I have always been entertained by the myriad backstories and eccentricities of perpetual barfolk. This fascination with the denizens of shadowy barstools and midmorning drinks began before I can remember, as I come from a family in the bar business. I was raised sitting on top of cases of beer and giggling at the jokes bar regulars told, my childhood stamped by that particular scent of spilled beer and stale cigarette smoke — to this day, a scent that makes me nostalgic rather than sick to my stomach.
So it is only fitting that, having moved five hundred miles away from my hometown and my family bar, I find comfort in the stories told at bars in my new home city, Louisville. Just this past week, I was enjoying the comfortable darkness of the neighborhood tavern The Back Door along with one of their unworldly strong drinks — a gin and tonic with lime, as is my wont, and true to form they made it perfectly — when I happened into a conversation with an older gentleman nearby.
He was a type I have seen before in bars, but no less interesting for that. The current line of Dos Equis beer commercials feature a character loosely based on this type of man — the Most Interesting Man In The World. Those commercials never fail to make me laugh, and this older gentleman was funnier still. He told me jokes, stories, interludes — he has seen many countries, almost every continent, and could probably tell his favorite joke in several languages if he desired.
As it so happened, while we were enjoying ourselves, there was another man down at the end of the bar trying his best to drink it dry. I did not pay much attention to him; his head was already perilously close to the bar when I sat down. He remained, despite physical evidence of weariness, until the wee hours of the morning, as the bar was finally closing down and the old man and I were some of the last people in the bar.
The old man finished his drink with relish and turned to me, still smiling — I myself was still trying to stop laughing at his last joke. “Well,” he said, wiping his mouth on a bev-nap, “I’m afraid I must be going. I have to fly out of Bowman Field tomorrow morning at dawn.”
I fell into laughter again at the absurdity of him flying out in four short hours, but managed to quell my laughing enough to ask him where he was bound and why he was flying out of Bowman rather than Louisville International.
“I am actually flying to Guam tomorrow,” and with this he winked, “on top-secret business. I’m flying on a small plane out of Bowman to make my flight in Indianapolis.”
Before I could question further, the man at the end of the bar waved his hand towards us. “Where d’you say you’re going?”
(I am attempting to do his slurred speech justice.)
“Indianapolis, and then Guam, leaving at 5.45 AM. It will be quite the weekend,” the old man answered.
“And you’re still out drinking?” I asked, incredulous.
“Oh yes. Don’t judge me too hard, all I have to do is sit on a place,” he replied, smiling.
“Yes, don’t. He’s not near as drunk as me and I’m flying the thing,” the other man added, pointing generally in our direction.
If it had been any other man, I would have bet on a confrontation, or at least a flight change. To my abject surprise, the old man burst out in a full belly laugh, slapping the bar with his mirth, before ordering the erstwhile pilot another drink.