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Used to go to this Bar

Red light, the neon beer sign on the distant wall reflects off the long expanse of polished bar top, overpowering the quiet brown wood. It’s after lunch, only a few people in to stir the air; the dust motes can settle. Scattered talk of a few regulars, other people’s business, when will she and he be in? Celebrate victories, or manufacture some. 

2:07 p.m. Only three of us now. I used to come here a lot, even though it’s ten miles “up the hill,” out of the river valley into the highlands. It’s obvious the other two people are in all the time. Years back, it was “Bud and Larry,” two fixtures of a bar if ever there were any. I was last in a couple months ago, and saw Bud. He was much the same. They’d found Larry dead at home, 3 years previously. 

Liquor bottles stand on their layered, underlit steps – the temple in front of the mirror, the cathedral of the unclimbables. All those white glass photons going upwards through the fluid.  The bottles stand tall, their inserted “Posi-Pour” spouts all pointing to the left, angled as if flowers toward some imaginary sun.

Rows of polished glassware, sitting and hanging, infinite reflections, each glass a lens of life. They know they can’t make the love come back. Hollow people don’t realize it; most of them end up knowing nothing more than the floor. Take away the lies, the false friendships and loves, and what have you got? 

In a few hours the lights will be on in here, the bar packed with people, the raucous, the driven, the hungry; a Friday night. For now, the bar is patient. Outside the windows, the day floats. 

The bartender is a pretty woman with a great attitude, and in the back pockets of her jeans, a bottle cap opener leans right, and an order pad leans left, forming their own little tabernacle; you can almost see the Eiffel Tower. Humor and good nature, on the rocks. 

Can’t hang forever, have to drive back to the house. Gin is there too, in the freezer with a couple glasses. Pour some cold gin into a cold glass – then add tonic water from the refrigerator compartment. Definitely no ice needed, and lime is up to you. The outside of the glass will fog with icy condensation, but then it will melt, and you feast your eyes on the jewel diamond waterglass platinum mosaic. Cold glass, cold gin, when the tonic water is added, the first quantity freezes, sort of like smoke in water, instant ice, syrup gel silica facets of beauty.

Lots of mighty cathedrals in Europe. And I love The Cathedral of St. John the Divine, in New York City. That’s my home-ground big boy. And since we’re talking New York City, Trinity Church, way down on Broadway in lower Manhattan. Darker stone and stained glass – the first time I walked in there I knew something was up, I mean – HOO AAH – color and contrast. Wow, you can say “Feeling,” or “God,” or “Love,” or this has just got to be some special doo-dah goin’ on here, but it was real. I think that either it is all one thing, or that at the least we are all looking for transcendence - in some or many aspects, depending on how optimistic we are.   

So, the bartender has been looking at me in a funny way. I’ve been scribbling on pre-printed papers for work that I had in my wallet, folded into eighths so they would fit. Luckily, the back side of one was blank. I got a lot of writing done there – I print very small.

Now, I am firmly old enough to be the bartender’s father. And hitting on a bartender is an exceedingly low percentage play. And I love my wife, and am totally faithful to her. Totally. Things are getting busier now, but in the slow time that has passed, the bartender was a bit inquisitive – she mentioned how she had all the glasses washed, all the tasks completed, all her ducks in a row. And there I was, all studious, sort of (while drinking gin), and she said that maybe she should be doing something like I was – writing – “for her classes.” A-ha, that’s it – she just got a job as a schoolteacher. Got the good stance – kids will eat you up, but not this woman – she will command whatever it is that teachers need to command. These days, in the U.S., that’s a tall order. The bartender’s name is Colleen, and she’s gotta be about 30. Maybe a bit less, slight probability she’s a bit more. Got a soulful quality underneath the chipper and bouncy quality so favorable in a bartender, and I think – the steel to be a teacher; she’ll do well no matter what. 

Monreale – this is a big cathedral up high, above Palermo, Sicily. The roar and density of history, the weight and perfection of art, the sublime execution of human caring – just think of it – the “Norman rulers of Sicily.” Wait, what? The Normans were in Sicily? Lots of us have heard about the Normans and England, i.e. 1066, yes, but for the next 90 years or so they were going south, too. 

So, 840 years ago, William II started the church, later decreed a cathedral. What sets it apart for me is the mosaic art – vast in scale, extremely beautiful in its fineness. The Arabic influence is huge, and though I have read that there are even “finer” examples in existence, I have not seen them, and the sheer expanse and impact of Monreale is personally monumental. What it took to make this thing…. There, I was lifted up. When I say, “mosaic art,” I think you really have to see it. 

Back home – I like to mix things up a bit, and after ordering a nice big pizza, I determined to ask the delivery person a question, pursuant to the fact that we are all citizens of the universe. “Tell me something good,” I said, after the knock came on the door. He was a fresh-faced teenage boy – was he even old enough to drive? He stammered in incomprehension. I said, “You gotta tell me something good…” 

“Uh… I got a new car today.” Hardly the philosophical explosion I’d hoped for, but still – he was decently enthusiastic - winner winner chicken dinner. $30 on a $17.95 bill, he went away happy.

Copyright © | Year Posted 2016




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Date: 12/17/2018 2:25:00 PM
Hey Doug what I would give to be you from the outside looking in specially you travel insight on cathedral and pubs.. Enjoyed this piece... ~Matt
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Date: 12/4/2016 2:56:00 AM
The tavern as temple - aye, there are certainly those who worship there. ;)
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Doug Vinson
Date: 12/4/2016 8:58:00 AM
Well sure - you've got it all: communion, confession... ; )
Date: 11/23/2016 5:53:00 AM
I Thoroughly enjoyed this story, I felt that I was listening to a very clever interesting yet very lonely man, Another great descriptive piece of writing Enjoyed reading.
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Doug Vinson
Date: 11/27/2016 2:15:00 PM
Hey Roy. In uncrowded hours, a bar/pub/tavern can be a temple, with the "quietude of the chapel" fully present. Even as a kid, I was often not fully in the moment, but partially sitting back, witnessing it. Indeed, I've had lonely times in my life, certainly solitary times, whether or not I missed other people. Indispensable, in my opinion, for the contemplation of life, and for writing.
Date: 11/22/2016 1:12:00 PM
Doug: I'm not a drinking man but found myself on the stool beside you. Thanks for sharing that evening with all of us in the soup. oldbuck
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Doug Vinson
Date: 11/27/2016 1:59:00 PM
Hi Old buck. "but found myself on the stool beside you" - I love that. Thank you.