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Cleveland Heights, OH www. The Fairmount is for the martini- and wine-drinking crowds. Though it offers a selection of craft beers, this bar has more of a relaxing lounge vibe, which is perfect for the cocktail drinkers that would like to have a lengthy conversation without being jostled by dancers or youngsters slurping cheap beer.

The Velvet Dog W. Barley House W. Barley House is for the young dancing crowd. Beginning as a pub, this is a great bar to socialize with some pals and get to know the rest of the bar goers, but after 10 p. Mel knows so many bartenders and managers, not to mention the other guys she meets, that someone's always coming up to her with a drink in hand and a cheery, "Here you go. Mel walks to Liquid's door to talk to the bouncer, Dani dances nearby to hip-hop and Tonia borrows the bouncer's little white penlight and starts checking IDs as people walk in.

The bouncer doesn't mind, because Mel's running her hand up and down his neck with a nonchalance that somehow seems more friendly than seductive. Mel and her friends' partners-in-crime routine looks like such fun, it doesn't matter how the quest for guys goes. They've developed aliases to give to guys they've just met. Until Mel feels comfortable with a guy, she goes by Loretta.

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Tonia, who's met too many liars in the Warehouse District who pretend to own their own businesses or work for Fortune companies, pretends she's Ashley. Dani goes by Dani. She doesn't want her real name published. Tonia sees a cute guy with a dusky, olive-skinned look, wearing a bright blue beach shirt.

But Tonia's already heading over to him. His friends approach, and Dani joins them. But the guy turns creepy really fast. He proudly tells Tonia that the tattoo is a Sicilian word: Tonia gives him her ex-boyfriend's number, passing it off as her own, and moves on. Mel met Tonia and Dani only two months ago, but they go out together a lot. Since Mel's longtime friends are settling into marriage or relationships with long-term boyfriends, she's found new, very single friends for clubhopping.

But Mel isn't really the same as her friends. Dani distrusts guys she meets in bars; they're usually players, she says. She's hard to please, quick to decide a guy isn't worth her time. Tonia loves meeting new people as much as Mel does, but while Mel's tired of Cleveland guys, Tonia loves Clevelanders for being genuine, loves Browns fans for painting their limos orange. Since she got out of a bad relationship, Tonia's been dating but not getting serious with anyone.

Well, not for a long time, she demurs. Being single is "so much more fun. You do so much more. She can't wait to get married. She's used to being close to someone; she lived with her last boyfriend for four years and with her high-school sweetheart for six years before that. She's from a large family and she wants to start one of her own. Her vision of marriage is exciting, optimistic and a little naive. Then, every day is something different," she says. Some of Mel's settled-down friends call Liquid a meat market.

They can't imagine dating a guy they met in a bar. But Mel's just trying to meet someone who shares her interests. Tonight, no one's standing out from the crowd. Liquid's studied mix of style and ordinariness-- club-chic couches below a TV set to sports, decor that nods faintly to industrial fashion clashing with an autographed photo of local Playboy Playmate Carmella DeCesare-- attracts a crowd that dresses up but doesn't show off many quirks or rough edges.


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Men in striped shirts dominate the room. Dani and Tonia chat up two guys in blue shirts with wild yet similar patterns, but the guys bore them and they drift off. A bit later, Dani turns around abruptly, says something to Tonia about a guy molesting her and rushes toward the door to find Mel. I try to meet them there after I get my coat and settle my tab. But there's a line at the door. When I finally get inside, I can't find them.

I call Mel's cell phone twice, but only hear crowd noise and some guy saying, "Hi, Melinda" before I'm cut off. I give up, go home and read about the rest of the night a few days later on Mel's Web site. She met Mario Lopez, who played A. Slater in the old TV show "Saved by the Bell," at Tramp, went to Panini's twice for sandwiches and reeled from the effects of a couple too many Jack-and-gingers:. I drunk-dialed too many people between the hours of 1 and 4 a. The Thursday after Thanksgiving, Mel and her girl-posse gather at McCarthy's Ale House for one of her last Lakewood bar nights and pronounce the crowd "dead.

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A wiry, hyper, blond guy darts up to Mel's circle and tries to moon them, but gets little response. Stefanie, the token married woman in Mel's posse, grumbles about the guy "showing us his nasty little white ass. She watches her friends' search for men from a tranquil remove, making barbed comments. Mel's wearing the off-white suit coat again, this time with a black flower on the lapel, over a little brown top. She just got her hair straightened and highlighted, she's more made-up tonight and she looks sharp, perfect. Now, I can see why guys tell her she's intimidating. Apparently McCarthy's, like Liquid, attracts men who buy their outfits together.

Two guys wearing matching white polos over matching white T-shirts with blue jeans come up to Mel and her friends. One, with little curled blond bangs, does most of the talking. He tells Mel he's from Arizona. The other guy keeps quiet and holds his hands together in a little tent-- that hand position that's supposed to be a sign of wisdom and power in office meetings.

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Guys approach Dani as we talk, guessing that a man scribbling in a notebook isn't real competition. First come the white polo-shirt guys. Then Ralph, an engineer. Then a young bald guy in a white turtleneck who wants to do a shot with her, but not while I'm around. He's "not doing any surveys. They could care less about them. He buys Dani a Jack-and-diet and tells her she looks exotic. Somehow age comes up.

He's 13 years older than her, which doesn't seem to bother either of them. As it gets late, guys who actually know Mel and her friends show up. First comes Anthony, the guy Katie's dating.

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They met at school. He stood out, Katie says, "because he didn't chase me," but let her strike up the conversation.

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