The Bar Chronicles: #12, The Listener

Bar Night 2

This warm July evening was a good night for ‘howling at the moon’, so we headed for Caverly’s Irish Pub. An old dog greeted us at the screen door with an obligatory sniff from foot to knee (all he could reach) before stepping aside. I was tempted to say, ‘Fido sent us’, but doubted his sense of humor, never mind the language barrier.

The patrons are friendly at Caverly’s, as is the occasional dog who roams from table to table, lingering long enough for a scratch behind the ear. It’s said that a pet is therapeutic. So is a frothy beer and friendly conversation. We came here to do both, and without further ado, ordered our favorite brews from the chalkboard menu, scratched the dog and began another evening of beer and banter.

Only three of us tonight and once again the talk was lively, intriguing and instructional.. We learn a little bit more about each other in these ‘bar nights’. Tonight was no exception. However, we never get too far in conversation without raising our drinks and with a gentle clink of the glass, wish each other ‘cheers’.

“Are you serious, you really don’t know how to fold a fitted sheet?”

And with that unexpected ‘ice-breaker’ our exchange was underway with a detailed description of how to fold that fitted sheet. Needless to say, without a fitted sheet to fold, it was futile (long ‘u’ and ‘i’, for effect)… it was futile to expect me to fully grasp the process.

Admittedly, I’m a poor listener to instructions or directions. I did enough listening during my sales career, it’s a critical component of selling. But retirement loosened those shackles and now I primarily listen to myself.

However, critical listening is important in many areas, including military readiness. One of us, tonight, was a listener; a military listener at a far outpost during the early years of the Cold War, listening to the ‘other side’ for a ping here and a ping there to help us understand our adversary’s intentions or movements. The narrative was fascinating and we listened…stopping long enough to order another round.

The thought occurred to me. With today’s social media phenomenon when the chatter is overwhelming, do we listen more or are we too busy planning what to say next?

At ‘bar night’, we listen and that makes an enjoyable evening.

Steve
Srbottch.Com

The Bar Chronicles, #11: The ‘Poo-Poo’ Platter

Bar Night 2

“…and yet a true creator is necessity, which is the mother of our invention.“ (Plato)

The sidewalk tables were filled with patrons on the first nice evening of spring and Caverly’s Irish pub, a corner bar on South Ave in Rochester, NY,  was headed for a busy night. We filed inside, four of us tonight, the screen door slamming behind us, as screen doors are wont to do, a not so subtle announcement of our arrival. No one noticed.

Inside, we claimed our usual spot, an old, round pedestal table near the door.  Its nicked and bruised finish could not belie its history as witness to many rowdy nights of reveling. The Irish music was a bit loud, but tolerable.

We’re not philosophers, seers nor politicians. We’re just four friends, retiring gentlemen all, sitting around a table, commiserating about how things are and wistfully offering how they ought to be, if we ‘ruled the world’.   And, of course, the cold beer or two we’re enjoying helps validate our opinions and solutions on this, our eleventh ‘bar night’.

Tonight was a night to drone on about the unimportant ‘why’s and and why nots’ in life. Good fodder for idle conversation for ‘older guys’, but in the overall scheme of life, not so much.

We raised and clinked our glasses in traditional fashion, gently, to avoid spillage and waste, and toasted best wishes to one and all,  then began our mundane topics.

Why does rush hour traffic move like an inchworm, stretching and compressing, stretching and compressing? And, why is the cost of higher education so high? Why not just make it free by using other people’s money?  Contrary to the axiom, there are ‘free lunches’ if another party pays.   We picked good fodder tonight, didn’t we?

And for the gem of the night, why isn’t there a reliable option to scooping up dog excrement other than a hand in a plastic bag? There is now, the hands free and no mess ‘poo-poo platter’, a two piece assembly consisting of a plastic bag over a five gallon pail cover (photo).

PooPooPlatter 1

Simply slip the ‘platter’ under the dog’s bottom as it squats and collect the ‘deposit’ in real-time. Fold the bag over the cover with the poop inside, secure the top and properly dispose of it. What could be more simple, efficient and cleaner?  I would attach an action shot, but…

Our group was somewhat hesitant, shall I say reluctant, about investing in further development of the prototype I introduced. It needs marketing and all the stuff that could make this the next ‘hula hoop’: low investment, big return.  No one was willing to play the ‘Shark Tank’ game, maybe for good reason.

We didn’t solve any major problems and laughed about the ‘poo-poo platter’ on the ride home, a straight ride in our town. The frivolity was a perfect example of  the camaraderie among this peer group; lightweight topics and the willingness to express inane thoughts.  It fit perfectly into the blog theme of ‘good times, good places and good people’.

By the way, I’m a perfect 20/20 for ‘catches’ with the ‘Poo Platter’…

PooPoo Platter 2

Steve

srbottch.com

Dedicated to problem solvers everywhere, even those who just talk about it

The Bar Chronicles: #10, One Last Look…

Bar Night 2

It’s early April and we’re having London like weather in western New York; damp, rainy and temperatures that chill me from the inside-out. In full disclosure, I’ve never been to London, but I’ve seen movies.  Mounds of dirty snow, like black coal, still linger in plaza parking lots, fighting a losing battle against the slow creep of Spring’s warming temperatures.

