Columbus After Dark: Ruckmoor Lounge
5:45 a.m.: The Ruckmoor Lounge does not serve breakfast. They don't even serve coffee - just booze. But the watering hole has been opening at 5:30 a.m. since the late Bob Rucker opened the place in 1958 next to what would later become the Crosswoods development at I-270 and Route 23.
"He wanted it open at 5:30 for early birds and night-shift workers," explains Marge Monroe, who has worked the 5:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. shift Monday through Friday for a decade.
Ever since industrial jobs started to dry up, the crowd doesn't really pick up until 9:30 or 10 a.m. anymore, Monroe says. This morning, though, as we sip Killian's, three new customers burst in the door, minutes before sunrise.
Stacey Oliver is part-owner of the Columbus Sports Club, a private gaming club behind Bleachers Sports Bar. He and friends Alex Toth and Bill Kraybill have been up drinking all night, and they've decided to wrap things up with their first visit to the Ruckmoor.
After Toth gets a phone call from his girlfriend wondering where the hell he is, they decide to bet $20 on the Ruckmoor's ring-toss game, aiming to throw the dangling metal ring on a hook in the wall.
"That makes you a Ruckmoor hooker," Monroe explains.
They attempt various strategies - underhand, overhand, push, fling, violent heave. Toth and Oliver retreat to the heated smoking patio, but Kraybill keeps hacking away at the game. After five more minutes of failed attempts, at last, he nails it.
His friends can barely believe it, but they take our word for it: Kraybill wins.
6:30 a.m.: The sun has begun its voyage to the top of the sky. We depart Ruckmoor, slouch our way to my Civic and head back to Cafe Bella to drop Jodi off where she parked. As we cruise down I-71, feeling only slightly like zombies, I'm soothed by the sounds of Wilco's "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart."
This is music that meets you where you're at, and in the early morning haze, it sounds like the world waking up.
7496 N. High St., Worthington