, which looked so forlorn from the outside that I thought it was closed until I noticed the front door cracked open.
Inside, the story changes. A packed bar filled with gray-haired men laughing, talking and acting as if they've known me all my life once they learned my name, which was within seconds of me taking a seat.
One sweet old fellow, decked out in Blues regalia, reminded his friends that his birthday is next week. He can't decide if he wants free birthday nachos at Chevy's, free chicken at Hodak's or free lunch at Denny's.
I don't know why I offered that my birthday is this week. Having known me all of five minutes, the guy next to me offered to buy my beer if I came in on the big day. He kindly
pointed out that I was the youngest person in the bar. Well, second youngest. A guy at the other end of the bar was a year younger than I am. He threw his arms in the air in victory while I wallowed in my upcoming middle -agedness.
I drank my beer and was offered a basket of free chips and pretzels, which never happens, while the guy next to me talked about the free birthday nachos. "You get to wear a big
sombrero," he said.
"So, in order to get your free nachos, you have to make an ass of yourself."
Turns out he's a food scientist who helped invent Wonder Lite Bread
. Which goes to show: Don't judge who's at the bar; you might be sitting next to someone pretty damn smart.
When I left, someone was on the phone with the Chinese restaurant at the other end of the mall, placing an order to be delivered to the bar. Us old guys gotta stick together.
Robin Wheeler writes the blog Poppy Mom and is a regular contributor to Gut Check. She also has a strange attraction to drinking establishments with jars of pickled -- or possibly fossilized -- eggs. She reports on these dives every Thursday.
Is there anything sadder than an old bar in a strip mall? What about an old bar sandwiched between upscale rescale shops in a strip mall, with only a battered Chinese restaurant to keep it company? That's