Tonight, after a three-month winter hiatus, our small cadre is gathered at a neighboring bar for an evening of brotherhood and beer, heavy on the former and light on the latter. We motored a few miles to ‘the north side’ to revisit a bar whose motto is, ‘the place to be’.

If a few ‘old’ friends want to sit, talk and hear each other, then, yes, this is ‘the place to be’; a long bar, a couple of overhead televisions tuned to sporting events, dart boards and a dimly lit back room with a pool table. Picture it.

We opted for the back room and a wobbly table where we could spin yarns and talk about our senior worlds, away from disinterested regulars who huddled, round-shouldered, at the bar, closer to the taps for quick refills or benign conversation with the barmaid,

Our muster starts with a toast to our health and well-being. A clink of the glass mugs sends a reassuring message to each of us that we’re in good company and we care about each other. Then, the chatter begins.

There was a palpable happiness in the air. And why not, friends are reunited and we have a chance to talk about stuff that has no interest to others. It has taken us years to get here, and we’re in our element, as one would say. .

One of us has a new car, a Tesla, the hybrid vehicle that performs every task a driver could want, except the final one, a last look, just to make sure. Sensors are processing information constantly to give the perfect driving experience. The driver of this car is a former fighter pilot whose skill set will easily transfer to the high-tech sophistication of  a Tesla.

Technology is wonderful whether it’s in a car or gadget,and it’s often on display in our bar rendezvous. We show pictures of grand kids, check news updates, get stock information and find the fastest way home from the bar, if necessary, all from compact computers, our phones. However, when we walk to the car after an evening of social niceties, our focus is still on our conversation and fellowship. Our phones are pocketed while we continue to pay attention to each other and to where we are in life and the wonderful evening of companionship just concluded.

More importantly, though, we pay careful attention to where the hell we’re walking. Seniors don’t fall well!

Hence, we take one last look…

“Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.”
Mark Twain on friendship

Steve
srbottch.com

Dedicated to our neighborhood ‘gang’…

The Bar Chronicles, #9: Christmas Memories

“You got to remember, it was right after the depression and a coal miner’s family didn’t have much at all”

Christmas, a time for goodwill, reverence and seasonal brews. This month’s parley took us to Carly’s Bar, on Winton Rd North, a true tavern bordering neighborhoods and businesses where we enjoyed idle talk, brotherhood and beer.

Carly’s touts itself, on their green and yellow neon sign hanging over the entrance, as ‘the place to be’. Beer choices were primarily standard fare, no speciality brews, and my favorite, Guinness, was served only in cans. Acceptable, but I do enjoy watching Guinness pour from a tap, its distinctive thick frothy head landing atop a dark chestnut-brown body. I can almost taste it now.

We had the back room to ourselves, not fancy but quiet. A giant bag of Skinny Pop popcorn in the middle of a round table satisfied our snack craving and the crumbs we left on the floor were enough to fill the tiny belly of the house mouse.

With our usual toast, we wished each other good will and kicked off the evening with general talk of health, family and mundane ‘man talk’.

But it’s the holiday season and our second and last round of ale found us recalling early Christmas memories. The stories were personal, told with a smile and enthusiasm that brought us back to a special time and place, albeit briefly.

Tales of a terrible Christmas tree, boxes of nails and hardware in a Christmas stocking, and a fruit ‘bucket’ for the family had us laughing and humble at the same time.

While it was well-intentioned, the thin white artificial tree my dad brought home was not festive, at all. But we adjusted to it out of respect to him. It lasted for two years before finding the curb. I vowed never to have an artificial tree but now have two of them. They’re almost real but haven’t quite developed the evergreen scent, yet.

The box of nails one of us found in ‘his’ stocking on an early Christmas morning ‘sneak peek’ was such a disappointment. “Nails and hardware, for me? Why?” Dismay quickly turned to delight with the realization it was an adult’s stocking. His dad would love it.

Life in the coal mining towns was difficult. The Great Depression sapped people’s energy and resources. And while Christmas was a time for giving and receiving, a simple ‘bucket’ of fruit to be shared by all often sufficed to lift the spirits of families. When the fruit was gone, the bucket lived on with practical uses.

The holiday season is a wonderful time to celebrate with friends and family. I wish our group and readers who follow The Bar Chronicles a Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah.

Steve

Srbottch.Com

Smaller Bananas: A Dog Story

jake

“1, 2, 3 for me, 1 for Jake”

This isn’t a story about bananas, it’s about a dog, our dog, Jake, ‘the king of all dogs’.

I mention bananas because Jake and I ‘bonded’ over bananas every morning. For every 3 slices of banana I dropped on my cereal, Jake got 1. He stood by, waiting and salivating, while I sliced and counted each piece into our respective bowls: “1, 2, 3 for me, 1 for Jake”. Then, he waited for my signal to enjoy it.

