A Whole New Quiz I'm a creature of ritual. I like rituals. They bring me comfort in this swirling, twirling, wacky world. I especially like having weekly rituals. For example, I like having a Tuesday night thing or a Saturday morning thing. I go to the gym most nights after work not out of any great sense of discipline. Rather it's just what I do.
Nowhere was my love of weekly ritual more evident than my quiz night in New York. Every Thursday night (every single god damn Thursday night), I went to quiz at Rocky Sullivans. If it was Thursday, it was quiz night, and I was there (except for holidays or illness or out of town trips). I wasn't the only one either. A core group of quiz regulars were also present every Thursday.
On quiz nights, Rockys was more crowded than a subway car at rush hour. It was a basic bar, a little hole in the wall on Lexington Avenue (between 28th and 29th streets). It was a long narrow room with a bar along one side. You had to go down steps from the street to go into it---like a descent into a magical cave. Apparently, a year ago, the owners did some internal renovation and put up a neon sign, so the Rockys I remember is only a ghost, a relic from the past visible only in my mind's eye. But whatever.
I can probably count on one hand the number of times I was in Rocky's not on a quiz night. On my dirty thirty birthday, a group of us went barhopping and we showed up at Rockys on Irish hip hop night. Uh-huh. There were also literary readings which were really cool, quiet nights in a half-lit bar with sometimes fully lit writers. There are also music nights and. . .and. . .just hanging out nights. But I digress.
Quiz started promptly (sorta, Irish time) at 9:30ish. Teams competed in seven intense rounds of trivia for the ultimate reward---a round of free drinks and. . .that's it. The trivia ranged from just about anything to almost everything. There were rounds where we had to identify pictures or snippets of songs. Each round was punctuated by a free drink question where the first correct answer written down legibly and shown to the Quizmaster received a free beverage of their choice. Of course, said winner might have to remind the bar staff of this.
The Quizmaster was the same every week (except for holidays or illness or out of town trips). Liam sat on a stool with a small table, all his questions, a microphone and a bottomless pint. He had two rules: the quizmaster is always right and don't feck with the quizmaster. These rules were followed (most of the time).
Quiz lasted many many hours on Thursday night and usually ended around the midnight hour. The responsible people cleared out soon after the results were read. The winning team drank their free drinks. The jukebox played on and on and on until 4am.
I will not bore you with tales of drunken debauchery. What happens at the bar stays at the bar. I will say that it's incredible the useless facts you can remember while your brain has a few pints of Bass sloshing around in it. Socially, quiz could be an interesting case study of what happens when book smart people are crowded into a small smokey room with alcohol. Crazy stuff, I say.
I moved to LA, so I did not go to quiz at Rockys anymore. I couldn't quite justify the weekly plane ride. I got over it and found new weekly rituals. I also got the occasional call from Kelly which began with, "Guess where I am". I always responded with a nostalgia panged ahhHHHHH.
Recently, I met some new people who told me about a quiz night at Fox and Hounds on Thursday night in the Valley. Even though the Valley scares me (I always get lost there), I faced down my fears and stop-and-go traffic and went to Studio City (which by the way, isn't really a city).
It was a whole new quiz---familiar yet different. First of all, it started at 7pm (it really did, the sun was still up). Next, it wasn't a crowded bar where you fought for a stool. No, there were tall tables (reserved for quiz teams) and waitress service (I kid you not). Yes, people brought you your drinks instead of squeezing through bodies with four pints in your two hands. And! There was food. We didn't have to run to the deli or the nearby Indian restaurant. No, there was food and it was reasonably priced.
The whole new quiz had a completely different vibe to it. It seemed more civilized. No one was whooping it up. No teams were cheering or booing (okay, except my team). It was polite---almost too damn polite. At one point, the Quizmaster randomly served shots of peach schnapps. Peach. How cute. So sweet, they're nasty, but it's the thought that counts.
The whole new quiz proceeded like the old quiz. There were rounds of questions and we wrote down answers. The team that came in last got a free round of shots (looked like the peach variety again). The winning and 2nd place teams (my team came in third, we didn't get squat) got bottles of booze. Sure, the winning bottle was Skyy Vodka Berry, but if you order some glasses of tonic, you could have some fun.
The quiz was followed by a grey haired guy with a guitar who played a lot of covers while we all watched the Dodgers on TV. I left around 11---stone cold sober and able to find the 101. Although no one drunkenly sang along with "Fairy Tale of New York" on the jukebox and some of the patrons were wayyyy too pretty, I once again got to go to a Thursday night quiz. Some rituals never die.