Callahan's, sometimes referred to as The Place, is not just a bar. It's a home. It's a community. It's a joke shop. It's a madhouse. It's the love-child of Cheers and just about any Robert Heinlein novel as it might be written by Douglas Adams.
A talking dog and an oversized cockroach. Time-travelling bartenders, music producers, cops and gag-pullers. A planet-killing robot with a compassionate heart and an alcoholic vampire who only wants your blood if you're so stinking drunk that you can't fall down straight. A priest with no faith and a writer who occasionally pops into his own stories. A woman who's been alive for centuries simply because she has a broken heart and a young man who, without even trying, can cause an entire room to fall apart with laughter.
And that's just a handful of the people you'd see in The Place.
Spider Robinson originally sold his first Callahan story to Ben Bova, back when Bova was a mere magazine editor, after Robinson had worked on it for months during his slow-times at work. Robinson didn't know if the story, his first-ever, would actually get bought by the sci-fi mag, simply because he couldn't figure out if it truly qualified as actual SF, but he didn't let that stop him. He walked into Mr. Bova's office and hand-delivered the manuscript without much of an explanation. A short while later Bova called for a meeting and asked Spider to write more. Lots more. And bless Bova for the idea.
Callahan's does not exist, though nearly everyone who reads the stories dearly wish it did. Well... that's not entirely true. It does exist in its own little slice of Cyberia, USENET, and the characters who keep the virtual chairs warm there are just about as eccentric as Spider's over-the-top folx. Robinson, in a surprising turn-around from his long-held assertion that he would never seek out alt.callahans, now pokes his head into The Place and interacts both with his fans and his citizens, either to make a toast or keep us up-to-date on his newest projects. As a matter of fact, he started doing this just last year, much to everyone's surprise (and glee). And make no mistake, The Place is his and those who inhabit it are there because of him.
The Place is a small, ramshackle building built of brick, glass and not much else. Unlike most other bars, Callahan's does not have a large mirror. This is because Mike, the owner/proprietor, feels that self-introspection should start and stop at one's nose and go no further; a mirror feeds narcissistic tendencies and gets nothing accomplished. In place of that mirror (which, admittedly, did make an appearance once, but was taken down after someone stepped through it from the other side) is a wall filled with words. Most of those words are puns, one-liners, riddles and some of the most piss-poor jokes ever inflicted upon human ears. It is said that to read The Wall, from end-to-end, could cause insanity or ceaseless laughing fits, but neither at the same time and one of them must ensue before the other, so take yer pick.
The way it works is this:
You walk in, you set your cap and coat on the massive coat rack (if you are so encumbered) and you walk up to the bar counter. There you get the barkeep's attention, who will have noticed your entrance anyway, even if he had his back turned to you. Some places charge an exorbitant amount of money for their drinks. Not Mike Callahan. Drinks are fifty-cents, same for a refill. There is a cigar box at the end of the counter which is filled with coins so that people may collect their change if they want to, but it usually goes untouched. So what becomes of the other half-dollar, you might ask? Simple: that pays for the glass.
Yes, you heard me right: the glass.
It is tradition in Callahan's to make a toast, as it should be with all places of refinement (but Callahan's is far from refined, even when it is). That half-dollar goes to the cause of you being able to make that toast in full fashion. It pays for the glass after you've smashed it into the fireplace, which is made of brick and shaped like a parabola. It has only been cracked once by such a throw, as far as anyone knows, and has stood the test of time. Well... up until a low-yield nuclear weapon was set off inside the place, but that's a different story.
So you get your drink, whatever it might be (Bushmill's is a popular spirit there as is a drink called "God's Blessing"), and you walk up to a white line which has been conspicuously placed on the floor about ten feet away from the fireplace. You toss the drink back, hold the glass high and make your toast. You can toast whatever tickles your fancy: cars, women, music, money, hopes, dreams, fears... the sky's the limit. And once you're done with your toast, to which everyone present will quietly, patiently and attentively listen without a word, you throw that little vessel into the firepit and wait. Typically a rain of other glasses will follow right behind it.
One of the most (actually, the most) important rules of Callahan's is something that Humanity itself would do well to embrace:
Shared pain is lessened, shared joy is increased, and thus do we refute entropy.
I tell you, it's everyone's kinda Place.