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In Like A Lion

IMG_7433-001It snowed Monday night following St Patrick’s Day, beginning in the afternoon as a fine, gritty sleet peppering my face as I tried to run. By evening it transformed in to large, fluffy flakes that stuck together and accumulated on the street a few inches thick.  I decided to find a bar, an infrequent instinct for me these days limited to nights like this. All the elements – Monday, snow, day after an amateur drinker’s holiday – were in place. Nobody in their right mind would be out on a night like this, and they weren’t. Mine were the only tracks on the dimly-lit white sidewalk as I crossed the BQE overpass and joined one other patron in the tavern. It’s more curiosity than business, this small  joint four blocks from my house, and has topped out with maybe eight customers on the handful of random weeknights I’ve been inside. The owners are a female couple who hire only women bartenders .. not the typical midtown, twenty-something shot-girl types pushing rounds by virtue of their cleavage, but more mature and substantial tap handlers. Both bartender and lone drinker announced their ages within five minutes of my occupying a stool – she’s 53 and he turns 60 this weekend.

Id never guess you were sixty,” she tells him because she’s supposed to. I don’t suppose he looks it either but withhold this opinion because I don’t want to encourage him. I’m struck by how hammered he is at eight-thirty on a Monday night, pounding his legs furiously with the music and making a point to note in between songs that he’s a drummer. It’s not an occupation suited for a sixty year-old unless it’s Max Roach in his prime, sitting behind the kit. He mentions it again discussing roommate issues. ‘It’s MY name on the lease so I put my fuckin’ foot down,” he slurs. “I’m a drummer. I take enough shit from people already ..” He’s pleased with this and gives an awkward laugh – “huh-huh, huh-huh.” She’s professionally polite, wanting neither to discourage a rare weeknight regular nor give him too much of an opening. She mentions her own roommate and I reflect on being the only one there having the run of my own place when I get home. The music stops and she returns to the jukebox to play something else. “Roxy Music – fuck YEAH!” he exclaims and then launches in to an awkward knee-slapping intro to “Avalon.”

I talk with her a while about London, the tube, Bryan Ferry, New York, Brooklyn, and apartments. She tops my shot and goes outside to shovel the entrance. He’s working on a burger from the joint next door. I get ready to leave. “Enjoy your birthday” I tell him. “You play football?” he asks. Not on a night like this I say. “I was a backup in high school,” he tells me. “Got to play one game when the starter was out. The guy who was covering me kept kicking me in the balls every chance he got. I finally took a wild swing and popped him on the chin under his helmet. Knocked him out.” He segues seamlessly in to the fact his old man thought he was gay. “That changed when I got my girlfriend pregnant .. huh-huh, huh-huh.” I put a generous tip on the bar, give him a grin and head for the door. Outside she’s shoveled most of the snow from in front. She asks if I’m leaving already and I say that I am before heading back to my warm, empty apartment.

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