To my dearest regulars,
Just under two weeks ago, I received a phone call around 4 a.m. on a Sunday informing me that one of my dearest friends and former roommate (and fellow bartender, at that) had been in a horrific car accident while driving to New Orleans. He was en route to one of his favorite festivities, Mardi Gras, and was driving through the night in Mississippi to get there just in time for New Orleans’ early-morning happy hour (it’s a thing, y’all). My friend was stat-flighted to a trauma hospital in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and several of us piled in vehicles and began the eight-hour journey to be with him. We watched the world seemingly shift on its axis as we saw someone we love very much claw his way back to life, truly exemplifying his strength and will to live. It’s been an emotional roller coaster, to say the least, and I’m happy to report my friend is home now, and, despite a long road of recovery ahead, he’s doing very well!
The reason I’m telling you this, my dear bar-going regulars, is because it’s been one of those life-altering experiences for my friend, clearly, but also as a bystander. It’s a moment when we all look around at our own existences and think about the fact that life can truly change in the blink of an eye. It’s an experience in which you find yourself sitting in a hospital waiting room making a solemn vow to yourself that you’ll find a way to be grateful each and every day for life’s little gifts.
So, here I am, and first on my gratitude list are my bar patrons who have become friends and even family to me over the years. You help make my world go ‘round each time you belly up to the bar.
To Bobby and Angela, one of my favorite couples in the universe… almost always red wine for Angela, and usually a bourbon or rye (neat or rocks, it varies) for Bobby. You two shared your first date at my bar, and then just moments after you got engaged, you came in to celebrate and share a drink with me. Thank you for allowing me to take part in these moments with you. Thank you for almost always filling my Saturday evening with laughter and familiar faces. Thank you for coming over and tilling my garden years ago. Thank you for being a friend.
To Jeff, the guy I can always count on for weekday happy hours or post-UofL basketball game drinks… almost always a pale ale or IPA of some sort, never needy or overzealous but always ready for some sports banter over my favorite football team. Don’t ever stop talking to me about your dating escapades, or your dogs, or Philadelphia (even though we all know you’re really from New Jersey).
To Sam and Melissa, the sweet angels who drive all the way from Salem, Indiana to enjoy a few pints and, commonly, the dinner special… A giant mug of Amber Ale for Sam, and sweet tea for Melissa. Your sheer existence and genuine interest in my life, my travels and our shared opinions of current events in the world bring me so much joy. You treat each member of our bar staff like we are truly special and human and real. It’s almost as if you drive all that way simply to share in conversation with us. I cherish that compassion and authenticity at my bar more than you know.
And to my industry brethren, the folks who share the same joy and frustration that comes along with serving others night after night, thank you for being a constant relief at the end of my shift. There’s a shared understanding amongst us all, and I’m grateful you choose to bring your weary selves to patronize my bar after you punch out for the night. You always over-tip and never split the checks and often ask if I’d like a shot, as well. Because we know to take care of one another.
To all my regulars, thank you for seeing me, and choosing me, and gracing me with your presence time after time. You’ve often made my daily existence more than that of a drink-maker. May kindness return to you in the same beautiful way it was given and always over drinks.