When I first attended Dr. Sketchy at The Wallflower on Main I discovered a few things about strategy and preparation. For instance, if you want choice seats, arrive by 4:30pm though the event doesn’t kick off until 7. Make an afternoon of it, bring a book, do some drawing, check out the Pulp Fiction book store next door on one side of Wallflower, and RX Comics comic book shop on the other side, the same shop that long ago procured a lot of the toys I’d had shipped up from Oregon when I elected to stay in Vancouver.
The Wallflower is a long, narrow space, bench and tables down the length of one side, bar halfway up the other. Every month there is a fresh installation by local artist or art coalitions, paintings, drawings, mixed media, great stuff and well suited to the event of the evening. The staff begins to rearrange the free standing tables sometime around 5:30 or 6, rows of chairs and facing towards the short elbow of the bar, where the models will pose on top of anti-skid mats Shary Contrary puts down to ensure no one takes a tumble.
Along the bench there is a table wide enough for two that faces right up at where the model will pose, though also affording some serious foreshortening, small heads and Robert Crumb scaled up feet. Initially I thought this table to be the choice contender, to subsequently discover that you are so lined up with the model you don’t get strong diagonals, no three quarter sorts of visibility, and on top of that you’re sitting penned in by the pair of tripod mounted lights pointed at the model. One interesting aspect about seats around this area is the effort and precision required to assist the Dr. Sketchy crew with plugging in those lights. One person must pull the metal edged back of the cushy bench forward, gaining the mere millimeter need to get the three prong plug angled into the Death Star trench and turned 90 degrees to slot into the sockets that appear periodically down the length of the shallow gutter that runs behind the bench.
One table closer to the door along the bench is actually the table of choice, and my friends and I have been taking turns arriving early to secure those seats, aka camp them, every since we learned of their most excellent vantage. Though the freedom gap on one side is cluttered by a tripod light, there is room on the other for escape when the bladder has reached maximum capacity. True, when attending solo, the small high tables on the far side afford great vantage and some dignity among all the parties of two or more, although no one ever seems to end up lonely at a Dr. Sketchy, something about the vibe of the thing gets people to chatter, sneak peeks at one another’s pads, ask about techniques, materials, utensils, or what that entre was someone just delivered to your table to stop the tummy from grumbling.
Bathrooms reside way at the back of the place. One people easily spot behind the small MC stage where models typically perform their half-time burlesque performances, next to the privately owned ATM machine. Follow the hall past a wall tiled with fliers from past Dr. Sketchy events and discover another bathroom most people don’t know about tucked back in the wall just before the kitchen. After too many pints, this is a critical insider’s tip.
Speaking of beer, the Wallflower keeps things simple. They stock two local brews on tap, and additionally offer Old Milwaukee with an apt Varga style angel adorning the can, available for cheap. Say what you will about hipster beer, or about sex in a canoe, Old Milwaukee is pretty damn near perfect for occupying a small footprint on a table laden with sketchbooks and art supplies, a table likely to get butt-checked sooner or later by people trying to escape the bench, and you can line up quite a few dead soldiers before you find you’ll need elbow room. Also recently discovered they offer Grey Monk Riesling from Okanagan, tasty and cheap, just how I like.
The temptation to have a couple pints before the start of the event is often unavoidable, if not essential to get into the right sort of master artist perspective. The trick is a combination of water and pacing, both because Dr. Sketchy events tend to be on Sundays, school nights, and as well like golf you’re better off bringing you’re a game to the latter 9, the holes that really differentiate the men from the boys, the princesses from the school teachers, the Big Birds from the Angry Birds.
Another pro tip is never attempt a Dr. Sketchy on an empty stomach, especially in The Wallflower, where food is reasonably priced and exceptionally yummy. I’m partial to the beef stroganoff and only rarely deviate, as with the most recent event where I tried the country fried chicken with gravy, mixed fried veggies, and a subbed in side of mac & cheese instead of mashed potatoes. The beef stroganoff had a bed of plus sized elbow macaroni; occasionally spirals when pasta droughts changed the selection up at Bosa Foods, and topped with a dollop of sour cream and some diced pickled something, probably pickles. Two words, both of them “Yum.”
The Wallflower is child friendly, as they have a restaurant license, something of a strange phenomenon in Vancouver, and has lead to a lot of spots going out of the rolodex since they don’t allow minors, and you know how 9 month olds can be around booze. Always on the bottle. A wonderful afternoon is arriving early with the missus and OT. Otis’s second nickname, “OT,” is short for “Over Time.”
His first nickname? “Bacon.” Followed by a third alias, “Munster.” Most of the time though, if we aren’t using his full name, we defer to OT instead. Bacon had been our working title while he’d been baking up in the belly oven. Everybody loves Bacon. Once he escaped the womb and ran amuck, he demanded with the jutting under-bite and pouting lower lip that we anoint him with a real and proper name, one to drive his enemies before him, a name to resound in the lamentations of their women.
So we have a small family dinner out, chat a bit and try to keep sharp things away from OT’s thief quick hands while I wait for my friends, countrymen, and cohorts to arrive. An hour or so before things commence, Lindz slips away to get the boy home in time for his bedtime, also 7 pm. Though not a tradition, yet, as Otis gets older and I try to get him up to speed with drawing and fine dining, spots like The Wallflower will certainly be in the short list of preferred family friendly lounge spots.
And now on to the main event, continued tomorrow…