Farewell to The Pub

So a wall of The Pub collapsed this morning.

It was about 8 a.m. I had just arrived at my desk and was unpacking my bag when I received a text from the university police chief reporting the news.

I gasped.

And then Facebook was flooded with status updates and photos on the pages of my friends in The 'Ville and so many others who had a connection to the place.

The sadness flowed like the beer had in that place for decades. For so many of us, it was like losing a family member. The Pub is -- was -- an insitution in The 'Ville. Today will be known as a sad day in the town's bar history.

Said one faculty member: "You know, there are more Facebook posts on the Pub collapse than there were about Irene, our hailstorm, and the East Coast earthquake -- combined. I'm just saying, it's that important."

It was -- for lack of a better word -- the classy bar in The 'Ville. It didn't draw the troublemakers that resulted in headlines for the other bars. While all of the other bars in town took in students at age 19, The Pub was a 21-and-over-bar. It attracted a larger number of faculty and coaches than the others bars. 

I spent many, many nights there after newspaper deadlines and football games. Like my college newspaper office, it was a place my college friends and I loved to go to escape the pressures of our worlds.

Naturally, I wrote about it, too. For a college creative writing course, the professor assigned our class to write a short piece about a place. I wrote about The Pub. ...

Tonight, I couldn't keep from digging the piece out of my archives. This piece is more than 10 years old now. I've grown and matured considerably since I wrote it. But the sentiment remains the same, and the images depicted feel like they could have happened only months ago. ...

Goodbye Pub. It was fun.
Thursday night, this is my weekend. Not Friday, not Saturday. Thursday is my weekend. I’ve finished another week of the newspaper business, and I know I have one night to relax before the next week begins, and I catch up on all of the notes and assignments I’ve put off while trying to conquer the newspaper business. My boots find a rhythm on the sidewalk as the glare of headlights reflect on the puddles, my hands dig into the pockets of my black fleece, and I walk, my head down, my eyes barely visible under my ragged Dodgers cap. Three blocks and I’m there. Up the concrete steps and into the dark, hazy lights of the room.

“What’s going on, Horns?” Chris says.

“Not much, Chris. How are you?” I say. Chris, the local blonde-haired, baby-faced, pretty boy, cheerleading coach, sits on a stool by the door. He checks IDs and turns away the young twirps who show their fakes, thinking they’re sly enough to fool him. But they’re not. “This is an over-21 establishment,” he snarls. I’m 21 now, but I take pride in the fact that he’s always let me pass through without a hitch.

The brown booths that line the wall are loaded with people. Many of them I know well. Like “Cheers,” it’s a place where everybody knows your name. My best friend Jacob is tending the bar, while Jackie, his girlfriend, sits on a stool nearby, watching him with adoring eyes, chewing on a straw. John, the longtime cheerleading coach turned bar owner, lounges in the booth at the corner. He greets Coach Tapp, the city manager and other local celebrities who walk through the door with warm smiles and handshakes. Of course, Chris just smiles and let’s them pass, too. Checking their IDs is the furthest thing from his mind. Jimmy’s at the end of the bar. When his band’s not playing, he sits there watching the television set as it flashes scores from the NBA. He doesn’t know who any of the teams are, but he couldn't care less as long as he has his beer. And in the middle of the bar sits the town drunk, dressed like he’s just come from a construction site, only he’s not wearing a hard hat. He’s a big man with a chubby face and curly black hair, and his language is always slurred so we can never be sure if he’s really drunk. Nobody knows his name, but the blonde-haired girls that come dressed in their skimpy shirts and tight black pants love to tease him. Blake and J.P. sit at the other end of the bar debating the latest Missouri basketball game like a bunch of washed-up sports jocks who can only find competition in complaining. But like Jimmy, they don't care as long as they have their pitcher of beer.

That bar. That’s where J.P. and I met Blake during that crazy night in September, after our boys beat the hated rival in a football game for the ages. It’s the bar where I got flatout drunk for the first and last time in my life. The bar where Blake bought the shots, Jacob poured them and the three of us swallowed them down. Chris, Tapp and the football coaches stood around us, laughing at the humiliating site like little boys on a playground, and I was so wasted that Jacob was sorry and served me a water during the last round. And there was the night at the bar when J.P. and I met Blake, but didn’t feel like taking shots. This time we were on the losing side, shocked in the playoffs. Like a scene from a classic film, we looked like lost boys, lining the bar with the players, and Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” crooned on the jukebox.

There’s that darn pool table, the one that stems the memory of my Homecoming weekend and had Jackie and Jacob talking me into doing that crazy prank. That darn pool table that held me hostage while the Budweiser rep threw me down, tore off my shirt and dumped vanilla ice cream on my stomach before forcing that red-haired girl’s face into it. That pool table that had every man, woman and child in the bar standing around it, watching with glee as she licked the sloppy ice cream off my body. The pool table that I leaped from when she finished and hurried over to John, asking for a towel. John said he’d never seen me so wasted in my life. Little did he know I hadn’t had a single drink that night. And a girl I was dating at the time said the scene made me “so cool,” yet we were finished for good a couple weeks later.

And the shuffle board table, with its shiny wood top covered in power. John made it free to play on Thursdays just for us. He’s seen some of the screaming competition that takes place on that shuffleboard table and the crowds we sometimes draw, like we’re playing for the world championship. The teams are different each week, but the players are the same. No matter who we’re paired with, the trash-talking could rival some NBA stars. Jody calls me “Double-bumper” because of my unique style of bumping the weights on both sides of the table, but she can barely put it past the end-line. Then there’s Jimmy, the master of knocking weights off the table. You can count out Blake once he’s downed a pitcher, and John seems to always be on top of his game.

There’s that back room, darker than the rest of the place. It’s where Jimmy’s band and others have whaled, guitars have screamed and drums have popped. And that back room was the site of the greatest fish bowl contest this place has probably seen. April 2000, that girl who said I was “so cool” sat with me, only because we were underage and couldn’t legally join the contest. We watched as our two rival journalism staffs set out to see who could suck alcohol faster. A total of 16 heads crammed together over two fish bowls, filled with mixed drinks and gulped until there wasn’t a drop big enough for a goldfish to swim in.

It’s funny how a little more than a year ago, you wouldn’t have seen me in this place. But through this place, I’ve stumbled into the unknown and experienced feelings I never thought I would. Aside from that crazy night in September when J.P. and I stumbled home and barely made it up our porch, I’m still not much of a drinker, as they call them, and I probably never will be. But I look around, I see my best friends, think of the memories, and I know how much a part of me this place has become. Like the walls of this place that have been stripped away and replastered, I escape the harsh realities of my daily routine and find myself here before pushing into another round of the criticisms and pressures each week brings. This is my weekend, this is my place.

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