The Bar Chronicles, #8 (Rev 1): ‘The Interruption’*

Bar Night 2

“To our good health and friendship!” 

 We clinked the frothy pints of our favorite brews, IPAs and Guinness, and began another evening of general conversation, fellowship and beer, a couple of rounds if we’re lucky.

Our last experience was good enough to make another run to Caverly’s Irish Pub in the Southwedge neighborhood of Rochester, NY for a post-mortem discussion of our uniquely American system of electing a President, the ‘electoral college’.

But first, as usual, our pithy conversation commenced with a mixed bag of topics: living with brown bears (a Russian family actually domiciles a bear in its home); turkeys (yes, they can fly); and, cars (the environmentalist among us is getting a Chevy Volt…I want a ride).

Then, a bit surprisingly, came the interruption…

“Pardon me, fellas, ever see one of these?”

The stranger at the adjacent table leaned into our space and held out a round metal object. “I carry this in my pocket for good luck. Bet you don’t know what it is.” The sly grin and cocked eyebrow bespoke the confidence that he had us stumped. I was stumped.

(“I’ll take Local History for a thousand, Alex”)   

“It’s an old Rochester bus token, haven’t seen one for years.” countered the most senior of our senior trio this evening.

Slam dunk! Just like that, the intruder slid back in his seat, shoulders slumped, confidence gone, challenge repelled.

“A bus token, huh! He didn’t know I’ve been around since Roosevelt.”  Without hesitation, we raised our glasses, nodded our approval and silently toasted this ‘small victory’ with a drawdown of our ales. Victories of any size are worth toasting when you’re a Senior.  How quickly emotions can shift from one side to the next, or table, as was the case.

The mere mention of a President’s name segued us into an election discussion, not about the winner and loser but the electoral college. Do we like it? Does it serve its purpose? Does it validate the winner?

Interestingly, three of us couldn’t agree. One thoughtfully defended it as a method of assuring all parts of the country have leverage in the race. Another just felt that the popular vote should determine a winner. The third declined an opinion but did opine that we need civilian leaders who make smart decisions. We can all agree on that.

Someone kicked on the jukebox and an Irish ballad filled the small barroom, it was a good time to leave.   We headed out the door in lockstep to the rhythm of the music, egos in tact.

We’re Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives but tonight we put alliances aside and just enjoyed our friendship, a perfect antidote to a long, arduous and grueling political campaign. And we were only the spectators….

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*writer’s prerogative : I made a few revisions including a title name.  I think it improves the story.  

The Bar Chronicles, #7: ‘Presidential Campaigns’

Bar Night 2

“Want to join us for a beer tonight?”
“But the Presidential debate is tonight”.

“It’s beer!”
“What time shall I meet you?”

And so our newest ‘bar night’ guest joined the boys for an evening of ‘brotherhood and beer’. No arm twisting, just old fashioned subtle ‘salesmanship’, beer vs politics.

Caverly’s, in Rochester’s South Wedge, calls itself an Irish pub. It definitely tilts that way with an oversized Irish flag in the bar, dart boards on the wall and a variety of Irish beers. The owner/bartender and patrons were a friendly group and the beer was fairly priced.

At first, we were like the proverbial strangers in a western movie who get stared down by the locals when they ride into town. Four seniors, not riding, but strolling through the open door, surveying the decor and nodding approval, caused a momentary pause to a couple’s Scrabble game. We passed the final test, a sniff over by a couple of old dogs who were there with their regulars, then claimed the only 4 person table in this small neighborhood establishment. Our evening was about to commence.

As always, the clinking of our pints and well wishes to each other signaled the start of another evening of recollection and remembrances. With the usual small talk out of the way, we got down to a not-too-serious political discussion, ‘past presidential campaigns and elections’. We adroitly omitted the current campaign in an effort to maintain high standards, however, as we discussed, past elections weren’t innocent affairs, either.

Adams and Jefferson were most uncivil in 1800 and when Adams lost he declined to attend the inauguration of our third President, who needed help from the House of Representatives to break a tie with Arron Burr.

