This is one of the welcome things that sometimes occurs in Barland, something your friendly bartender likes to write about… a tender moment! Oh, he still likes to pound the gavel mind you (lest you think he’s gone soft), giving what for to those who simply ask for it, but this being Valentine’s weekend and all he thought you might enjoy this… well… tender moment.
It happened this past Tuesday night when this couple walked into the bar, this couple visiting from Connecticut, who in age outdistanced the room by at least thirty years. They pulled up two stools at the bar and the gentleman ordered.
“We’ll have a bottle of Cab,” he said, “then the wife and I are going to have a little food tonight.” So I grabbed a bottle of McManis, our house Cabernet.
“This okay with you, my friend?” I said, showing him the label as I held it aloft. (He never asks for a wine list so I knew it would be.)
“Why that will be just fine,” he said, “yes, that will be just lovely.” Then he laid out his usual praise for our fine establishment. “Sorry we don’t get to come here more often, as you know we live out of town, but three times a year when we make our trip we always make it a point to pay you a visit. We just love it here!” His delivery was almost wooden, almost as if he were reading it, but varnished into that wood was the gleam of sincerity. He reminded me of one of those interviewees you see in those fifties newsreels, in black and white, where an innocence seems to shine through along with a politeness. Which I’ll take any day of the week, by the way, over cool!
Well, situated around the piano at this time was a group of some ten or twelve people, comprising that “thirty years” younger group, screaming out song requests and singing along with them. Singing along badly. But they weren’t doing anything wrong they were just having fun. Having fun loudly! For as soon as a song would come to an end followed by the obligatory, “Woooooooo, woooooooo, woooooooo,” which now replaces applause in live entertainment (thank you, fucking comedy clubs, for that one!), they’d shout out a brand new artist to keep the ball rolling. “Billy Joel”, “Elton John”, “Van Morrison,” etc. could be heard, even “Frank Sinatra” by a guy feeling extra “Shoobey-doobey-do” and wearing a fedora, along with “Neil Diamond” and of course “Don McLean”. In fact it was after “American Pie” that the moment occurred.
So enduring all of this noise with smiles, the “Woo, woo, wooing” all over the place, the elderly couple knife and forked through their dinner. Without complaint. They were having too good a time and just happy to be there.
After I cleared their plates from the bar and poured them two glasses of water which they had requested, the gentleman rose to make a request for a song. (Again, at the precise moment “American Pie” ended.)
Uh-oh, I thought, I hope he doesn’t get booed for whatever he requests here! Because just like Neil Diamond’s enduring “Sweet Caroline”, played earlier in the evening, “American Pie” defies one not to sing along with it. Which this group had just done, full throatedly. And now they were in a lather for more, not one song of which was likely to be this man’s request. Whistles, applause, and of course “woo, woo”, could be heard from three miles away, as Connecticut walked through the noise and approached the piano man.
He leaned in and whispered something in his ear, dropped some bills in the bowl, then returned to the bar to retrieve his wife for a slow dance. Talk about a show stopper!
“All right gang,” said the piano man, “we’re going to have a little change of pace at this time. Here’s a song your parents might be familiar with.” Then he started to sing that beautiful love song, “Make Believe” from Show Boat, bringing the room and the hoots to a screeching halt. Except of course for the boy and girl from Connecticut. It was time to “make believe” they were both young again.
Now I should point out this sorry fact and one about which I’m not bragging… the one where I seem to worry about other people’s feelings. Too much. And it’s not because I’m a good guy at all it’s just the way it is… as Bill Clinton would say, “I feel their pain.” It can be a real pain sometimes. And so now I feared I would feel that pain because not only had that song silenced the room as I’ve mentioned, killing the mood, but the couple doing the dancing wasn’t very good at it. And I thought they’d be laughed at. They were terribly out of step with the song, doing I think the “two step”, twirling and sometimes colliding rather than meshing. And as I watched them rock back and forth as they moved, their shoulders the motion of metronomes, they reminded me of little kids you see dancing at a weddings. It was just all off.
Ahh, but now I’ll point out another fact and one that is equally sorry, the one where I don’t give people nearly enough credit. For what I feared would occur as this song rolled along… snickers, pointing and whispering regarding this (slow?) dance… never came within those same three miles of occurring. The blissful looks on the dancers’ faces, the woman rarely opening her eyes, him with a faraway look in his as if staring into the past, trumped whatever was lacking in their two-step endeavor. Yes, appearances indeed be damned because in their minds they were a carbon of Fred and Ginger! And I’m sure that’s what the room saw too because after the song had ended, and after a cue from the piano man who said, “How about couple number one???”, a huge applause rocked the room and that moment. That tender moment. And just as the couple turned and bowed your friendly bartender gave out a sigh of relief. For he felt no pain.
So now these four days later as I ponder that night and that moment, I wish them both a Happy Valentine all the way to Connecticut, and I wish the same to you wherever you are. Happy Valentine’s Day!
See ya’ next week-end when things probably won’t be so tender…