Thursday, December 20, 2012

An eve of Christmas past

For the first time in maybe eight years, I sat  down at a bar tonight.  For most of my adult life a drought even eight days long probably would have been unheard of.  I had arrived early to meet my son, daughter and son in law for a Christmas dinner, meeting in a restaurant because we were all going our separate ways for the holiday.

As I pulled the stool back I might have stumbled a little and it created some motion in my peripheral vision.  That sort of vision used to be vital for any foray into a bar in younger days.  And, this time it had not failed me because there on a stool just one empty one removed from mine sat a beautiful young woman who had turned and gave me a bright smile, then turned back to what she was doing.  The old habits of that peripheral vision had not failed me.  I hesitated for a moment thinking I might take the stool right next to her, laughed silently to myself and sat where I had originally planned.
I ordered a single malt on the rocks to sip until my kids showed up and had the first sip of scotch in nine months.  The slight familiar burn and then warmth felt good and, relaxed a bit, I turned to take in the surroundings. 

It was then I discovered just how much my old familiar world had changed.  Where in a past incarnation I might have tried to strike up a conversation with the woman, maybe offer to buy her a drink, that was not going to happen this night and not just because I was probably at least twice her age.  The thing she had turned back to look at was a Smartphone and she was avidly typing in some text.  A couple of stools farther to her right, another nice looking young woman was doing the same.  To my left a young man also was staring into the light of his phone.  Pretty soon I was doing the same, texting my daughter to let her know I had arrived early and had settled in at the bar.  And then of course I had to check email, and why not see who's been on facebook and pretty soon I was as mesmerized with my phone as was everyone else along the bar. The smartphone had taken over what used to be, well, more social.  How does a guy break into that to say "hey, what’s a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?"

It was such a far cry from times I had spent in other bars at other Christmases.  I liked to wait until the last possible day to shop.  I would go downtown, shop for a while and then head for a favorite bar; in Buffalo it was Jew Murphey's and Anchorage the Club Paris. Both  are or were in the case of Murphy's located in the downtown shopping area in their respective cities. I would wander stores with my list buying things until I couldn't stand it any longer.  At that point I went to the bar.  I had a couple of drinks, enjoyed the atmosphere until I relaxed, then asked the bartender to keep my parcels behind the bar and ventured out again and shopped for a while.

The day would progress like that, shopping in between interludes at the bar.  Toward afternoon as offices let out the places would fill.  At Murphy's, particularly around Christmas, somebody high from an office party would take up the piano and soon enthusiastic song would fill the place.  Club Paris was quieter but with the same sort of crowd.

One year  in early evening Christmas Eve I was sitting next to a woman who also was sipping a drink.  We started talking a little and she said she was having trouble finding something for her father.  She said he lived Outside and  she liked to send him something that said "Alaska."  I wrote down the name of a book of mine and told her to go next door to the book store and buy a copy.  If she didn't like it I would make it right.  To my surprise she did it.  When she came back she showed me the book and asked me what was so special about it.  I said, "How about if I sign it for your father."  She had a proper reaction.  We talked for a bit more and then she thanked me and said she had to leave.  All the while she had a wrapped package on the bar next to her.  She handed it to me and said Merry Christmas.  Later on it turned out to be  a box of matching wine glasses. 

After she left I went shopping again, but I had run out of steam and returned to the bar within an hour, knowing shopping was over for the day.  It being late evening, the bar had filled and I sat down on the only open stool which happened to be next to another woman, this one closer to my own age.  We struck up a conversation and she was lamenting the fact that she couldn't find a nice red sweater for Christmas.  It just so happened I had noticed a display of them on my last tour.  I told her I had seen some in JC Penney right across the street and where they were in the store.  She said she was desperate and would go look.

The bartender laughed at me.  "That's the second one you talked to who ran out of here," he said.

But this one came back.  She was quite happy; she had found a sweater she liked.  She sat down and bought us both drinks.  We talked for some time as the conversation turned personal heading for intimate. Being who I am, I considered, but I could be fairly certain my new wife was not going to appreciate me giving myself this sort of Christmas present.  So, when the woman very seriously invited me to leave with her, well, I declined as graciously as I could, given how sorely tempted I was.  Live to shop another day, I guess.

