After being cooped up for a few days from being sick, I needed to tend to some business errands and also felt the need to stretch the sticks in the brisk winter air. After having my taxes prepared, I suddenly also added recreation via libation to the day's itinerary.
Much like tobacco, alcohol is considered a taboo by some. But when imbibed responsibly, a drink, much like the family kitchen table (for those dinosaurs like me, old enough to remember such furniture), has a way of bringing us together and forming bonds. Far too often we rapidly and coldly pass each other in our harried world, often and deliberately avoiding as much as a glance, let alone a warm smile, or a friendly nod, never mind a daring, "Hello." Ireland has the acclaim for pubs, but there are plenty of warm and inviting little neighborhood joints on this side of the pond as well, and the communal quality to them, I dare say, is no less.
I entered a well known landmark in town, a warm, rustic kind of place, nothing fancy, but deservedly known for good food and genuine smiles. Admittedly, sometimes I like to engage willing neighboring patrons. Other times I like to hunker down and people watch. Both are favorite past times. On this occasion, I was in a mode to do a little of both, but more of the latter.
The bar maid was cute, sweet, and affable, and bellowed out, "Hi, come on in!" as I entered the establishment and gladly departed from the frigid air just on the other side of the door. She would repeat that same earnest greeting to every other patron that followed my path throughout my stay that afternoon.
Shortly after bellying up to the bar and ordering a beer and a hearty sampling of Buffalo Wings, I noticed three burly looking construction workers enter and sit to my right. They were all from out of state and working on a local site. They spoke of the job, their loved ones back home, and complained of the weather and next predicted snowstorm. They reminded me of my deceased father, also a hard working blue collar guy, and they instantly acquired my admiration, as well as my attention.
Shortly later, a fairy tale but true love story came in. An early 30-something couple, seated to my left, huddled in close and continually giggling and making physical contact with each other, rather conspicuously enamored by each other. Their story was an intriguing one. They both grew up in town, yet never knew each other. Years later, they each moved out of town and to their respective states and went to work for their respective companies in corporate America. Somehow, their work brought them together. And they came back to town for a visit with family, friends, old haunts and cherished memories to share with each other. They warmed my heart more than the spicy wings warmed my mouth.
Some time later, a group of firefighters from town came in and commandeered a table by the door. They were quite obviously all from the same house and the same shift. They predominantly talked shop, and continually kibitzed and kidded each other.
Amidst the atmosphere at some point after the firefighters settled in at their table, I ironically detected a strong smell of burnt wood or soot in the air. Looking naturally over at the firefighters, it appeared that none of them had just gotten off work and today was most likely their day off, thus I ruled them out as the source. I then turned to my left and noted that not only had the two lovebirds departed, but a chimney sweep had taken their stead. I had no doubt he was a chimney sweep. He was attired in warm, layered clothing, including a ski cap. He was an older, weathered looking fellow, with course, blackened hands from working his craft. Much like the construction workers, he obviously sought a nice warm place to thaw out and unwind from earning his arduous wages, as he appeared to contently look on, slowly sipping his beer.
I'm a big fan of Norman Rockwell, and I've even visited all three of his museums at least once, and immensely enjoyed the experience each time. I so love Rockwell and his work because he was truly an intuitive, sensitive and patriotic American, and his work exudes Americana. So too, I find true with pubs. We need not necessarily tip a brush to canvas as Rockwell did to experience Americana, but rather, merely tip a glass to our lips while seated in the right place. And perhaps along with that tipping, also keep a keen eye, an attuned ear, and yes, sometimes, even offer a warm smile, accompanied by a firm hand shake for those many good folks among us, be they visiting for whatever reason from far away, or obscured by daily life, hiding in front of our faces. Hi, come on in! And, last but not least, cheers!