This Thing Rules

I missed dive bars so much I made my own for $29

COVID-19 is keeping me from my favorite watering holes, so I recreated some dive bar ambiance to fill the void.

For some strange reason, I've found myself drinking a lot more these past few months. And by "a lot more," I mean that, were someone to force me into quantifying the amount of alcohol I've imbibed since quarantine's beginning, I'd need a shot of Early Times to calm my nerves before beginning the sad, sordid tally. Thankfully, I'm pretty sure I can delay that mental and physical reckoning for at least a little while longer, and in the meantime, I've found the perfect way to up my near-daily afternoon (or, occasionally, painful "hair of the dog" early morning) happy hours: these ridiculous, juvenile adhesive LED lights now lining my home's otherwise very nice, very grown-up minibar.

See, my girlfriend bought her home before we began dating, so although I live with her now, it will always remain mostly "her place" in terms of decor. Luckily for me, she has lovely taste (I mean, just look at the nice Jewish boy she's dating), but she's also amenable to little concessions like the skull cabinet knobs in our study room, and the framed Weird Tales artwork hanging near the front door. But, perhaps my crowning achievement in aesthetic compromise (and alcohol-induced ideas) is this absurd, ramshackle lighting fixture.

Look upon my works, ye mighty, and drink.Andrew Paul

Look, it's been months since we've properly stepped foot in a bar here in New Orleans. That isn't to say we haven't dashed in and out places a couple times, but each visit left us feeling both saddened and paranoid by the state of things. Even in the cleanest of drinking locales, the mood is just different right now, and despite a vaccine on the horizon, that sense of the social uncanny will remain altered for the conceivable future. No matter how you shake it, the situation is goddamn depressing, so stopgaps are needed to keep our heads up. If I can't head to my favorite dive bar, I will bring the dive bar to my living room, come hell or high firewater.

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Really, any adhesive LED light strips will do, but for my purposes I opted for the 84" "Plug-In Under Cabinet Lights" from Good Earth Lighting available for less than $30 over via Lowe's. This nifty little ambience enhancer comes equipped with 16 different hue options along with a soft white setting, not to mention a remote control programmed with four optional patterns — strobe, flashing, smooth, and fading — along with dimming and brightness capabilities. Because they're LED lights, you're looking at a life expectancy around 30,000 hours, so essentially they'll last as long as you could want them (just make sure you keep them indoors and not stuck to your porch or backyard setup).

Note to self: Buy more tequila.Andrew Paul
The "Lush Pinot Noir" is only so-so, by the way.Andrew Paul
Rubber alligator head koozie not included in LED lighting purchase.Andrew Paul

The back of each strip comes with a 3M peel-and-stick adhesive glue, although I will admit that it's not the best attachment method. Even with my chosen surface properly cleaned, the LED lighting didn't stay properly put longer than a few days. If you're as reckless as I am, simply supergluing that sucker onto the bar counter did the trick, but I'm sure there are better, less destructive means of achieving your goal.

Am I cheekily avoiding my increasing dependency on spirits by stringing lights around our bar like an altar to Ke-Tel O-ne, the Pagan God of Fermentation? Yeah, probably. But hey, we're really flying by the seat of our pants this year. Fancy home bars are nice and all, but there's no need to dress up our drinking these days. If you do need to make it a bit more special every now and then, then I can't recommend a building a DIY dive bar in your own living room highly enough.