December 20, 2018

Goodbye Old Friend

There was a bar on the corner of Depressed Street and Hopeless Boulevard by my house for years where I celebrated some of my best and drank away some of my worst times...Easy Street wasn’t in my neighborhood and you couldn’t get there from here like the old joke goes—and there are some times I don’t remember at all...those might have been good or bad...I remember the bar being there when I was a kid...my old man used to go down there once in a while...well, more than once in a while...it wasn’t the kind of place that you’d brag about going to, but the beer was served cold in mugs I was proud to call my friends and there were more than a few barstools that I was well acquainted with...that place had real character...it was the kind of place a fourth rate mobster would have felt at home in...late at night when I was too drunk to see much, or get up without almost falling over, I’d run my fingers over the bullet holes in the wall that they never bothered to even try to cover up...fortunately, I never was in there when somebody added to the collection and did some interior decorating of their own...I met a woman in there once named Hilda—for a spell, I saw her in there practically every time I was there...nobody knew who she was or where she came from, but her and I said a few words from time to time...she didn’t say much and I guess it didn’t matter...an approaching middle-aged gal with faded blonde hair and pale blue eyes that stared into her glass of anesthesia on the rocks...she had the forlornest expression on her face usually—there was no turning her frown upside down...then, one day I didn’t see her anymore or the day after that or the week after that or the months after that...always wondered what happened to her...anyway, one day after another mind numbing day at work, I drive up and I see that it’s closed...not just for today but forever...the windows are boarded up and there’s a for sale sign in front of the property that says ‘for redevelopment’...it says Sanjay Patel is selling it...no offense to Sanjay, but I’m guessing he was never in there and wouldn’t have felt comfortable in there killing time with a sledgehammer or two, or three, or four or more...eating popcorn and peanuts and downing some cold beer and warm whiskey while watching Monday Night Football, or chugging beer while watching the NCAA tournament basketball games from the West regional late in the evening—even though I didn’t care who won...or sitting in the bar for hours commiserating with a down on his luck friend as we cursed our fates...sometimes I’d leave the bar early (for me anyway) and stop at this Italian Beef sandwich shop nearby that inexplicably stayed open until 2 a.m….so I drive by and I’m thinking what the hell...I got out of my car and stood there in disbelief...there wasn’t a soul around but I felt like somebody just kicked me in the gut...I felt sick to my stomach, kind of like I sometimes did when I came out of there...I really felt lost and that I had no place to go...they had taken away my second home and to be honest one that was better than my first home...it was a place you could go into and disappear from the world for a while...now where would I hang out when I didn’t want to be found?...it took a while to get over that, but after a while somebody opened a new place not far away...yeah, it wasn’t the same as the old place...it was a little too cheerful and a little too lively and bright for my liking but I got used to it...the cheap whiskey still tasted like the cheap whiskey I was used to, except it wasn’t as cheap anymore...the beer was just as cold and it was nice to actually be able to see a clear picture on the television inside...I still forgot about the things I wanted to forget about, but I’ll never forget about my old friend on the corner.