John Q Adams won the highest office in 1824, besting ‘Old Hickory’ Andrew Jackson, courtesy of the House, again. See a trend to close elections?  Nastiness and divisiveness was not invented in 2016. After Abe Lincoln won in 1860, the entire country fell into civil chaos, war.

Then there were mottos and headlines: ‘I Like Ike’ and ‘Dewey Wins’. Of course, it took until 1960 before a Catholic was elected, thanks to John Kennedy. He beat Nixon who won a ‘do-again’ eight years later.

Remember Lyndon Johnson lifting his beagle by the ears? He lost the SPCA vote on that one and famously declared, in 1968, “if nominated, I will not run, and if elected, I will not serve”. So Democrats nominated Hubert Horatio Humphrey* at their convention and the streets of Mayor Daley’s Chicago erupted in violent protests with the Vietnam War as a backdrop.

Political campaigns are major events, grueling work for the candidates and expensive. But, if they come through Rochester, it would be fun to sit down and have a beer with the candidates. They could join us at Caverly’s and for one night we could be ‘all the President’s men’. That would certainly be a ‘Bar Chronicle’ to remember.  I just hope they don’t read the writing on the bathroom wall…

caverlys-wall

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*In President Carter’s  nomination acceptance speech of 1980, he referred to Humphrey as Hubert Horatio ‘Hornblower’, a fictional naval character in novels.

The Bar Chronicles: #1,  A Night At The Bar 

Guinness

A mild evening in late October found me in a bar with a friend. I don’t frequent bars and haven’t been to one in years. But this night seemed to be a good time to go. And we did, a spur of the moment decision following a public meeting on our town’s master plan for future development.  At first chance, we made a beeline to the local watering hole, a sports bar.

Inconveniently, the only tandem stools available were under two televisions blaring out hockey and football action. Throughout the bar, patrons sat with one hand wrapped around an ale and their heads tilted back and up to see the games. I was expecting to see a chiropractor’s contact information scribbled on the men’s room wall, ‘Sore necks? Call this number…!’

No TV for us. We came to relive a snippet of days gone by when ‘bar nights’ with the boys was a more common occurrence.  A cold one and some ‘BS’ was on our agenda.

“What’ll it be gentlemen?” That would be us, ‘gentlemen’, not ruffians, but a couple of senior citizens on a weeknight escape. The barmaid could see it immediately, this wasn’t our ‘first rodeo’.  “Two Guinness, 12 ounce”, I bellowed, like a bar night neophyte ordering his first drink after turning legal, promising my friend a dark beer with a frothy head, thick enough to leave a sudsy moustache on his lip.  “An import?”, he quipped.  The profundity was beginning already as we debated the virtues of imported Irish stout versus American light.

Here we were, two friends, far from ‘over the hill’ but getting there, done with our careers, wiser than a wise owl and older, neither trying to impress the other, content only to have a night-cap at a bar and talk about the four Ps of life: politics, portfolios, pills and the past.

We briefly gnashed politics around, then abruptly shifted to something slightly less daunting, the economy and our portfolios. The embellishment of our ups and downs surely eclipsed the highs and lows of the ‘big board’, itself. We toasted our own moderate successes and moved on to health issues, always a big topic among Seniors.

“Another round, boys?” What a segue. It’s been reported that a little alcohol each day can be a healthy regiment.  But another round? We’re only 6 ounces into our 12 and it’s been more than an hour. “Check, please.!”

We gulped the last of our beer without getting to the ‘past’, agreeing to do it next time, or the time after that, and headed for the exit. I slid a quarter into the gum ball machine by the door, cranked the handle and watched the purple sphere slowly spiral its way to the bottom. I looked down at it, and left.  Who the hell can bend over that far to retrieve a gum ball after filling up on beer, albeit one 12 ounce Guinness?

srbottch

Dedicated to my wise friend and namesake, a model Senior, Steve P.