I suppose I've just lived in bars...I might have even been raised in them. The drinking wasn't anything to me, Wednesday nights at Frenchmann's. Every Wednesday. From age 5 until about....14. Without fail. My Dad and all of his softball buddies downing pitchers, smoking cigars, throwing darts. I would play pinball and swallow cokes, hamburgers. I was always happy there. Shit, everyone was. Every now and again one of my Dad's slurred pals would throw quarters in the machine, lean over me and tell me the about the finer points of multiball management.
My aunt also worked there, Patty, the baby of the family. She ran the bar, she didn't own it, but when she was in there, she ran the motherfucker. She outsized most of the people in there, both in heart and physical space occupied. Stout, she found herself ducking whipped pool balls on more than one occasion, as they sailed to connect with the already dotted booze and wood behind her. Never when I was there though, not on the weeknights, the good vibes ran shit then. All those nights, she would duck out of the windowless bar after closing time into her broken muffler plymouth duster and haul ass out of there sounding like a thousand punctured lungs screaming at the road. That was her war call, my brother often found himself in fights with the dirty fucks in his trailer park. 4 to 1, 8 to 1, my brother never cared. He'd kill 'em all or catch an ass whooping. Either way, when those thousand lungs came screaming rusty around the corner, kicking the back end out, everyone fucking scattered. Patty was coming. And that meant headlocks. Fight was over.
She raised me too, I was raised by committee. She was second only to my auntie Jer. Jer was a traveler, a road person who would slang trunkfulls of dope all around the country, she knew hitmen, pulled scams on car dealerships by moving cars across state lines, saw the pyramids of Giza, smuggled pounds of weed over the fence to my 2x vietnam vet uncle at "camp" (read:jail). All of this, but just like Frenchmann's, none of this seediness while I was around. She took care of my cousin (my cousin is my age) and me at the age of two and beyond. She would take care of us while our more straight laced mothers were at work, showing us the way light bounced through prisms, telling us stories, and, I believe this to be one of the most important parts of my life to date, playing us every Bob Marley record she had. And she had a lot.
We didn't just like it, we fucking LOVED it. We would crawl into her room and viciously scatter all of her records on the floor, grab the Bob ones, hold them up, eclipsing our tiny bodies, and say "Bob". How the fuck did we know which were which? Doesn't matter. My cousin's first word was "rastaman" (a fact that his mother denies vehemently to this day). Said.
Back at the bar, watching these people, these friends of my Dad put down pitcher after picther and laugh after laugh, I never once thought "these men are bad people", or, "these guys are intoxicated". Nothing about their behavior suggested they were dangerous. Zero. Less than zero. It seemed to me to be a normal part of adulthood.
The same went for Andy's Tap. Andy's was right next to the hobby shop where I would snag comics out of dusty boxes and weights to throw my pinewood derby cars down the track. Every Tuesday, my genius Dad found a way to parlay my weekly swimming lesson into a wet haired trip to the bar with his son. At Andy's it was video bowling instead of pinball, and instead of an Aunt it was a waitress who knew my name and my family. She is still there to this day. Again, this seemed to be everything OK. Low light, happy people who knew each other, swilling beer (at 3.2% alcohol. the bars in Bloomington couldn't serve the real stuff until a few years ago, unless they were on the freeway) laughing, playing games, and handing me an odd colored lollipop on my way out.
Fuck it, I thought, as a 5 year old. I'm away from the wife, they got pull tabs and MGD on tap, what the fuck else do I need?
Not much apparently. Like the Cat Power track, I've lived in bars ever since then. And I still don't see what's wrong with that.
To be continued...seriously this time.