It heralds the arrival of familiar faces taking on new identities and a chill rain waiting for the dark of night to spread an icy wet blanket over everything.
I drove by Jack's Bar & Lounge on Sunday evening on my way back from OSH. It was supposed to be a quick visit; just checking to make sure tonight's bartending substitute Eric was not planning to close early due to the lack of business so I could make my planned 10 p.m. arrival with confidence.
When I walked in Eric was standing behind the bar in his bright yellow Swedish men's soccer jersey, Gabby sat at the bar where it turns the corner near the door, Doug of the Ballet sat on the short side of the bar underneath the flat screen, a woman with dark black hair and tattoos down to her wrists (but not actual full sleeves) who I've seen before but whose name I do not know sat on the other side of the bar corner next to Gabby, and a man with an "Independent" beanie on his head sat between tattooed-arms-woman and Doug.
Had I stopped to think about it, I would have remembered that Chris Burkhardt was due to perform later tonight (every first and third Sundays at Jack's) so he would have acted as an anchor of sorts, keeping the bar open for my planned 10 p.m. arrival.
There is also the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday on Monday. Thus I should have grasped that people would come to Jack's much later in the evening, after they'd realized they did not in fact have to show up to work tomorrow.
I ordered a soda and did my best to be supportive of Eric. Unfortunately I'm still not all that good at making conversation. Fortunately Eric's brother James (kla-klow bang-bang!) showed up to do the same, then Andii came in after getting off work at Chevy's (that woman kills me; she's so incredibly beautiful, does her makeup perfectly and is whip smart to boot).
Eric checked his phone for the time, then announced the Simpsons would be on in twenty minutes. Much back and forth cartoon banter (mostly Family Guy quotes) flowed between Andii to James to Eric, with me in the middle trying my best to keep up.
I figured since interesting people were at Jack's now I ought to order a beer. I asked for my usual: pint of PBR for $3 and handed Eric a $5. I made ready to give Eric a $1 tip from the $2 change I was expecting after Eric served me my beer, but Eric didn't return with any change.
I looked at the register and saw he'd rung up the beer for $5.
Not exactly sure why I didn't say anything at first. I should have let him know on the spot, especially given my limited bar budget and the fact that he was subbing and might make the same mistake again.
I did eventually let him know a little later that night after his brother James bought us pizza from Round Table and I was ready to wash it down with another beer.
"You made sure to pull $2 from my change and put that in the tip jar, right?" was enough to get Eric to double check the price card on the counter between the registers.
Just to be safe, though, I handed Eric five $1 bills for my second beer. I saw him ring up $3 on the register and take the change and put it in the tip jar.
Mission accomplished! ;)
I heard Eric say "$3 please" many a time after that as the first wave of bar patrons all departed and were replaced by the second wave of customers who filled just about every seat in the place as Chris Burkhardt arrived and started unpacking his gear for the 9 p.m. show.
Eric said, "Oh shit, I didn't know Burkhardt was playing tonight." I asked myself mentally why I hadn't realized that either.
It's cool that people cruised in to Jack's later that night, but almost nobody clapped for Burkhardt after he finished his songs.
Having learned the art of "fuck those people - you're here to have some fun so have some fucking fun dude" from Jeff at the bar, I decided to abandon my inhibitions and clap and holler like a true fan of Burkhardt's after each tune ended. Chris was ripping it up tonight and deserved some recognition for his fine skills.
He came by on the break after his first half-hour set to thank his "cheering section" and I told him it was my fucking pleasure.
My bar buddy Marcus showed up along with Jason, then friends and housemates of Eric and James came in when Chris started his second half hour set (John --recently freed from bathroom captivity by James, John's beautiful girlfriend Caitlin, Chriss who works at the Bella Mia with Eric, a woman named Toni who they call "campsite" for some reason and Campsi...er, Toni's boyfriend whose name I did not get) then Tim, George, Kelly and their friends a few minutes after that, so proper applause was had even when I was outside taking in the pre-rain air.
Thanks to the following:
- James for buying me a beer and for the aforementioned pizza.
- Eric for letting the warm beer foam from a new PBR keg settle in a pitcher and serving me up the condensation, which amounted to about 80% of a pint.
- Chris Burkhardt for buying me a shot of Maker's Mark and a Heineken chaser. I'd never drank Heineken before, but found the sharp flavor of Maker's Mark easily masked the bong-like aftertaste of the Heineken (green bottles being very apropos).
I lived with two friends who battled for three tough semesters and finally made it through the program last year and can say with confidence that yours is a tremendous accomplishment. It was a pleasure to meet and party with you all and good luck to you both!
I stayed until closing, said goodnight to everyone, thanked James and Eric, said goodnight to Eric's girlfriend Katy and gave Burkhardt and his gear a ride home.
See you on Monday at Jack's for Gary's birthday party!