At the exact moment I began to type this I was sitting at a bar in Midtown Atlanta. My first child was due to expunge herself from my wife's womb on Monday, June 27th. I figured it was as good a time as any to get a few hours in at a bar.
For more than half my life I've spent a significant amount of time in watering holes. I bartended a couple years in college, but mostly sat myself on the opposite side, diligently working through pints and shots, the occasional pool game, sometimes, in Nevada, even plunking quarters into the meaty hole of a video poker machine. Take what puns you'd like from all of that.
I used to smoke. I've often said that the hardest thing I've ever had to do was stop smoking. That shit ain't true. The hardest thing besides living is living without a bar. I love the bar. You decide if I'm an alcoholic.
It's not the booze that keeps me coming back. There's some quality of light in a dimly-lit bar. There's something about the daylight patronage. Since I quit smoking I cannot stand to be in bars that allow that vice. Call me a pussy. But still the bar ebbs at me, gravity sucking me towards the tinted windows looking out on a gray sky, the hush of conversation. See, I like bars. I don't like clubs. I don't like busy bars. In fact, a crowded bar is the last place you'll find me. I don't like a bar at happy hour. I don't like bars on weekends. I like the weekday bar, the dive without a band. The dives, even, at such times include minimal smokers.
I work in bars. I take my computer and my books, papers to grade. I don't talk, usually, to the other patrons, though I often listen to their conversations. When the crowd piles up, I pay my tab. I'd rather not be there with family or friends, or any of all those after-work people. I'm busy.
Speaking of fathers, mine just had a stroke. This stroke occurred after he'd checked himself into the emergency room (on the day we brought our baby home from the hospital, no less) for what he thought was a lingering cold he feared was mutating into pneumonia. Turns out he had congestive heart failure. My pop is not a bar person, but he likes his beer and wine. In fact, it's not uncommon for him and my mom to share a bottle of wine over dinner, and that's after dad's had four beers. I know what this says and what a doctor would think. But I've seen my dad only a little buzzed maybe two or three times in my life. Like me, beer and wine just don't phase him. And yet, I learn on Wikipedia that a contributing factor to congestive heart failure could be a thickened ventricle due to prolonged alcohol abuse.
I knew that upon my baby's arrival I would not be able to spend as much time in bars. Beer makes me tired. I don't want to be tired while my little one's an infant; I need to be alert. And I ain't about to try to calm her, to swaddle and swing her on one arm to shush her to calming, after I've had a few beers. I ain't fucking with that shit. So that day was my last hurrah, as they say, my so long. I kiss you, bar, goodbye. In eighteen years, I shall see you, old and weathered though I'll be, and, bar, most likely some corporation will make you look the same, so that I feel at home. Perhaps at that time they'll pipe in an organic, healthy odor of cigarette smoke.