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Monday, January 31, 2011

Bars: They're Not Just for Drinkin', Ya Know

A re-post, as something seems to have taken up residence in my ears and throat...

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.


Symdaddy said...

Hi Pearl!

I haven't read it yet. I just wanted to be the first to post a comment.

Off to work now.

Read ya later!

George said...

Sounds like my childhood in small town USA. All the farmers coming in at noon. My mother cooked at the bar a block from our house, so I spent a lot of time there too.

BLissed-Out Grandma said...

Not only good spellers, but experts at the betting game, too, I see. Lovely story.

The Lissst! said...

Perl, your writing never fails to amuse me.
Thats a pretty awesome way to win 10 bucks.
Did yous make it to Utah?

Oilfield Trash said...

I am loving this post.

If I had a dollar for every time I was dragged to a bar as a child, I would be richer than the federal government.

Gary Baker said...

Sped. Sped.
Sped. Sped. Sped. Sped.
Damn ... I've said it too much now ...

Gary Baker said...

"Too much?"
Much. Much.
Much. Much. Much. Much.

Camille said...

Pearl feels like holy crap
Followers are regaled with blog relapse
Anyone seen my bag balm?

Wouldn't mind the Haiku brain-worm if I was actually good at it. Sorry.

Get well soon Pearlie Girl.

Pearl said...

There's a lot of good things to say about the ability to walk from your house to the bar. :-)

I didn't actually go to Utah but I have a friend moving there from here in Minnesota. Not sure if that's a good trade or not!

Gary, ya weirdo. :-) Funny funny funny.

Pearl said...

Camille, comments like that help me feel better...

Glen said...

sounds like a perfectly well thought through chat up line gone very - very wrong :-)

Bouncin' Barb said...

Don't you love it when you know you are right about something. Nice way to get $10 when you need it.

Katie said...

AWESOME way to win ten bucks.

Leenie said...

All that middle school education and the mean ol' lady who shoved spelling down your throat came in handy for something. Get better!

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Only in the midwest do you truly find the "family bar."
Any time a kid scams a grown up I feel pleased.

Gigi said...

Don't you just love that "gotcha" feeling when you prove someone who is so obviously wrong!

jabblog said...

Well done! It's such a good feeling to be RIGHT, particularly if you make money out of it, too ;-)

IndigoWrath said...

Scrabble? Aha! We should totally play. Make it interesting? Ten bucks!

Pat Tillett said...

Another great story Pearl!
This story really hits home with me because I also spent much of my youth in bars. My mom always worked in bars (or out of bars, if you catch my drift). While we were on vacation a month or so ago, I walked into a small bar and the smell instantly took me back in time. Neighborhood bars never seem to change.

Roses said...

I like the sound of that bar. Sounds like an American version of an English pub, before they became dens of filth and depravity filled with young and thrusting types who want to get drunk as quickly as possible on expensive vodka, wearing few clothes.

Damn. I wish I was young and thrusting again.

Roses said...

PS. I remember Boy, all of 3 years old, being taught to play pool in the Grad bar at my old uni, by these huge tattooed, biker wannabes (this is Norwich, the Grad bar was as out-there as warm milk).

Good times.

Jeannie said...

I spent time in the odd bar too. My Dad would even buy me a beer. My brother and I played shuffleboard. Different times then.

Douglas said...

I was never taken to a bar when I was a child. So I made up for it after hitting legal age. More than made up for it. Much more.

And, since I had a talent for playing pool, I didn't spend a whole lot of money doing it.

Susan in the Boonies said...

How the mighty are fallen! Don'tcha just love that feeling when you KNOW you're gonna win a bet???


Lazarus said...

Ironically, "sped" is a shorthand term these days to refer to "Special Ed" in certain school circles (although I know that the concept of "special ed" in general is not PC anymore...) Seems like the guy who didn't know that "sped" is a word may have been "sped" himself!

Eva Gallant said...

I love to play scrabble!

Mr London Street said...

So envious. Every time I've ever re-posted something it gets about two comments! Get well soon.

The Jules said...

I was often taken to a pub beer garden when I was a nipper, as was common in those days. Less common is when I was running round frantically in that ADHD way I had, ran past my parents' table, mistook my Dad's whisky for my own drink grabbed it without looking and downed it in one.

Age - about seven.

Distance before collapsing and hyperventilating - about ten yards.

Still love whisky.

Anonymous said...

Feel better soon, Honey!

Su said...

Anyone who doesn't know the word "sped" probably can't be trusted with 10 bucks, anyway. You made the world a safer place that day. ;)

savannah said...

love the re-post, sugar and still LOL @the jules! feel better soon! xoxxo

Jeanne said...

So few people can come out of a bar with a net profit.

Just one of the ways you're unique!

Kay Dennison said...

I've earned a few bucks on bar bets myself. And it's always a man who thinks he knows better.

Too bad you don't live near. I love to play Scrabble.

Belle said...

He was kind of a nasty guy. I can't believe he didn't know sped was a word! I'm glad you got $10 you needed.

WrathofDawn said...

Pearl, you are my hero. "Sped" is not a word. How frickin' stunned was he?

Hope you feel better soon!

On My Soapbox said...

I wish I was smart enough to make a bet out of Scrabble!

That Janie Girl said...

Muah!!! Get better! I'll bet ya $10~

Rawknrobyn.blogspot.com said...

This was a happy piece, though I kind of feel sorry for the guy - thinking of the interest alone on that $10.

PS Feel better. That darn ears and throat bug is making its rounds.

Tempo said...

My dad was a bookie (took bets)among other things so I to spend lots of time in pubs. Real hand made pub squash and some multi colored layered drink I cant remember the name of. Sitting watching the barman make them was as much fun as drinking them..Ah, memories!

River said...

One way or another we ended up with three scrabble sets when my kids were young. We'd get them all out on rainy weekends and set them up across the big old dining table and play right across all of them. We didn't bother keeping score, we just had loads of fun while the kids learned to spell and learned new words too.

NotaSupermom said...

The last time I made a bet at a bar I wound up with a tattoo that says "Foghat Rules".
Who knew President Harding's middle name really was Gamaliel? That sounds like the name of Gandalf's brother.
Get well soon!