Whenever I need to get out of the house for a little while, I go to the same bar. It’s not a small, hole-in-the-wall type place like Cheers, the waiters don’t remember my name, but it’s my place. I can clear my mind, watch a game or just grab a bite to eat and be left alone. At all times, there’s something entertaining going on, too. An obnoxious Celtics fan yelling at the TV. A guy with bat ears hanging out at the bar. (Not even making that up.) There’s always something new. The bar has it’s share of staples too, though. Beer specials, the best nachos in either hemisphere and a creepy old man at the bar, wearing a shirt with a ridiculous saying on it. He’s pushing 85, but acts like he’s 20, and there hasn’t been a night I’ve been in that place that he wasn’t standing at the bar in his trademark sandals, shorts and BusteedTees-style ironic t-shirt.
Tonight is Christmas, and instead of spending it with family, I chose, instead, to come here. To my bar. After a Christmas Eve dinner on Wednesday, I’ve had my fill of family for the holidays. It’s 6:45pm when I walk through the front door, and Old Man River is hanging out at the bar, hitting on waitresses and wearing a shirt that says Christmas: The Holiday with Balls. I don’t quite understand why that’s funny, but it makes me laugh regardless. Clearly, he’s been here for a little bit, as he’s in mid-argument with a younger gentleman at the bar, about the Celtics/Lakers game, and I doubt he’ll be leaving for a while. He never does. He simply starts conversation after conversation with patrons, flirts with waitresses and jokingly threatens to punch each member of the male wait staff in the face; all tell-tale signs of a stereotypical regular.
But, this is Christmas. Surely, a man his age has son-in-laws to make uncomfortable, grandchildren to spoil and a fair amount of cheeks to pinch, so why is he here? I understand the woman next to me, whose husband is in South Florida on business. She can’t be home for the holidays. The three older ladies sitting in front of me seem to have just gotten back from Vegas, and are enjoying Christmas night out together. (They even ask, at one point, if I’m writing a diary. I say yes, because, well, how the hell do you describe a blog to your grandmother?) Myself? I just needed to get away from life for a while, and that’s why I’m here. But the old man is here all the time. Shouldn’t he spend one of the supposed happiest holidays of the year with his real family; not his drinking buddies?
Then it occurred to me. What if he doesn’t have anyone? What if this is his family?
I’ve long wondered if this man had a place to call home to begin with. Perhaps, he’s a man whose wife has passed on, and this is all the family he’s got left. Or a long-time divorcee who’s found a place to escape when the nights get long; a place he loves that can’t just leave him for the pool boy and take half his money. (Well, it can’t leave him, at least.) Or, worse, he’s someone whose never had anyone, and these waiters, this bar, is the only companionship he’s ever had in life.
Having spent the majority of my Christmas alone and depressed, I couldn’t help but see a little bit of myself in the old man. With the girlfriend out of town and no desire to see my friends or family, that place was all I had tonight. Just me, a plate of nachos and an escape from the sobering reality that, until Michelle gets back from Israel, I truly am alone for the holidays.
Christmas: The Holiday with That Sucks Balls.
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