie Walk starts at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Quarry House Tavern, 8041 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring. From there, participants will amble, stumble and bumble through downtown before reconvening at the AFI Silver Theatre, 8633 Colesville Road, Silver Spring, for the 10:30 p.m. showing of Night of the Living Dead. Go to thayeravenue.com/zombiewalk.
* The Backstretch Saloon is at 1301 W. Old Cold Spring Lane. As a sign behind the bar says, "We're open until we're closed." Normally, it opens in the afternoon and closes between midnight and 2 a.m. daily. Call 410-889-3003.