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)

srbottch.com

  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

The Bar Chronicles: #4, Love Unrequited (How I Met My Wife)

Bar Night 2

‘Tale as old as time…’ 

(Beauty & The Beast)

‘On Friday nights, the boys sat on a bridge over our river, waiting for the girls to come across, hoping to catch the eye of the one we thought was special.  And, I did.’

More than 60 years ago that was a perfect scheme for the young men of a small coal mining town in eastern Pennsylvania. My friend told the story with a twinkle in his eye and a smile, as though it was yesterday.

Here we were, again, three ‘seniors’, in a bar, reminiscing how we met our future wives. It was a moment of sincere reflection as we opened our hearts and shared memories that were a long time put aside.…but not forgotten.

These weren’t ordinary stories and this wasn’t an ordinary ‘bar’, this was the Lock 32 Brewing Company on the historic Erie Canal at the Port of Pittsford, NY. The canal and its towns come to life when the ‘ditch’ regains its waters after the long western NY winter. Working barges, canoes, rowers and yachts commingle east and west from Albany to Buffalo, meandering 400 miles through the Empire State. And, tonight, we witnessed some of it from inside this perfect venue in the tiny Pittsford village.

We found a table facing the canal, where the back wall is a floor to ceiling window that slides open onto the canal’s northside boardwalk, allowing us an unfettered vista of the late evening light settling on the local village. The lovers in front were scooted low enough in their seats that our view was uninterrupted.

 ‘I was a late bloomer in the dating game so I advertised in the newspaper for someone who was sophisticated, fun-loving and liked to dance. She answered.’

A quarter century later my friend and his wife are still dancing. The power of the marketplace.

Cabin cruisers docked on the south side, its occupants enjoying evening cocktails on the aft deck. Ducks collected near us, waiting for handouts, and couples sat on benches, leaning head to head, watching the setting sun lay its fingers across the silent waters, except when an occasional catfish surfaced to snatch an unsuspecting bug.

My eyes locked onto the boats and for a fleeting moment my imagination carried me out to sea, far away from the murky canal waters. Oh, to be an adventurer!

But, fantasies aside, we came here for a purpose, beer and brotherhood. The former started with the house ‘summer’ and ‘scotch’ ales, and the latter with an informal clinking of our glasses and a ‘here, here’, three neighbors relaxing and reminiscing over a beer.

‘I’d like to see number 7, again.’

Being a class officer on campus had its perks, judging cheerleader tryout was a major one. It allowed me to see a freshman girl whom I found attractive. She didn’t need my vote to make the squad and nearly 50 years later, we’re still ‘cheering’ for each other.

A quiet mood settled onto the pub as the evening waned. We emptied our mugs with a toast to marriages and longevity, then went into the night. The boats were dark, the boardwalk was empty, the fish were still active.

We headed home, content, knowing all is well…

 Steve Bottcher

srbottch.com