“Over here Dad,” said the woman in her mid-fifties, guarding the barstool as if it were the gates of Troy.
Dad ambled over, his Navy blue hat bobbing on his curled gray locks, like a ship cresting on a wave. His blue eyes sparkled above a red and white striped mask.
“We can’t eat at the bar,” he said.
Maybe he meant that as a group they didn’t want to eat at the bar.
“The bartender doesn’t want to serve food,” he clarified.
No, he was harkening back to a different era, an age where bartenders only dispensed drinks. A bygone era one might also suggest.
Once bars were where you waited to eat, with a little pre-dinner libation. Now bars have become the place to eat. Even barstools themselves are a relative newcomer. Think of every black and white bar picture you’ve ever seen. Have you ever noticed they are always standing? We might take seats for granted now but that has not always been the case.
However, change isn’t always welcomed.
“I want a Manhattan,” said the old vet. “But I want it in a real glass, and I want it shaken. Hard.”
“Sure thing,” said the bartender.
“Not rye,” said the vet pointing at the new local small batch bottle in the bartenders’ hands. “I want something good, like Crown Royal.”
What a difference half a century makes. Crown Royal was originally manufactured in Canada for the 1939 visit of King George VI. It was unavailable in the United States until 1964, and then was marketed with the slogan “The King liked it, so will you.”
The bartender merely smiled. He turned around and rummaged on the shelf until he found the bottle of Crown Royal.
“I bet you hate serving food,” said the old vet, once his drink arrived.
“I’ve been doing this a long time,” said the old vet behind the bar. “The only constant is change.”
“Harrumph,” said the man. “Bars are bars.”
“Dad, just let him do his job.”
“He’s a bartender, this is his job.”
The bartender smiled and winked. It was unclear which gesture was for which person. But each took as theirs the one that counted as personal validation.
“Dad hasn’t been out in a while,” said the daughter. It was apparent to anyone watching, that neither had daughter.
A young couple sat down at two empty barstools on the bar corner. The old vet and his daughter were now practically looking them eye to eye.
“What you drinking there?” asked dad after the man from the couple received his drink in a stylized champagne coupe, the smoke from its flamed garnish still rising.
“A Paper Plane,” said the man.
“Harrumph,” replied the old vet.
“He doesn’t mean anything by that,” said the daughter.
“Different strokes for different folks,” replied the man.
The vet just looked at him.
Meanwhile the bartender stirred a cocktail meticulously in a cut glass beaker, added three little droppers’ full of various concoctions and then strained it all over an intricately faceted giant ice cube.
“What’s that ridiculous thing?” asked the vet.
“It’s an old fashioned,” replied the bartender.
“Where’s the sugar cube and the soda water?”
“We don’t make them that way anymore.”
“Sounds more like a newfangled to me,” replied the vet.
The young couple was together, but not together, and that was only obvious because they both said it, at least three times.
“We are just friends,” they both said.
On the third time, the vet got up walked around the man and sat next to the woman.
“Dad, what are you doing?”
“I am being sociable,” he replied. “Can I get you a drink?” he asked the woman a third his age.
She accepted and some playful banter ensued. The younger woman could easily hold her own, dishing it out as well as taking it. Meanwhile the daughter looked scandalized.
Dirty jokes were told and playful innuendo exchanged and when it was all over the daughter practically had to drag her father out of the bar.
“Nice to meet you,” said the old vet to the younger lady.
“You too,” she replied.
“Can I get a hug?” he asked.
“Of course,” she replied.
“Do I get a hug,” asked her male companion.
“Not on your life,” replied the old vet.
Leaving me with these thoughts:
-Every old person out there was young once too
-Crown Royal now makes a peach whiskey and an apple whiskey. One wonders what King George would think.
-The difference between a bartender and a mixologist is that a bartender asks and a mixologist tells.
-As much as bars have changed over the years the one constant is people. And people haven’t really changed that much at all.