Jake has been gone a couple of weeks and we’re still discarding his ‘stuff’: beds, toys, treats, things that bring a tear to our eyes. Some of it we donated to our local animal shelter.

I still find clumps of shedded hair when I clean house. It moves between my fingers and I feel his presence; the softness of his coat and the smells of his oils. The attachment to a pet is incredibly strong and letting it go is difficult, but we’re making progress.

Our decision to euthanize Jake at the appropriate time, if there is such a time, was  challenging and heart breaking. Outwardly, a dog may not show his aches and pains, but the look in Jake’s eyes told us he was hurting. His mind was willing but his body wasn’t, the end of his life was imminent.

‘The Last Battle’* is a poem that tells the story of a dog’s final wish. The dog reminds us that we’ve shared a wonderful life, a life filled with love, and our final act of love would be to help the dog pass, peacefully.

We loved Jake and made that decision to end his suffering, humanely. Pet owners face this decision with heavy hearts. Jake came to us as a nervous young rescue from a local shelter.  He left us in a calm and peaceful state, cradled in the arms of my wife, his constant companion.

We take solace in knowing that our rescue eleven years ago afforded Jake a chance to live a happy, normal dog’s life. In return, he gave us his love, warmth, kindness and loyalty. We mourn his loss now and will remember him always as ‘the king of all dogs’.

I’m still having a morning banana, but buying smaller ones that I can finish, myself…

Steve
srbottch.com

To Jake the Dog, and dog lovers everywhere

jake-n-cheryl-walking

*The Last Battle
(1st stanza)
Author Unknown

If it should be that I grow frail and weak
And pain should keep me from my sleep,
Then will you do what must be done,
For this — the last battle — can’t be won.
You will be sad I understand,
But don’t let grief then stay your hand,
For on this day, more than the rest,
Your love and friendship must stand the test.

The Bar Chronicles, #6: ‘The Bards of The Genesee’

Bar Night 2

‘I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree…’ (1)

The Genesee River works its way north from Pennsylvania through the hills, valleys and plateaus of western New York, cascading over falls, sliding over limestone and shale before slicing through Rochester and quietly slipping into the Great Lake, Ontario, at the city’s port.  The river is a landmark of our community, inspiring photographers, writers and poets.

high-falls

(photo by Kathy Davis: blog.life-verses.com)

 Tonight, at the Wegman’s Pub* in Perinton, NY,  was a night for poetry, inspired not by the river, but by ‘beer and brotherhood’.

‘Let those who are in favor with their stars
of public honor and proud titles boast…’ (2)

To call us ‘Bards’’ would be an exaggeration. We’re just four old guys sitting around a table, enjoying a couple of brews and reading poetry. Four men with three hundred combined years, reading other people’s work, real poets’ work. A beautiful thing!

 A tool-maker, a software engineer, a Marine fighter pilot and a screw salesman, reading Blake, Kilmer and Shakespeare between sips of IPAs, stouts and lagers. But not just reading them, actually interpreting them and discussing the role of poetry in our own lives. Believe me, it happened.

From the personification of a tree as a living being to tigers and everlasting love, we brought our favorite poems to the table tonight and read them aloud, in a pub.  Our voices rose to the occasion.

Who knew Joyce Kilmer was a man?  One of us admitted taking a poetry class.  Shakespeare was being Shakespeare, and one of us was never exposed to poetry.  Life’s lessons are a result of our own places and times.  Growing up in coal country, on a farm or in an urban setting makes a difference in one’s experiences. Sharing those differences is exciting.

‘Tyger, Tyger, burning bright,
 In the forests of the night…’ (3)

When did poetry come into our lives, someone asked.  I’m not sure, myself, I suppose it was required reading in school.  In 5th grade, I memorized the first few stanzas of Longfellow’s ‘The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere’ and still can recite it, although I forget names of people I’ve recently met.

Some find poetry inspirational, I enjoy its imagery.  Poets excel at using language to effectively tell their stories.  The rhythm of their words completes a process that makes poetry so different from prose. Poems have ‘voices’.

Do you like poetry?  Tell us your favorite. By the way, I recommend reading it with beer and friends…

‘The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees…
And the highwayman came riding, riding, riding…’(4)

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  1. Trees by Joyce Kilmer
  2. Shakespeare’s Sonnet #25
  3. The Tyger by William Blake
  4. The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes.

*The Pub at Wegmans in Perinton was very nice. More of an eating environment than a genuine pub, but it was quiet, perfect for our social event.  We didnt have to ‘cup’ our ears.

 

The Bar Chronicles: #5, ‘Seniors Say The Darndest Things*’

*thank you, Art Linkletter!

Bar Night 2

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 enthusiastically blurted out, “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 that we had been in Miss Sullivan’s** 10th grade class, too…

srbottch.com

**name changed for obvious reasons.

Dedicated to Steve, Tom & Jim