Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The local watering hole

For those who know me, this post may seem an unlikely choice—if it doesn’t, I probably don’t want to know why :)

Whenever I drive down main street, I pass a little bar that I’ll call Sam’s. I’m not a person who frequents bars, but this place piques my curiosity. It reminds me of the sports’ clubs in the Australian outback…rectangular, functional, for members only.

The exterior is red brick. The windows are completely covered by paper, curtains or metal louvers--I’ve never seen the interior. That’s part of the allure…I have no idea who’s in there or what they’re doing.

When we moved here 6 ½ years ago, Sam’s needed a new roof and looked tough…shoddy. I envisioned a hardened crowd, smoking cigarettes, drinking beer, fighting over the pool table. You know a place like that has a pool table…

Eventually, the roof was replaced, and the building perked up. I started envisioning retired laborers who’d known each other for years and loved to swap stories. I pictured everyone yelling, “Norm!” when the door opened, although I thought Biff or Stuckey might be more appropriate.

On cold, rainy nights, driving home from soccer practice, I pictured men happily sharing pitchers of beer and shooting darts. I wondered how many injuries occurred before the dart matches were over—throws lack accuracy after a few pitchers of beer. I’m surmising here…

This morning at 8 a.m., lights were shining brightly through the louvers, and I realized the bar was open. I was surprised--I’d never thought about who frequented bars at that hour. I pictured a lone man sitting at the bar, idly picking at the worn, scarred surface. He looked tired, sad and was nursing a beer. But on the other side of the room I pictured a group of men in their 70s who’d just had breakfast together and wanted to shoot some pool. They were joking, drinking black coffee and placing bets. I decided that I really kind of liked Sam’s place.

Women are never in my visions, yet I’m sure they visit Sam’s. It just looks like a man’s man type of place. As upscale boutiques and restaurants are built around it, that vision is accentuated. I wonder how long the owner will hold out before selling to a developer, and I feel a twinge of sadness. The bar has been there for a very long time, it’s part of the local color and history. I picture walls covered with old newspaper articles and photos of historic bar customers.

I could look inside, but I probably won’t. I like the mystery, the image of times gone by. Life wasn’t necessarily better back then…people may have drowned similar sorrows. But I grew up watching “Cheers”—I like the idea of simpler times when everybody knew your name.

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