If you could read my mind, love
What a tale my thoughts could tell
Just like an old-time movie
'Bout a ghost from a wishin' well
In a castle dark or a fortress strong
With chains upon my feet
You know that ghost is me
And I will never be set free
As long as I'm a ghost that you can't see
Today marks an anniversary of sorts. No, it’s not a wedding, birthday, funeral or any other sort of thing that comes to mind when you think about remembrances. Maybe I shouldn’t say that, for it does mark a sort of passing, just not the kind that many would deem normal. For you see, it was a year ago today that the place I called “home” for about fifteen years closed its doors for good. Yes, my local watering hole had finally seen the sunset on its doors, the taps went dry and the barstools where many of us gathered over the years to drown our sorrows and celebrate our victories went empty.
I know for many of you, that might seem a bit strange. After all, businesses close all the time but for the vast majority of the regulars and staff this was more than a business. We became what might be best described as an extended family as we shared laughter, love and tears over the beverage(s) of our choice. We celebrated our victories, be them political, in the world of sports and yes, even personal while at the same time we also mourned our losses that came from those same arenas and probably even more.
It was the place where my daughter, circa age 11 or 12 first learned to tap a keg. A skill I’m sure she has since found quite handy now that she is of age and is off to college. It was the place of wedding receptions as well as the place to go after the death of (too many) loved ones along the way. If you got to know the people, it was a place where their arms were offered in friendship and even though we might have had some disagreements along the way, fences always seemed to get mended. For some of us, with apologies in advance to the Cheers theme song, it literally became the place where everybody knows your name.
For the last year or so the building has been abandoned, an empty shell that quite possibly became a refuge for the homeless or other transients looking for a place to stay warm or dry. It began to go in pieces, first the fence that enclosed what was known as “smoker’s alley” then the patio where on some summer nights you might get a dose of live entertainment. For many of us, as we made our way up and down High Street in our close knit community it became hard to look at. I know from personal experience that as I passed by the place, whether it be on foot, by bus or in a car, I found myself diverting my eyes. I’d let out a heavy sigh and feel something that I guess is akin to regret or if the mood was right, an inner smile as I recalled all of the fond memories from my time spent there.
I never thought I could act this way
And I've got to say that I just don't get it
I don't know where we went wrong
But the feeling's gone
and I just can't get it back
Last week, almost a year to the day of the bar’s closing, a call went out from the prior owners. It seems the people that purchased the property were finally getting ready to break out the wrecking ball and the building itself would be torn down. And so it was, on this Sunday last, about 40 or 50 brave souls gathered in the parking lot in freezing cold weather to raise one final glass and offer up one final goodbye. Beers and other assorted libations (along with some sliders from White Castle were passed around and a final picture of the tribe was taken in front of its locked doors. While everyone in the picture appears to be smiling, if they are anything like me, inside they were shedding tears.
During the last year or so many of us tried to find another place to take the place of the one we called home. Some succeeded, some didn’t. I count myself as one who didn’t.
In the coming days, there will be nothing left but a hole in the ground where the building once stood. After that, I’m sure something will be built to fill that hole but whatever they put up, I’m quite sure it can never fill the hole I’m feeling now.
Yes, businesses can close and buildings can be torn down and then be rebuilt.
I’m both happy and sad to report that the same thing can’t be said for memories.
To all the patrons who passed through their doors and to all the staff who put up with me over the years, I owe you a debt of gratitude. It was a great run while it lasted but every race has a finish line.
I just wish this race would have lasted a little longer.
Selected lyrics lifted from the song “If You Can Read My Mind” by one Gordon Lightfoot and recorded way back in 1970.
One final note, over the years, the bar had also become something of an inspiration to me for cataloguing fits of whimsy, pieces of fiction or, as I like to call them, alternative facts and what I hope was some good storytelling about events as they happened. If you’re interested, here’s some links to just a few of them.
Good Things Rarely Happen After Midnight
hugs and helplessness
Under the red neon beer sign
The morning after
A good kid
Condoms. Tampax. Aspirin. Ecstasy.
Money well spent
Sharing a drink, alone
And last but certainly not least,