Editor’s Note: This is a series in which Daily Press writers overhear and observe happenings around Santa Monica.
THIRD STREET PROMENADE — A street musician wails on the soprano sax outside Barney’s Beanery Wednesday evening. At 7 p.m., all the brightly striped outside booths are occupied by at least one person.
A blond man sits across from an empty seat, but there are two margaritas on the table. He moves an empty plate closer to the edge of the table and shifts in his seat, waiting for his companion to return.
Four people stand in line to be seated. Two men in business suits examine the menu, which at first glance looks like a newspaper.
“I’ve been eating more and more lately,” one remarks. “I think it’s because of going to the gym.”
Inside, more than 15 TVs line the wall above the bar, showing the Dodgers, the Angels, a few soccer games and something about a road to the swimsuit pageant. Christmas lights, hubcaps and license plates decorate the walls and ceiling.
Faces of celebrities such as Jennifer Lopez, Cher and Howard Stern stare up from the tables. More distinguished figures like Martin Luther King, Jr., also make appearances.
A group of men all sporting polo shirts shares a table and discusses gmail, Google’s e-mail program.
“I was forced to give up my e-mail privacy,” one complains, licking his fingers emphatically. A plate of hot wings sits at the middle of the table.
The waitresses are all wearing some kind of Barney’s shirt — gray off-the-shoulder T-shirts or camouflage tank tops, mostly.
“It’s kind of overwhelming, I know,” one remarks as she helps a young couple choose drinks.
Most people in the bar are either young couples or groups of men of a variety of ages. It’s a good thing there aren’t too many kids because talk has turned to money — seemingly an always touchy subject among the polo shirt crew.
“Eventually it just f***ing settled — and they got the f***ing money!” one said, his voice rising in agitation.
At the bar, two men in T-shirts and jeans lean over the back of a leather bench to talk to their seated buddy. The chairs at the bar — an odd assortment of colors and sizes — are all bolted to the floor.
There are a fair number of tourists here tonight. One takes a picture toward the entrance, and another wanders the bar, looking lost.
“No way, he was out!” says an indignant young man, his gaze fixed on one of the televisions. “Show the replay.”
At 8 p.m., the lights dim. Apparently, the party has officially begun.
A man and a woman sit on the same side of a four-person table. She leans into him and clutches his wrist as he tries to drink his beer and continues to hang tight after he sets his glass down. He gesticulates as he talks but doesn’t break her grip.
A black man, a white man and an Asian man walk into the bar. They don’t speak in sequence and nothing particularly amusing happens.
A waitress shows a couple around the bar — they weren’t happy with their first seating assignment. She clutches a glass of white wine with a slight sneer on her face, while he holds a beer and watches her nervously.
Behind the bar, an employee holds two overflowing beer steins and makes small talk with a few customers, laughing jovially as the golden liquid drips down his hands and onto the floor.
A bus boy walks by carrying at least 20 glasses that lean in two stacks against his shoulder. The glasses are chilled in ice above the bar under dim red lighting.
It’s only 9 p.m., but some people are already feeling the effects of their alcoholic beverages.
“I can’t believe there’s so much booze in this — and I can’t even taste it!” one girl slurs.
The women’s bathroom is getting a bit crowded. The walls are decorated with magazine ads upon which women have scribbled their phone numbers, screen names and, more recently, Twitter usernames.
“That thing is noisy!” a woman in a Pepperdine sweatshirt comments about the hand dryer.
Back at the bar, two men in black T-shirts and baseball caps, their pitcher of beer half-empty, try to cozy up to their waitress.
“We came to Barney’s because they have the hottest waitresses,” one says. “What’s your name again?”
Nearby, a group of men sings raucously to Garth Brooks’ “I Got Friends in Low Places.”
More people are going than coming, however. For them, the fast approach of Thursday morning and another work day means calling it an early night.