Thinking back on it now, I have to wonder how that interlude would have gone in the age of smartphones.  Frankly after what I saw tonight, I doubt any of it would have happened. It just doesn't compute.

JUST A SIDE NOTE:  My son is coming here for Christmas dinner.  On the way home I got to thinking about him driving the same route and came to a realization.  Good grief I am the one now who lives over the river and through the woods.  Literally.

1 comment:

  1. A toast to the Ghost of Christmas Past


Interesting quotations

· " “Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.” — Ernest Hemingway

When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth. Kurt Vonnegut

“If you wrote something for which someone sent you a cheque, if you cashed the cheque and it didn't bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented.” Stephen King

The thing about ignornance is, you don't have to remain ignorant. — me again"

Never debate with someone who gets ink by the barrel" — George Hayes, former Alaska Attorney General who died recently

My dear Mr. Frost: two roads never diverge in a yellow wood. Three roads meet there. — @Shakespeareon Twitter

"The mark of a great shiphandler is never getting into situations that require great shiphandling," Adm. Ernest King, USN

Me: Does the restaurant have cute waitresses?

My friend Gail: All waitresses are cute when you're hungry.

I'm not a writer, but sometimes I push around words to see what happens. – Scott Berry

“The rivers of Alaska are strewn with the bones of men who made but one mistake” - Fred McGarry, a Nushagak Trapper

Many people hear voices when no one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stared at walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing. – Meg Chittenden

A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity. – Franz Kafka

We are all immortal until the one day we are not. – me again

If the muse is late, start without her – Peter S. Beagle

Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. ~Mark Twain Actually you could do the same thing with the word "really" as in "really cold."

If you are looking for an experience that will temper your vanity, this is it. There's no one to impress when you're alone on the trap line. – Michael Carey quoting his father's journal

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. – Benjamin Franklin

It’s nervous work. The state you need to write in is the state that others are paying large sums of money to get rid of. – Shirley Hazzard

So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence -- Bertrand Russell

You know that I always just wanted to have a small ship to take stuff from a place that had a lot of that stuff to a place that did not have a lot of that stuff and so prosper.—Jackie Faber, “The Wake of the Lorelei Lee”

If you attack the arguer instead of the argument, you lose both

If an insurance company won’t pay for damages caused by an “act of God,” shouldn’t it then have to prove the existence of God? – I said that

I used to think getting old was about vanity—but actually it’s about losing people you love. Getting wrinkles is trivial. – Eugene O’Neill

German General to Swiss General: “You have only 500,000 men in your army; what would you do if I invaded with 1 million men?”

Swiss General: “Well, I suppose every one of my soldiers would need to fire twice.”

Writing is the only thing that when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.—Gloria Steinem

Exceed your bandwidth—sign on the wall of the maintenance shop at the West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center

One thing I do know, if you keep at it, you usually wind up getting something done.—Patricia Monaghan

Do you want to know what kind of person makes the best reporter? I’ll tell you. A borderline sociopath. Someone smart, inquisitive, stubborn, disorganized, chaotic, and in a perpetual state of simmering rage at the failings of the world.—Brett Arends

It is a very simple mind that only knows how to spell a word one way.—Andrew Jackson

3:30 is too late or too early to do anything—Rene Descartes

Everything is okay when it’s 50-below as long as everything is okay. – an Alaskan in Tom Walker’s “The Seventymile Kid”

You can have your own opinion but you can’t have your own science.—commenter arguing on a story about polar bears and global warming

He looks at three ex wives as a good start—TV police drama

Talkeetna: A friendly little drinking town with a climbing problem.—a handmade bumper sticker

“You’re either into the wall or into the show”—Marco Andretti on giving it all to qualify last at the 2011 Indy 500

Makeup is not for the faint of heart—the makeup guerrilla

“I’m going to relax in a very adult manner.”—Danica Patrick after sweating it out and qualifying half an hour before Andretti

“Asking Congress to come back is like asking a mugger to come back because he forgot your wallet.”—a roundtable participant on Fox of all places

