When I get a notification from Facebook that one of my college friends has posted a picture of me, I try to check on it as quickly as possible. I wouldn’t say I do this out of fear, per se … but, um, I do want to make sure that I’m doing something that was merely stupid and not, say, illegal.
Not that there are any pictures of me doing anything illegal. Or that I ever did anything that might be construed as illegal. Ahem.
So when I got pinged last night that my friend Katie had posted something, I opened up the album and found something that was not a picture:
This was a column I wrote for The Post 18 years ago, when it appeared that my favorite bar in the entire world was be sold and converted to a dance club. It was one of the two or three favorite things I wrote for The Post, the student paper at OU, and while I probably have a copy stuffed into a box in the basement somewhere, I hadn’t seen this one in at least 15 years.
My Athens friends all know that the sale didn’t happen; Lou, the manager whom I first met at one of the hardcore shows I attended at the Union as a freshman, bought the bar instead; aside from some renovations, it remains the same dark, loud, beautiful dive bar it’s always been.
(Pittsburgh folks — think Gooski’s with a better beer list. Seriously.)
This column led to one of my favorite nights in Athens. A couple days later — on what was to have been the bar’s last night before the sale — a group of us walked in to find a pissed-off Lou, who hadn’t been told about the potential sale even though he had been the bar’s manager for years. We ordered our usual pitchers — Lowenbrau Dark was the first choice in those days; Lou plunked them down on the bar … and didn’t charge us. When that continued for another couple rounds, the word quietly got back to the newsroom two blocks away that there was free beer to be had at the Union. Lou wouldn’t take our money for the beer, so we kept piling it on the bar to be given to him as a tip at the end of the night. I know we killed three kegs — I think we were drinking Schlitz at the end of the evening — and we were able to give Lou, who got drunk with us, an impressive tip at last call.
Katie worked as a bartender at the Union and later became assistant manager there. She was a friend of mine outside of the context of the bar, but I was careful to never take that for granted when I was drinking there; Katie wasn’t an imposing woman, but a hard stare from her could invoke angelic behavior from all but the drunkest of patrons. And she also made possible another one of my favorite nights at the bar — a birthday party for me, with a Grateful Dead cake secured by another friend (thanks, Nikki!) and a couple hours of Dead on the bar’s music system, which to my knowledge hasn’t been done there since, as hippie music is, uh, a little out of character there.
Seeing this column pop up on Facebook was a complete gas for me. I’m happy to say it still reads pretty well, because I wrote plenty of cringe-worthy stuff back then; I’m even more pleased that the column was important enough that someone would have not only saved it for 18 years but scanned and uploaded it to FB.
Thanks, Katie. Next time I’m in Athens, I’m going to have a Schlitz at the Union in your honor.