Saturday, July 1, 2017

Not our usual haunt

My friend Maggie and I are partial to Irish pubs. Actually, I think a better description would be "pubs with a British Isles bent" since the one we go to most often I believe claims to be Welsh, not Irish. It's all optional ethnicities at this point anyway, it's basically "pasty white folk bar".

We are partial to them, however, because I like Irish beer and we both like Irish whiskey. So when we go out and feel like maybe a beer sounds like a good idea, we have several to choose from but you know how it goes, you like a certain table, a certain noise level, a certain easiness of one place over another. And they also give you to-go plastic cups for your water and now you have enough to build one of those Tiny Houses on HGTV out of them.

So it was a Tuesday and she picked me up and we debated. Did we want to eat? Just get a drink? We decided eat. But we felt like maybe we were in a rut and was there someplace new we could try? I listed the standard ones we'd been to recently. Then I mentioned another one, one I hadn't been to since Brooklyn was an Irish dancer and used to dance jigs in bars the whole month of March. Because of course she did.

"Well, let's try something new," she said.

So we went down to Dogtown, which is where some Irish immigrants moved as the St. Louis red brick industry took off, and went to the tiny little Irish pub. As we were walking up to the door, a man a little older than us opened the door and my eyes met his. He was so familiar to me but I couldn't place him. We thanked him and went in. Got a booth along the wall and debated with the waitress about the fish and chips. I got a Smithwicks. We had the fish and chips and talked and it was all just like any other evening.

The man who held the door for us came in with an older man and two younger, very dirty, men. They sat at the table one down from us and I read the t shirt of the man I thought I recognized. It was from the union that Troy had worked for. I pointed it out to Maggie and explained. I was overcome by a bit of nostalgia and looked over at the the guys as they ordered fried chicken and beers and fries.

"You should say something to them," Maggie urged. But I didn't want to intrude. I was starting to put it together. I think I'd had a beer with the one guy, one time when I brought Troy his checkbook and wound up hanging out with them a bit before a union meeting. But they were busy talking and I never know where I stand, or where Troy stood, and I didn't want to intrude. I just didn't want to intrude.

But I eavesdropped like mad.

And then the young guy who had obviously come from some awful dirty job, said, "Well I'm taking the day off because Troy Cooper, he was a good guy."

I looked at Maggie. We both knew I had to go say something.

I went over and introduced myself. Told them I'd heard them talking. Explained that I saw the union logo and wondered if they'd known him. The two young guys started talking about Troy--one of them had been in his apprenticeship class--about how he wasn't that hard a worker but he always brought good food for everyone at lunch so they liked him. They talked about that power plant job down in Labadie and I found myself listening to them explain what a magnesium burner was and how Troy would use it...

Just like when he would sit at my kitchen table and bore me to death with stories about concrete and jackhammers and oh so many other rough hard jobs.

I left them to their chicken and beer and went back and sat down with Maggie.

We were in a bar we'd never gone to.
On a Tuesday.

The week after I learned Troy had died.

And four guys who knew him--and I haven't run into a a union t shirt since Troy lived with us--sat down at the next table.

And talked about him.

It wasn't our usual haunt.

But it was more than a little haunted.