The image above is inside College Town's famous Towne Lounge. The Towne Lounge was an institution. It was a good old-fashioned grungy "whiskey" dive bar, one of the last of its kind. I used to spend many hours there in my misspent youth, so I guess I could say I misspent many hours there in my youth. It was usually seldom very crowded. The bartender, Randy, was a scary ex-Marine who would regale you with stories of how many people he had killed in Korea. Randy would get as drunk as the patrons. It was fun to watch him progressively confuse people's drink orders. No one usually complained, partly out of fear of Randy, but mainly because, well, why would you? Booze is booze. It was even more fun when Randy would get so drunk that he would forget to charge you. Definitely no one complained about that!
I hadn't been inside the TL for over a quarter of a century, until my great mate Steve visited from Australia. We had a few drinks there. There weren't many people there that night, even for a Friday night. A sad little duo sat in the corner, poorly playing sad little country ditties on their guitars. They did, however, have T-shirts for sale, and Steve couldn't help purchasing one, mostly to memorialize the surreal nature of the evening.
It had been known for awhile that the current owner, Woody, had been wanting to sell the bar. I think his reason was that there just wasn't enough business, and if that night was typical, I don't blame him.
I remember reading in a local paper that one of the hurdles to his finding a buyer had something to do with the particular liquor license of the TL or something like that.
Then in the middle of May a large sign appeared on the bar's front window announcing that its last night would be the 31st of the month. I don't know if Woody found a buyer, or if he just decided to pack it in. Either way, an iconic bit of College Town would be shutting its doors after some 48 years. I determined that I must have at least one drink there on its last night, conveniently a Friday.
I got there about 10 PM. Apparently many people had the same idea I did. The bar had more people in it than I had ever seen before. Many of the town's characters were, including both of our more well-known transvestites: the 6'4" muscular black one, and the 300 pound white one. Sad that the last night should be probably the TL's biggest ever.
My budget for the night was twenty dollars, a relatively lavish sum for me, especially since last-night drinks were selling for even less than Happy Hour drinks. I didn't intend on getting blotto. For one thing, that's not really my thing anymore. It used to be, to a self-destructive degree. Marriage and parenthood fixed that.
Another reason I didn't want to get tore up was that I had promised to take the youngest Grandrimpyette fishing the next day. I used to fish a bit when I was a kid, but fishing definitely isn't a regular thing for myself or GR2. For some reason, she has expressed an interest in fishing practically since she learned to talk. I often took her with me when I made trips to our old Walmart in Former Hometown. Whether I was there for something automotive, or I was indulging her desire to visit the toy section, or path invariably took us past the sporting goods section, and she always wanted to pause and gawk at the rows of fishing poles and talk about wanting to go fishing. Call me a racist (which I'm not), but I think it's something in her Hmong blood.
Well, that same weekend was the annual Hooked on Fishing, Not on Drugs event. The people responsible stocked an extra large amount of catfish in a local small lake, and kids 14 and under could come and try to their hand at landing a fish. There was a limit of one fish per kid, and no permit required. All tackle and bait and even the cleaning of the fish would be provided free. What could be better?
Well, you know how good intentions go. I got wasted enough at the TL that around midnight I was falling asleep at the bar and was asked to leave. At least I wasn't tossed out for being obnoxious, which used to be a common reason, although never at the TL, oddly enough.
I could have called Step-Rimpyette for a ride, but I decided to walk the approximately 1.5 miles home, mostly to clear my head. That was the longest mile and a half of my life. It's funny, but one effect of being more mature is that when I am drunk, I seem to be a more self-aware drunk. I was staggering along like an idiot, yet I was totally conscious of how silly I must have looked, and I didn't care. I still tried to maintain what dignity I could, however. Middle-aged me on too much beer reminded me of Hunter S. Thompson's statement about ether in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas:
“[...]it makes you behave like the village drunkard in some early Irish novel... total loss of all basic motor skills: Blurred vision, no balance, numb tongue - severance of all connection between the body and the brain. Which is interesting, because the brain continues to function more or less normally... you can actually watch yourself behaving in this terrible way, but you can't control it.”
I was traveling through one of College Town's oldest and stateliest neighborhoods. I lurched past the semi-mansions of doctors, lawyers, university administrators and descendants of town founders. Many of these streets were built long before the Americans with Disabilities Act changed the way sidewalks are made. There are several corners with half-hearted efforts to make them wheelchair accessible. This usually consists of a sort of quarter of a metal cylinder covered with cement bridging the drop from the edge of the curb to the asphalt. One of these "ramps" presented me with considerable difficulty. I made a few faltering lunges at it before I successfully made it down into the street without falling flat on my face. I think I actually threw my hands victoriously into the air, as if I had just made a record-breaking ski jump.
As I walked...er...staggered along, I had time (what with all the extra distance spent in weaving) to contemplate the previous period in my life when I would slog back to my lonely room in this same north-of-campus neighborhood after a night of debauchery at the Towne Lounge or one of the way too many other bars in downtown College Town. Usually some stranger's property got destroyed or stolen along the way. Sometimes I woke up in the morning in possession of less clothing than I had started the previous evening wearing.
Now, a life time later, I could still contemplate those sort of stupid drunken urges: "Oh, look how easy it would be to bend this car's antenna over", or, "Say, wouldn't I be much cooler with my clothes OFF!?" Fortunately, on this warm very early first morning of June in this foul year of our lord 2013. that was as far as those urges went - just urges.
When I finally arrived home, several of the more insomniac and night-owlish members of the family were still up, including my lovely wife and several daughters. They had left some supper for me. I devoured food and shared my thoughts of the evening with my family. It occurred to me as I was talking that the reason for such a difference between the me of 30 years ago and the me of now didn't really have as much to do with age and any conceptions of maturity, as it did with the difference in those key words "lonely" and "family". Now I have lots of people who love me to come home to. Before I had only myself in that lonely room. And that's all I'm going to say about that.
In the next installment: Hooked on Hung-over Fishing.