There are few things in this life that will bring you back quite like a bar does.
Music is one. Music might be the only one.
No, bars are a catalyst for time travel. The establishment exists in a certain location and exists in a certain time of your life. You were a different person when you frequented that place. Its existence today is fixed in your memory.
You had different thoughts, different friends, different routines, different worries, different dreams back then.
Times have changed, but as soon as you approach the door you’re right back where you were. You’re transported back in time. Everyone is there with you. You hear the chatter, the music. You taste the drinks. You see the faces.
I see using my fake ID for the first time. I see Nickel Night freshman and sophomore year, before Greek Life took the place over. I see Tom and I owning the place.
I see Blake’s birthday party and taking the picture with Cam that graced our apartment door senior year.
I see myself dancing with every girl I knew. I see waiting an hour for a slice of Sgt. Pep’s.
I see UConn games and karaoke nights. I see Dan attempting the brass run. I see smoking cigarettes outside on the ramp. I see myself maneuvering through people packed in as tight as sardines to reach the bar to get drinks for us.
I see being there after hours with Dan and Archie just feeding money into the jukebox. I see Buck Hunter and an endless supply of Beavers.
I see skipping class on Thursdays my senior year with Ryan, Leah and Kyla. I see full pitchers of Sam Summer. I see condensation on the outside of pint glasses. I see a slightly blurry walk back to my apartment through X-Lot.
I see going back one Friday afternoon with Cam and Fran. I see pitchers going down in an empty room.
I see 50 cent pitchers and leather armchairs in the back. I see standing by the tables on the side as the bar filled up. I see Co-op co-workers letting loose after a long week. I see friends from all four years joining in on an age-old college ritual.
I see pre-gaming with Kono and Louie on Wednesday evenings. I see watching them strike out and succeed in picking up sorority girls.
I see myself going outside behind the bar one night because the bathroom line was too long. I see my mind racing.
I see myself finish my beer. I see myself order another shot. I see myself shoot the Jack. I see myself muster up any and all courage my 21-year-old self could find.
I see myself reach my hand out and ask her to dance.
I see driving Miss Daisy to Rhode Island for the first time. I see my very good friend’s to-be husband for the first time. I see everything about him that she told me he was. I see myself wanting to be more like him. I see feeling so unbelievably happy for her.
I see a reunion of great friends for the first time in years. I see the Summer Olympics. I see swimming out too far in the Atlantic Ocean. I see the biggest lunch bill in the history of lunch bills. I see somersaults into the backseat.
I see a summer love. I see her finish her drink and walk down on to the beach with a beer in her hand. I see myself follow.
I see her put the beer in the sand. I see her take off her shoes and socks. Then her shirt. And jeans. I see her run into the Atlantic Ocean with her hands over her head, as free as she could ever be.
I see myself follow.
The Owl Bar
I see the finished hardwood floors. I see the smooth bar. I see the dim lights, the extensive whiskey selection, the top shelf scotches. I see the humidor. I see Jay and Mike.
I see us take our seat at one of the tables. I see our glasses arrive. I see our cigars arrive. I see Mike demand to cut all three.
I see smoke in the air. I see laughter, smiles, great friends.
I see telling them how close I thought I was to getting an offer. I see telling them how unbelievable of an opportunity this could be for me. I see telling them my long term plan, how California could fit into it. I see telling them how incredibly frightened I was.
I see Mike ordering the most expensive glass of scotch the place had to offer. I see the glass arrive. I see him slide the glass over to me. I see him saying, “This is for you, because I knew you would make it.”
I see sitting in Miss Daisy outside the house on Lilly Lane. I see hanging up the phone with my Mom. I see texting Jay.
“We need to go out tonight.”
It was a Wednesday.
“The Hills. Taylor’s charity karaoke night.”
I see my hands shaking in the shower, as I dry off, as I get dressed, as I do my hair, as I lock the door. I see driving from Meriden to Waterbury to Watertown, down North Colony Road onto 691, onto 84, and off the ramp, hands still shaking.
I see myself parking and walking in. I see myself join Jay and Stephen at the bar. I see Taylor behind the karaoke table. I see myself down a drink.
I see myself tell Jay:
“I got the offer tonight.”
“Dude. Holy shit.”
I see shots.
I see another round of beers.
“If you accept the offer, I’ll go with you. Don’t worry about it.”
I see myself feel relieved. Even for just a moment. Could have been the liquor kicking in, could have been that I was no longer alone.
I see another round of shots.
I see my name come on the karaoke line-up. I see myself walking up to the stage and taking the mic. I see Jay pretend like he wasn’t committed to this song. I see Journey “Don’t Stop Believing” appear on the screen. I see screaming my favorite lyrics into the mic and into the crowd as if I would never see any one of them again.
I see her and the front seat of her SUV.
I see arriving in San Jose for the very first time. I see us pulling into the Marriott with the car full of all my belongings. I see giving my keys to the valet. I see taking my overnight bag up the elevator with Jay to our room. I see the window. I see the city, the lights, the pot I threw all my chips into.
I see heading back down the hallway to the elevator. I see the doors open and taking a left.
I see Jay and I wandering around the streets of San Jose trying to find a bar and having no luck. I see walking in circles, block after block, cannot believing there was nothing.
I see us head back to the hotel. I see us walk by the same valet that took my keys. I see us walking through the automatic doors and taking a right. I see us walk down the hallway past the elevator and into Tanq.
I see taking our seat at the bar. I see ordering a glass of whiskey. Three fingers, two cubes.
We call it Spartan’s.
I see sneaking in when I was 20 after my fake ID was gone when my wallet was stolen.
I see Saturday afternoons. Saturday nights. Sunday afternoons. Wednesday evenings. Friday nights.
I see becoming really close to the bartenders, the managers and the owners.
I see birthdays. I see dates. I see meals. I see drinks. I see more drinks.
I see Tommy. I see Brian. I see Matt. I see Dimitrios. I see Gallager. I see getting charged very little and tipping as much as I could.
I see inviting everyone I know and love to join me the first Friday of December 2012. I see friends from middle school, high school and college walking through the door. I see photos being taken. I see rounds of drinks. I see the bar as packed as it has ever been. I see celebratory shots.
I see hugs. I see kisses. I see laughter. I see tears.
I see the greatest damn group of people and the greatest damn bar on the face of the earth.
I see home.
DAY 16: DEAR MOM DAY 15: IF I WON THE LOTTERY DAY 14: ON CATS AND DOGS DAY 13: ANSWERING YOUR QUESTIONS (PART 1) DAY 12: MAKING MY WAY BACK TO CLEVELAND DAY 11: ON FIRE DAY 10: ON CONNOTATION AND DENOTATION DAY 9: ON THE TIME I BROKE MY RIBS DAY 8: ON THE FOUR UNDERSTANDINGS FOR A HAPPY LIFE DAY 7: DEAR ERIC DAY 6: ON WHY YOU’RE HAVING TROUBLE DATING IN YOUR 20′S, LADIES DAY 5: ON SUNRISES AND SUNSETS DAY 4: ON PARADISE DAY 3: ON SMOKE AND WHISKEY DAY 2: ON HOW CLOSE I WAS TO NOT EVEN GOING TO COLLEGE DAY 1: WHY I’M WRITING EVERY DAY FOR 40 DAYS