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I miss them

In my 20s I used to dabble in drink. Maybe more than dabble actually. I took to it like a whale to water.

I’m not in my 20s anymore….a good thing for my liver. But while I was I had a main watering hole. And I met some extraordinary people during my time there. It’s been said that God loves a drunk. If so this place would have warmed his heart. It was kinda like the bar in the Star Wars movie. Only more colorful.

Tonight I met up with an old friend, who informed me that 2 of my old drinking partners, each of them not too much older than me, are now deceased. I was stunned.

Everybody dies. That’s one of the indisputably shitty things about life. But when people you used to drink with start dropping dead before they’re old enough to retire, that can ruin your day. I know it ruined mine.

Both were raging alcoholics and incredibly sweet-natured people. One drank at least a case of Genesee a day, the other was infamous for saying to bartenders….”when midnight comes, no matter what I say, don’t give me whiskey”. He was a hard guy to resist though. When drunk his neck muscles would hibernate, and he looked like a bobble-head doll sitting at the bar. That is, when his face wasn’t planted in it.

Think about a case of Genesee a day. The stuff is vile. Like drinking someone else’s urine that’s been preserved in a third person’s bladder. The wonder isn’t that the guy died. It’s that he lived as long as he did. But he was also the softest touch you can imagine….befriending every cast-off who ever walked in the place….from dwarfs who carried guns to a motley assortment of ghastly strippers, most of whom had teeth you could count on one hand. I knew he was sick. He was always sick. Guys who drink more than 20 bottles of  Genesee beer a day have no immune system to speak of. But still. To hear that he’s dead? He’s been dead 7 years. I never knew. I feel terrible for not knowing.

The other? Died in his bed apparently. Heart just gave out, no doubt prompted by a liver the size of a grapefruit. Many’s the night we’d talk until the english language became impossible for him. One night he drove home (he lived only a few block away) and managed to hit 5 parked cars. When told about it the next day he said, “only five?”

I miss him. I miss them both. Neither ever married. Or had kids. Probably just as well. One lived with his Mom. I never knew where the other lived because he always seemed to be at the bar. He may have slept on the floor. There was plenty of room. One night two brothers started to beat the shit out of each other and one ended up throwing the other through the ladies room door. For the next 6 months if a girl was modest she posted a sentry and used the men’s room.

It was the kind of place where eyes twinkled from dreams….even though those dreams were unfulfilled. It was the kind of place where everybody knew your name. It was the kind of place you could fall into like a comfortable chair. It was dark and smelly and the stools were held together with duct tape. It was also the kind of place you had to get out of if you didn’t want to die young….but that’s not what I remember.

I wish I didn’t hear what I heard tonight. I wish I thought they were still there.

In a bit…


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