*thank you, Art Linkletter!
The heat and humidity has been off the charts this summer in western New York. Lawns are brown, plants are wilting, farmers are worried and throats are parched. Sounds like the perfect time for another ‘bar night’.
So, tonight we found ourselves gathered around a back room table at Johnny’s Irish Pub in Rochester. Four seniors, friends from our neighborhood, here to enjoy some beer, brotherhood and ‘man talk’, the simple art of filling time with random thoughts, guffaws and past recollections.
Four old guys, we seem to be a bit of an odd attraction to the regular patrons, a generally younger, blue collar type. Then again, everyone is generally younger nowadays. And the collars? Well, we’re retired, collars are a low priority.
This is our fifth ‘bar night’, we exhude confidence, experience and maturity as our beer is served. “Run a tab, we’ll be back for more”, one of us bravely barks out, earning a few approving nods from customers standing at the bar. There was a time, once, when we could stand at the bar, but now, sitting is preferred.
The beer was cold and the brotherhood about to begin. With a clinking of our mugs, a “here, here” to each other and our hands cupped behind our ears to catch every word, we leaned in and began our evening in earnest.
The cacocphany of background chatter interfered with our own table talk, as we huddled closer, like a football team calling a play. The interval between our yawns grew shorter. Our energy level was was being tested when the call came for a second round. We endured, ordered refills, closed out our tab, and began the ‘second half’ with unexpected profundity. ‘Who was your favorite teacher and why?’, I asked.
“Simple, it was Miss Sullivan**”, one of us firmly answered, “she had the biggest bosom.” The answer grabbed our attention and would have been enough, but he continued. “And, she dressed provocatively. My 10th grade friends and I never missed a class…”. I bet they didn’t.
While not the insight I expected, nevertheless, it was honest. More importantly, to the four of us, it was funny, a classic way to end our ‘bar night’; good timing, excellent delivery and a willing audience eager to kick back a chair, slap the table and ‘guffaw’.
The bar quieted as we filed out to a humid night. Neon signs from other establishments gave a colorful tint to the neighborhood and tall street lights lit our path to the car with another good time behind us.
As we drove home along tree lined streets through old neighborhoods, the car was quiet. Two beers may have made us sleepy, but I imagine the real reason was that three of us were silently wishing we had been in Miss Sullivan’s* 10th grade class, too…
**name changed for obvious reasons.
Dedicated to Steve, Tom & Jim