I've been living next to the Abbey Brewing Company for eight months, and I never knew it. Like a lot of people, when told about the neat little dive bar where the conversation froths as much as the homemade microbrewed beer, I assumed it was a reference to the Abbey Hotel (which is unrelated to the bar). Eager to discover a hangout on South Beach that lacked the proverbial SoBe essentials -- artificiality, pretension, and high prices -- I strutted over to a place that looked like a hole in the wall. Once inside, I was transported across the Atlantic pond to an old English pub, where I just happened to find the appropriate company.
"If this place was in my hometown, it would make a killing," said Craig Smith, an émigré from Oxford, England. He pointed to all the bottles of beer on the wall (which numbered fewer than 99), raised his pint of Abbey-brewed Imperial Stout, and gave a nod of appreciation. The Brit and I sat on stools for about an hour chatting it up like old chums. See, as a kid I watched plenty of late-night PBS shows such as EastEnders, Benny Hill, and Monty Python's Flying Circus, which acclimated me to the dry British wit and intimation that often flies over American heads by more than a few meters (I mean feet). "I often say things to people that any Brit would find offensive," Smith said. "But because of the discreet way we speak, Americans don't get it."
Then the conversation turned to politics, and my presumption that the rest of the world hates Americans and equates us with our government was confirmed. But I ended the international exchange by denouncing the Bush administration on behalf of every cosmopolitan Yankee with half a brain and implored the Brit to take that message back to Europe.
Then, just when the mood was getting too serious for guzzling suds, Mr. OBJEX artspace, Dustin Orlando, and his queen bee Stacee Boff walked in and lightened the place up. First they informed me that they are indeed competing in the world championships of darts, which they often practice for at the Abbey, and boasted about always hitting the bull's-eyes together. Then I wondered aloud who Dustin, a onetime L.A. skater kid, reminds us of. I thought it was Lost in Translation's Giovanni Ribisi, or maybe Seth Green. In any case Stacee downplayed my eye for comparing people with celebrities, at least until I spotted a dead ringer for Heidi Fleiss. The Fleiss chick overheard and wasn't sure whether it was a compliment or insult. (It was a compliment.)
Meanwhile Dustin philosophized about his approach to art: finding random objects and intellectualizing the story behind them. I told him that Wynwood, where his gallery lies, is the perfect place, since he's bound to stumble on a human skull or murder weapon.
In any case, the pair let me in on a secret (actually two but they made me promise not to blow the lid off the Bargain Box Thrift Shop). Apparently they are planning an OBJEX party in late spring that will feature "midgets, carnies, and Stacee's yet-to-be-substantiated entity," or as they say at the end of Monty Python skits, "something completely different."
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