Tonight, I met someone in a bar I used to frequent when I needed to get out the house to write.
I haven’t been writing lately; in fact, I’ve had trouble producing anything resembling writing for some time now. So I thought it’d be a good idea to visit my roots: The dark wood and vaguely Irish setting of Mr. Toad’s.
This place has been elevated to mystical status for me at this point. Something happens when I enter that allows me to write without thinking too much. One could argue it’s the Guinness, but I have my drinks here at home, and that doesn’t seem to do the trick.
However, tonight I met this great guy.
I don’t want to name him, because it feels like a violation of trust, so let’s call him Frank. Frank is a ball of gruff joy. I described him on Twitter as a cross between Tony Robbins and Tom Waits. He is connected with the bar in some way (“she said, elusively”), and he was very excited to have a writer there. He spent a lot of time telling me about the writer’s groups that used to meet at the bar and how much he missed them. He also told me about the architecture (built in 1919), and he wanted to take me up to the upper floors that they were renovating in art deco style, but he was too tired. Next time, he said. I’d just met him, but he was sure we would be friends, and that we’d meet later, and somehow I’d be comfortable enough to tour this building with him.
He first walked into the bar during his oat-sowing days, in 1988, and instantly fell in love with the brick and dark wood. He has been there in some fashion ever since.
I was trying to permanently cement in my brain all of the wonderful things he said, but I only seem to have silt lately, so not much stayed except when I asked him who his favorite musicians were. Here, came a long explanation of Irish Catholic guilt, because his favorite musician is his grandpappy who used to fix instruments (lots of mandolins) and always tested the instruments by playing a particular church song (God forgive me, it was great, but I forget what it was. I mean, it was a perfect instrument-testing song). But his mother played organ for the local church, and even though neither of them are alive, he felt that he had to name his mother as his favorite musician. Because of Irish Catholic guilt. But outside of those two, it was Jimmy Page.
He asked if I wanted to do shots with him, and this is one of those responsible adult moments where you should say, “No, absolutely not,” but then you think, “How do I resist hanging out with this person?” So instead of saying no, I asked what he’d do shots of. “Fireball whiskey,” he replied. Oddly, I had only heard of Fireball whiskey the day before, so this felt like kismet of a kind. “I want to do shots with someone in this bar, and I look around, and I think I just want to do shots with you,” he said. In my world, honestly, this is a pretty high compliment. I don’t take drinking with a body lightly, since I don’t generally like to drink alone, and I understand the fraternity of the properly done drink. He had a shot and a beer poured for both of us, and we drank to health and happiness (“Always in that order,” he said, “because that seems to be what you usually need.”)
I asked him how old he was, and he said 52, but that his soul was 155. “That’s a good age,” he said, “One hundred fifty-five. But now maybe it’s one hundred sixty-two, because I forgot about our conversation, and that we must’ve had it before.” I aged his soul seven years. Not sure how I feel about that.
I told him that he was a delight to talk to, and he is, but he made me repeat that to the two female bartenders, who confirmed that yes, Frank is a complete delight, though they’d never phrased it exactly like that. In asking if they knew his soul was 155, they both nodded. Yes, they know how old his soul is.
It’s not lost on me that he could be a great source for a character, but I honestly think this guy is an actual muse, and I want all of you to come here and drink beer with me, and do shots with Frank as soon as is reasonably permissible. Bring your notebooks and tablets. He loves writers.