Noun: tavern; Plural Noun: taverns
1. A place where liquors are sold to be consumed on the premises.
2. A public house for travelers and others; inn.
Taberna (Latin, [yes we can thank the Romans for this word – what party animals]: hut, tavern)
Taverne (Old French, 1200)
Tavern (Middle English, 1250-1300)
Alehouse, Bar, Barroom, Brew Pub, Cantina, Club, Cocktail Lounge, Dive, Gin Mill, Honky Tonk, Inn, Joint, Lounge, Night Club, Night Spot, Nineteenth Hole, Pub, Public House, Rathskeller, Roadhouse, Saloon, Speakeasy, Tap House, Taproom, and Watering Hole to name but a few.
The bartender, who also happened to be the owner, lived upstairs above his tavern, and for the most part he worked 12 hours a day, day in and day out. His only relief came in around 8 pm until the bar closed at 2 am, at which point he would come downstairs to close out his books for the day.
The place was a beer joint with a couple of draft beers on tap and a short list of bottled beers that could be bought individually or in 6 packs that went home with you in brown paper bags. All the beers were that generic, light yellow American lager, that only differed in the imagination of the drinker and by the label on the bottle or can.
If you went for the draft beer it always came in a 12 oz glass called a schooner that was wide at the top and curved down to a narrower bottom. Nothing fancy at all. The regulars all hung onto the same glass all night because a fresh one, only a moment before, would have been dipped into soapy water, then into a rinse water that became less rinse and more soap as the day went on, and then finally into some clear disinfectant before its was filled with beer. The combination of the chemicals and warmth imparted into the glass from the water destroyed that first glass. No matter how much everyone complained nothing ever changed; it was always soap, less soap, and who knows for sure.
The front bar was made of mahogany and was full of cigarette burns, nicks and and scars that left it all banged up to hell; if that bar was a man’s face it would claim you should of seen the other guy face after a fight. If you tried to write a letter on that bar you find it impossible because your pen would punch right through the paper and into some cut or divot. About all it was good for anymore more was to hold up bottles of beer and time.
Along the bar would be gallon size glass jars, of an unknown origin, filled with pickled foods, such as eggs or pigs feet, and next to these were smaller quart jars full of slim jims and beef jerky. The Shake-a-Day cup was there too as were the ash trays that would forever stink of tobacco no matter how times they were washed.
The stools were as generic as the glasses, a chrome tube bolted to the floor with a round top covered in a pastel colored vinyl polished as smooth as could be from years of asses, covered in rough denim, sliding onto them.
The limited kitchen, located at one end of the back bar, consisted of a deep fryer for regular french fries and a thicker french fry called jo-jo’s and a pressure cooker for chicken pieces.
The main feature of the back bar, also made of mahogany, was its mirror that was tinted dark and outlined in Christmas light that stayed up and on all day and night year round. About the only time they didn’t make your feel tired or sad was the week before Christmas when the spirit of the season was so strong that even they couldn’t ruin it. On either side of the bar were plastic boxes of pull tabs that were guaranteed money makers for the owner and below everything was a row of refrigerated coolers with matching door frames, clear glass inserts and chrome door handles.
Up in one corner of the bar, in the direct line of sight of the front bar, was a color television that stayed on all the time and mostly stayed on one station unless someone asked for it to be changed or if there was ball game on. The Juke Box was just to the left of the front door and was filled up with forgettable songs that were rotated out at the whim of the company that split the rake with the owner.
The rest of barroom was filled up with a few pine booths with seats covered in a blood red vinyl with table tops done up in a stained Formica that was either grey, green, or yellow. Towards the back of the place, near the restrooms, where they could be made to fit, were a couple of out of date pinball machines whose bumpers and flippers responded either slowly or not at all. In the main open space was a pool table covered in a thread bare green felt that left your hands feeling dry and filthy after playing a game of eight ball for a buck a ball.
The restrooms were a nightmare at best. They reeked of piss and vomit. The toilets, once a pristine white porcelain, the color of a child’s teeth, now absorbed a color some where between a grayish-yellow and a brown that was not all that different than the color of the spit that came out a man’s mouth that chewed tobacco incessantly. The bowls were stained permanently from rusty water and the years of a pink colored form of life that thrived in corrupt places. In a hopeless and lazy attempt to make it better were pink deodorizing disks, hung inside the bowls, where the water would run over them when the toilets were flushed.
The air had ceased being air at some point and now consisted of a permanent blue haze that smelled of Pall Malls, Lucky Strikes, Camel’s, Marlboro’s, cherry pipe tobacco, and cheap cigars. The owner had an exhaust fan installed at the front of the joint with the switch near on the wall near the back bar. When the haze become too much even for such a seasoned veteran he would flip it on. You didn’t want to be walking by when he did that because your clothes and hair would end up stinking if you happened to be right in front when that happened.
His clientele mostly consisted of two types of men. The first were men who had nowhere to go after work and on weekends, while the other group were men who did have somewhere to go but wished they didn’t. Most of them where alcoholics either from seeking refuge from some trauma or from hard practice from drinking nonstop.
One fellow named Sonny, looked like a fading Robert Mitchum, with hair all slicked up into place. He fought in some war and came home and spent the rest of his life working for the city doing road work, drinking, and playing Taps at the funerals of his friends and fellow veterans when they passed on.
Tavern. Honky Tonk. Joint. Vene Qua.
Copyright 2014 By Katherine Johnson – All Rights Reserved