5:19: Rec room among the gloom and doom

How did “

Lucky Street

” get its name? Is it because 99.9999%+ of the global population is fortunate enough to not live, or even visit, the place? I mean, lets list the high points: mass concrete, zero greenery (though I might have spotted three blades of grass growing from a crack in the cement), curtained or tinted windows that suggest the bars behind harbor a world of soul-destroying bad lighting and music, and no people, except for a few touts, including a guy from “Gunmanbar.” Then again, maybe our party of four was there on an off night.

We eventually hazarded our way through Beijing’s most Mad Max of streets and arrived at 5:19 bar. The first-floor seating has been upgraded since my last visit, but the suburban recreation room feel remains, and I was disappointed that no one was playing Pong, or even Donkey Kong or Asteroids. Instead, American Idol was on the tube, though the few regulars seemed to care little for it (the fools!). The second floor was packed with rowdy (and I would guess drunk) Hilton employees.

Dave, the owner, claimed his Long Island is the strongest in town. My friend Miss Tan said the taste was above average, but the muddy appearance was a turnoff. My Bloody Mary was okay–though I like it spicier and with less salt on the rim– and actually came with a stalk of celery. (Why is that so rare in this town? Is celery expensive?). I also had a Sidecar, which was okay, too, and with that we bundled up and wandered off into the cement- and neon-filled night.

(From Beijing Boyce XIII, first emailed on March 24, 2006)