Man About Town: Drinking in Swallow's Inn in San Juan Capistrano

At Swallow's Inn in San Juan Capistrano, underwear is overhead and everyone's on equal ground.

I'm on my way down to lower Orange County in our old minivan, the Honey Fitz. It's bleeding power steering fluid, but other than that the Honey Fitz is charging out of the barn, three of the four cylinders firing in sequence, the other a virtual wooden leg.

I'd planned to bring my wife, Posh, but when I left the house, she was all tied up with some project. Actually, she was lying on the bedroom floor, ensnared in the strings of a Pinocchio toy she was trying to put away a little too quickly.

Poor Posh. But she's got to learn her knots.

"Leave it to you to get an assignment in a bar," she hollers as I leave the house.

"I know. I don't even like bars," I remind her.

Who does? I never met anyone in a bar who I couldn't just as easily have met in a holding tank or a newsroom. Not that I haven't been in a few bars. In college, I drank so much beer I used to get yeast infections.

These days, I'm so done with bars. The low-rent ones are scary and the high-rent ones slightly fascist, full of moneyed development types with shiny, patent-leather cheeks.

The only bars I really like: Tinhorn Flats in Burbank, Rusty's Surf Ranch down by the beach in Santa Monica, Mutt Lynch's in Balboa. And the oaky old bar at the Biltmore (fascist, but a good fascist).

"Smells like Shakespeare," to borrow a line from "New Girl," the cleverest show on TV.

So, I had no intention of ever going to another bar but these, till I ran across this curious old saying:

"In wine there is wisdom,

In beer there is freedom,

In tequila there is truth,

In water there is bacteria."

That makes so much sense I decide to head down to Swallow's Inn in San Juan Capistrano, a slice-of-life place with a rabid following. In my case, it was a health issue.

Here's what I immediately like about Swallow's: everything.

Customers, thankfully mostly women, have flung undergarments to the ceiling, where they hang like sexy Spanish moss. Talk about public displays of affection.

"The things that go up, we just sort of leave 'em," bartender Cal Grimes explains.

Swallow's is pure honky-tonk. A newspaper, actually this one, purportedly once declared it "One of the 10 worst saloons in America," which the place still wears as a badge of honor.

"It's not a pickup joint, it's not a biker bar, it's everything," says manager Cheryl Krupp.