I descend the steps to the Casba in Broad Ripple at 1:30 am. It’s become understood among my small brat pack that we can be found here late at night, downing last-call whiskey shots and crooning jukebox sing-a-longs like “Freebird” and “American Pie.” Long lost friends will be reunited, hopes of hooking up will be rekindled, and drama, heavy drama, will ensue.
I don’t plan for this Friday night to be any different.
I give Freeze, the bouncer, a quick handshake as I enter the chattering bar. The Casba vibe always reminds me of a fraternity basement party with its cement floors, old school wood paneling, and speakers blaring familiar songs; familiar not because they were released last week but because they were the songs parents played when driving their kids to grade school in the ‘80s. It’s comforting and eerie all at once.
Navigating my way through the small space, I pass a few Jamaican guys smoking homemade cigarettes and bump into a blonde couple spinning on the dance floor. The crowd at the Casba is insanely unpredictable; that’s what makes it so intriguing. Depending on what night I go I may see a two-hour break-dance battle, hear a live reggae set or, like tonight, be serenaded by Frank Sinatra.
I find my friends sitting with the bar owners in a secluded corner. As one of them hands me a RedBull vodka he tells me about some renovations he wants to make for the space, like an additional room for special clients. The others in the conversation give me a look, as if to say, “It will never happen.” I don’t take their glares as criticism. They just know that the success of the Casba is in its welcoming nature and not-too-serious attitude. A VIP room at the Casba would be like a casino room at church — too extravagant and out of place.
As the lights turn up at 3 a.m. Freeze starts pushing people out of the bar and up the stairs to civilization. When we beg Freeze to let us stay for just a few more minutes, he does everything but put our coats on us to get us moving faster.
Standing under the awning at the entrance of the Casba I got a sense of how the night went for all our other Broad Ripple cronies. Guilford Avenue had turned into a delinquent parade with couples necking in front of Qdoba, drunken clans of girls crossing the street before screeching SUVs and guys on corners singing bar songs they just couldn’t get out of their heads. Someone pulls me out of my dream and tells me about an after party, urging me to get into an overflowing cab heading north. As I shut the sliding door and rest on the sliver of seat given to me, I see the Casba — and the Guilford Avenue parade — fade into the distance.