Bar light, bar bright
I’d always wanted to own my own bar. What proper drinker hasn’t? It’s growing up in the age of Sam Malone, I think, that turns us dive denizens into wannabe bar owners. The perfect world scenario involves my wife and me owning a tiki hut somewhere on a beach–a place where regulars and tourists alike saddle up to listen to some bad acoustic cover singer. There’s probably a sand patio in there somewhere, too. I don’t mind people being barefoot in my joint. In fact, I’d rather welcome it.
A lifetime ago or so, my mom sent me a magazine article about a guy who had much the same fantasy, but was sort of a homebody. So, he built his own tiki hut overlooking a lake on the back of his property. All the neighbors knew, if the light was on, they could stop by for a cold one or seven.
So it was that I was standing behind my old office building years ago and saw a counter top. It was L-shaped and headed for the dump. I asked the maintenance guy why there was a hole in it.
“That’s where the monitors used to be,” he said. Turns out, the old counter top was a used for a defunct cooking show at my TV station.
“Can I have it?” I asked.
I don’t even remember how I got the thing home. I do know, however, the countertop sat untotuched in my garage for a couple of years. Despite my desire to throw on a light and just wait for my neighbors to come over, I was lazy. And unmotivated. At the same time, I’d started Bradoween, a yearly celebration of me. When the planning started for Bradoween III (in 3D) began, I decided it was time to build a bar.
And so I did.
With the counter top and some 4x4s, I built the basic structure. Some stain, some paneling from somewhere like Waterloo Paneling, some bamboo, some help from the wife and my neighbor Aaron (okay, a lot of help), and we had the Bradoween Bar. I tacked an old guitar on the front of it while my wife hung a fishing net on the other side. When it came time for Bradoween III, Uncle Ted took to painting. When it came time for the party, people started signing the counter top with Sharpie. The Bradoween Bar had become an icon. Over the next three years, many a friend slung drinks from behind the bar. I can’t count how many drinks, cocktails, shots, and beers emerged from behind the counter’s friendly confines. The bar has heard many a drunk sing-a-long, seen topless women, and stood witness to grown men shoving in ordinate amounts of cheese poofs in their mouth.
And so it happened that we turned boring (or grew up, depending on how you look at it). After a five Bradoweens, we gave up hosting big parties. The bar sat in our garage, collected dust, and got in the way. I offered it to a friend who was opening an underground poker room. “I’ll pass,” he said, opting for outfitting his room with something a little more classy.
When we decided we were finally moving, I knew the Bradoween Bar wasn’t coming with us. I also knew that unless I wanted to go to work with a chainsaw, the trash guys weren’t taking it. So, I took my brother’s advice on how to get rid of trash you don’t need anymore. I put it under “free stuff” on Craigslist.
Maybe you wouldnt be amazed, but I was. I got no fewer than 20 e-mails from people who wanted it.
Yesterday, I got a call from a guy named Steve. He said he and his dad were opening a bar and wanted the Bradoween Bar to put on BBQ patio. He said he already had bar stools and he’d even found some rustic whiskey barrels for sale for an added effect. A couple hours later, I helped Steve and his dad, Roger, load the thing on a trailer. Ten minutes later, the Bradoween Bar was gone.
I walked in and my wife looked at me with sympathetic eyes. She hugged me as I said, “No big deal.”
“Yes, it is,” she said, and hugged me some more.
I am a nostalgic guy. I still think about the BBQ pit my friend Frankie built outside our house in college, not to mention the Trinity of Leisure hammocks we hung nearby. Now, the Bradoween Bar is part of those nostalgic waxes I use to buff my memory.
I don’t think I’ll ever really get over the fantasy of having a place I call my own where people drop by for a drink and conversation. I know it’s not in the cards and that my life is probably meant for something else. It’s among the many things in my life that I hold onto long beyond the point where they make any sense at all.
Regardless, it’s time to move on for now. As I said to the wife yesterday in a moment of protesting too much, “It’s only a piece of furniture.” Still, it’s a piece of furniture with some memories attached.
Here’s a few shots in memory.
The Bradoween Bar, moments before it went on to boozier pastures
Uncle Ted’s artwork (Bradoween 3D underneath Bradoween IV, The Big Gamble)
Some signatures from the Bradoween Bar