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Monday, February 8, 2010

Sometimes It’s Best if You DON’T Have a Drink

I spent some time in the bars as a child.

This wasn’t unusual for the times, nor was it, in my estimation, detrimental. We went on the road, my father and I; and in his role as a salesman for Liggett and Mayer, I watched him interact with the bar owners. While they conducted business, I ate/drank low-ball glasses crammed full of maraschino cherries and Coca-Cola. I was often allowed to play the jukebox for free, and I was given quarters with which to amuse myself at the pool table.

I would say that half the quarters I was given were never put in the jukebox or the pool table but were simply squirreled away in a pocket, careful to not bother anyone afterward, lest they catch me.

Waste not, want not.

Perhaps it was inevitable that my son would find himself in a bar at a tender age as well.

My friend Paula owned a bar in a small town, and I rented a home in that same small town from her father. The bar abutted the house’s backyard; it was a matter of mere feet between the bar and the house.

Those were incredibly lean times for The Boy and I; but as so often happens, they were, in retrospect, some very happy times.

There was a sandbox in the backyard of the bar. Paula had two girls, and the three kids would play for hours, coming in periodically for glasses of milk and maraschino cherries, which were free; and kisses, for which Paula paid 25 cents apiece.

While the children played outside, their sweet grubby hands pushing the old metal Tonka Trucks through the sand, Paula and I were inside, drinking Diet Cokes at a table, our Scrabble game between us.

Paula and I met every available opportunity to play Scrabble. A handful of farmers, complete in overalls and feed caps, could be regularly counted on to come in for a glass of beer around noon; but outside of those regulars, the place was quiet and we could play three games in quick succession.

We were in the middle of Game Two of Three when a man who had been sitting at the bar wandered over to check out the board.

“That’s not a word,” he says, pointing.

“Is, too,” I say in that understated and endearing way I have.

“Which word?” Paula asked.

“Sped,” the man says. “No such word.”

“Well it is, too,” I say, feeling I need to defend my word. Who asked this guy anyway?

“I’ll bet it isn’t,” he says.

I look at Paula. He bets? Paula and I are both excellent spellers. She smiles.

“I don’t think you girls know what you’re doing,” he says.

You girls? Well that cinches it.

“What do you want to bet?”

“Five bucks,” he says.

“Five bucks?” I laugh. I have no money at all, neither with me or at home, but I’m not going to let him know that. “Not too sure of yourself, huh?”

“You want to make it ten?” he challenges.

I turn and wink at Paula, then turn back and hold my right hand out. “Ten bucks.”

We shake on it.

“Paula,” I say, grinning, “I’ll be right back.”

“Where you going?” the man asks.

“Home,” I say.

I ran out the back of the bar, past the kids, into my own back door and grabbed my dictionary.

I was back in under a minute.

I opened the dictionary to the S’s, and jabbed a finger at the word “sped”.

“That’ll be ten bucks, please.”

He wasn’t happy about paying up – seemed to think that he had been snookered somehow. But I didn’t care.

Ten bucks is ten bucks.

Waste not, want not.


the iNDefatigable mjenks said...

I thought you were going to come busting back into the bar, triumphant, dictionary in hand, and declare to the man, "Whew...I just sped home to get this."

ellen abbott said...

He got what he deserved. Besides butting in, he used the 'g' word, one of my pet peeves.

Vegas Linda Lou said...

Sped? I was expecting something more exotic, like "quay." Too funny!

Sounds like you have a lot of fond childhood memories. Bars are cool!

Ms Sparrow said...

Hah, good for you! Nothing makes for a shining victory like showing a chauvinistic know-it-all that he's wrong.

kimber p said...

I had my very first bday party in a favorite bar of my mom's. I used to think it was weird..but now it's just plain cool. (not because of your story..lol..but because she had so many happy memories and it just seemed natural for her to share my birthday with her friends there)

Pearl, I love your stories, will you PLEASE write a book!?!?

Molly Potter said...

Quay? Exotic? Have you been to any of Britain's quays and slipped on the diesel?

There's nothing quite so sweet as being right...especially in the face of arrogant interfering intruders.

*mary* said...

Well done! And the memories of going to a bar with your father sound so fun. It reminds me of Paper Moon.

Douglas said...

My father never once entered a bar that I am aware of. Much less take me into one. His father, however, knew where all the best ones were wherever he lived. Which may be why my father never entered one.

Chelle said...

You scrabble hustlers are a menace.

Debbie(singlemom;complicatedworld) said...

great story and neat memories...!!

Red Squirrel said...

Someone thought 'sped' wasn't a word? In a bar?

That man has shamed all drinkers everywhere :(

powdergirl said...

Hey, my best friend in the old home town was named Paula, still is, as of this mornings e-mail from her.

Lots a scrabble, no bars though, sigh, Mennonites and all that clean livin'.
It's amazing I've developed a voracious taste for booze at all. A real credit to willingness to try new things, dontcha think?

I bet you spent that ten bucks on another round or two, right?

sage said...

Nice story! I was drinking age before going into my first bar... I think I was 40 the last time my mom came into my house and made a comment about the bottles of beer in the fridge or the liquor in the cabinet. Then her mind started slipping and she'd forget to look.

Anonymous said...

Bars are good places to make money from betting!

The mad woman behind the blog said...

Yeah, but how are you at Boggle? My smartie pants 12 year old niece and the sweetest father in law in the world kicked my ass over the holiday and boy was I embarrassed.
Yep, hanging in a underpopulated bar is one of my favorite activities, alcohol not required.

mapstew said...

When I was a kid my Da would sometimes take me to the pub of a Saturday afternoon. I felt very grown up sitting with all the men, drinking my red lemonade and eating my bag of Tayto's (chips)! And I always came home with a pocket full of change! Good times! :¬)


Happy Hour...Somewhere said...

Dang, I wish we were neighbors...I love Scrabble and no one ever wants to play. Growing up, my parents for awhile owned a bar but I never set foot it in. My mother thought it was a den of iniquity I think. And it was near Main Street in Los Angeles kinda near Skid Row. I always wanted to go but no such luck.

Anonymous said...


Jayne Martin said...

I could picture the bar and see you sitting there. Charming story...

Warty Mammal said...

You, my dear, have had a life.

Laoch of Chicago said...

Scrabble hustler!

Barbara Blundell said...

Everyone today is familiar with' sped' because it's something we often do ! What about bo,sizy,ti,vril,vug and utu ? Dont know what they mean but all in the OSW
Once i triumphantly tiled Sioux (and I think it was a double on a triple) and I was drummed out of court because it's not in the OSW. I went to bed sulking.

Ugich Konitari said...

Just be grateful you don't stay where I do. Different linguistic community DNA's make folks pronounce things differently. What you spell is not what you hear and vice-versa.

"Snacks" are being served in the "Hall", is, by right, pronounced in certain parts (of Western India) as "Snakes" are being served in the "Hole".

We have lots of jokes about this, but I hope none from these group has Scrabble bets with you. He would have pointed to "Spade"....

My name is PJ. said...

Easy money!

Serve him right for sticking his two cents in where it doesn't belong.

Gaston Studio said...

The sexist bastard deserved to lose the ten bucks! Good on you.

CatLadyLarew said...

Way to make ten bucks!