8:02 p.m. We arrive at Charlie’s Filling Station and take seats near a Christmas tree-bedecked window. I order a domestic bottle, but a few at our table opt for Greyhounds, since the bar juices its own grapefruits. Oranges are also fresh-squeezed.
8:04 p.m. We can’t help but notice the guy hovering over the jukebox, guarding it like it’s sacred ground. And if we judged the bar based solely on this gentleman’s musical selections, we would think it was stuck in the ’90s: INXS, Third Eye Blind and Ace of Base.
8:05 p.m. Speaking of the ’90s, this joint still has a pay phone.
8:07 p.m. It also has a lot of holiday decorations. An inflatable moose head has been adorned with a red bow. Garland is wrapped with various kinds of holiday lights, including some in the shape of Hawkeye logos, letters spelling out UPS, Cubs jerseys and mustard-decked hot dogs. The frames on the walls have been covered with foil and wrapped with ribbon like presents.
8:10 p.m. That guy is still at the jukebox. Now he’s playing Tesla.
8:15 p.m. A small alcove off the main drinking area has a popcorn machine; free popcorn is always a hit. There’s also a retro Crock-Pot filled with cocktail wieners and a platter filled with festive cookies. We grab some popcorn and return to our seats.
8:17 p.m. The crowd at Charlie’s skews older, with the youngest patrons appearing to be about 30 and the oldest rounding out at around 65, at least on this Saturday night.
8:18 p.m. A new guy is pumping money into the jukebox. Pink Floyd’s “Money” comes on. This guy is dressed in his business casual best, with black dress pants and a blue button-down shirt. His hair is close-cropped all over except at the nape of the neck; it’s the kind of non-committal mullet that’s always driven me crazy about Paul McCartney.
8:21 p.m. A member of our drinking party attempts to connect to the TouchTunes jukebox using an app on his cellphone. Though he can’t connect to the jukebox at Charlie’s, he could play an entire Kenny G album at Hooters. Though it sounds amusing, we pass on that.
8:35 p.m. The Sequin Twins arrive, and they’re hard to miss: A blonde with a purple sequin tube top and three-inch heels and her friend, who’s wearing a skull tank top with sequin shoulders and a matching sequin skirt.
8:45 p.m. Paul McCartney notices the Sequin Twins and spends an abnormally long amount of time caressing the one’s sequin-bedazzled shoulder.
8:56 p.m. Though the bar has multiple pieces of gas station memorabilia in keeping with its “filling station” theme, our favorite nod is the old gas pump in the corner. The top has been filled with water and houses a lone beta fish.
8:59 p.m. This bar is seriously dude-heavy, except for the Sequin Twins.
9:02 p.m. We overhear Paul McCartney reminiscing about his heyday. You know, when he was 60 pounds lighter.
9:26 p.m. We visit the restroom for the first time. A chair rail separates a regular wall underneath and carpet above. Why anyone would put carpet on a wall, let alone just the top part, is anyone’s guess.
9:34 p.m. Paul McCartney has found a new female shoulder to caress.
9:38 p.m. We spot a Hawkeye sweatshirt that looks like it was plucked straight out of 1992.
9:45 p.m. We spot a gent in his mid-30s wearing cargo jeans replete with a jean handle for his hammer. He’s chatting up the Sequin Twins, who are sipping on screwdrivers. When they decide to leave the bar a few minutes later, the gent is not invited. The disappointment on his face is palpable.
10:18 p.m. Paul McCartney is dancing with a middle — aged woman to trance-like music. It’s a strange fusion of ballroom and freak dancing. His hands are crawling up her shoulders like a spider’s before he moves them to her rear. He then starts tapping her shoulders with his palms. What is it with this guy and shoulders?
10:58 p.m. We finally find the courage to tap into the communal cocktail weenies and cookies. A warning on the weenies says there is whiskey in the sauce; it’s delicious. So are the cookies. Charlie’s may be a seriously quirky place, but it has its charms. And if they are serving those weenies when you visit, make yourself at home.
Charlie’s Filling Station
Find it: 304 Grand Ave., West Des Moines
Hours: 3 p.m.- 2 a.m. daily