As Republicans go further back in the conception process to define when life actually begins, I am beginning to think the eventual definition will be life begins in the beer I was drinking when I met her.—me again

Hunting is a “critical element for the long-term conservation of wood bison.”—a state department of Fish and Game official explaining why the state would not go along with a federal plan to reintroduce wood bison in Alaska because the agreement did not specifically allow hunting

Each day do something that won’t compute – anon

I can’t belive I still have to protest this shit – a sign carriend by an elderly woman at an Occupy demonstration

Life should be a little nuts or else it’s just a bunch of Thursdays strung together—Kevin Costner as Beau Burroughs in “Rumor has it”

You’re just a wanker whipping up fear —Irish President Michael D. Higgins to a tea party radio announcer

Being president doesn’t change who you are; it reveals who you are—Michelle Obama

Things sports announcers say

"… there's a fearlessment about him …"

"He's got to have the lead if he's going to win this race."

"Kansas has always had the ability to score with the basketball."

"NFL to put computer chips in balls." Oh, that's gotta hurt.

"Now that you're in the finals you have to run the race that's going to get you on the podium."

"It's very important for both sides that they stay on their feet."

This is why you get to hate sportscasters. Kansas beats Texas for the first time since 1938. So the pundits open their segment with the question "let's talk about what went wrong." Wrong? Kansas WON a football game! That's what went RIGHT!

"I brought out the thermostat to show you how cold it is here." Points to a thermometer reading zero in Minneapolis.

"It's tough to win on the road when you turn the ball over." Oh, really? Like you can do all right if you turn the ball over playing at home?

Cliches so imbedded in sportscasters' minds they can't help themselves: "Minnesota fell from the ranks of the undefeated today." What ranks? They were the only undefeated team left.

A good one: A 5'10" player went up and caught a pass off a defensive back over six feet tall. The quote? "He's got some hops."

Best homonym of the day so far: "It's all tied. Alabama 34, Kentucky 3." Oh, Tide.

"Steve Hooker commentates on his Olympic pole vault gold medal." When "comments" just won't do.

"He's certainly capable of the top ten, maybe even higher than that."

"Atlanta is capable of doing what they're doing."

"Biyombo, one of seven kids from the Republic of Congo." In the NBA? In America? In his whole country?

"You can't come out and be aggressive but you can't come out and be unaggressive."

"They're gonna be in every game they play!"

"First you have to get two strikes on the hitter before you get the strikeout."

"The game ended in the final seconds." You have to wonder when the others ended or are they still going on?

How is a team down by one touchdown before the half "totally demoralized?"

"If they score runs they will win."

"I think the matchup is what it is"

After a play a Houston defender was on his knees, his head on the ground and his hand underneath him appeared to clutch a very sensitive part of the male anatomy. He rolled onto his back and quickly removed his hand. (Remember the old Cosby routine "you cannot touch certain parts of your body?") Finally they helped the guy to the sideline and then the replay was shown. In it the guy clearly took a hard knee between his thighs. As this was being shown, one of the announcers says, "It looks like he hurt his shoulder." The other agrees and then they both talk about how serious a shoulder injury can be. Were we watching the same game?

"Somebody is going to be the quarterback or we're going to see a new quarterback."

"If you're gonna play running back in the SEC you're gonna take hits."

"That was a playmaker making a play."

Best headlines ever

Sister hits moose on way to visit sister who hit moose.

Man loses his testicles after attempting to smoke weed through a SCUBA tank

Church Mutual Insurance won't cover Church's flood damage because it's 'an act of God'

Homicide victims rarely talk to police

Meerkat Expert Attacked Monkey Handler Over Love Affair With Llama Keeper

GOP congressman opposes gun control because gay marriage leads to bestiality

Owner of killer bear chokes to death on sex toy

Support for legalizing pot hits all-time high

Give me all your money or my penguin will explode

How zombie worms have sex in whale bones

Crocodile steals zoo worker's lawn mower

Woman shot by oven while trying to cook waffles

Nude beach blowjob jet ski fight leads to wife's death

Woman stabs husband with squirrel for not buying beer Christmas Eve