The skyline of amber boxes shrinks into tiny polka dots behind me as I cruise beneath the purple glow of the Second Street Bridge into Indiana. I follow signs to New Albany, the birthplace of an ex-boyfriend. Unlike our relationship, I decided it was time to give this town another chance by visiting the Irish Exit, the hot-boxed watering hole for New Albany night crawlers.
I slam my car door shut on Main Street, where parking is plentiful and the traffic lights are forever green. I jog through the cold to the door of the Jacob Bader Building, a historic structure built by one of Floyd County’s swankiest businessmen in 1885. For more than 100 years it was home to wholesome bakeries, candy stores, supermarkets and furniture repair shops. Tonight, an Irish crest dangles above the sidewalk and squeaks as a chilling breeze chases me through the door and into a swirl of smoke.
Behind the front window’s green fogged glass, neon beer signs and arcade games illuminate extravagant tattoos, damaged pool tables and wobbly low-tops. Dreadlocked hippies, Hello Kitty fanatics, athletes, and a couple in matching denim cowboy outfits weave between one another, braiding the conversations into one. At a table to my right, several 20-somethings passionately debate a technicality in their game of Magic: the Gathering. A man in business-casual dress dramatically enters with Wendy’s to share. The wizards pause their game and applaud.
The walls of the trapezoid-shaped room are covered in mirrors, beneath the elaborate wooden crown molding. It appears as if someone unrolled a rug made of broken tile over a messy ground littered with abandoned children’s toys. Through the smoky haze I search for familiar faces. I wave to the back corner, where my friend Sarah has claimed a heavily dented aluminum table. I plop onto what is essentially a soot-covered church pew and feel it dramatically sag beneath my weight.
“Where’s Eric?” I ask, looking around for Sarah’s husband. She rolls her eyes and swings her thumb behind her. Eric is hunched over, slamming his fist against the Red Bull vending machine. “I guess the machine doesn’t make change,” she says. “I gave him a five.” I laugh and look down at my phone, which is inviting me to join an open Wi-Fi network called “beer.” Eric finally joins us after making a trip to the bar. “Man, you know why this place is great?” he asks. He holds out his hand, where his vending-machine change has been returned.
A bearded man rises from the Magic table and drags his feet to the stage, where he takes his place at the turntables. He begins his set with the screeching static of South African electro sensation Die Antwoord, followed by the funky flow of Carl Carlton’s “She’s a Bad Mama Jama (She’s Built, She’s Stacked).” After a five-minute visit in a womp-wiggle bass headache, the triumphant horns of Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al” rescue the musical integrity that had been lost. Eric shoots out of his chair and embarks on a jerky moonwalk to the dance floor. I follow with a Prancercise. Our twirls and enthusiastic punch-dancing is not matched by anyone else in the Irish Exit tonight, but the DJ takes note of our taste and sprinkles it into his set. We sweat in the heat of the Irish Exit’s melting pot, painting our moves into the history of New Albany’s Main Street.
This article appeared in the May 2014 issue of Louisville Magazine. To subscribe go to loumag.com.
The article was written by Wesley Bacon and photo was taken by Lynn Hafele.