Sometimes I joke with my customers that I'm in purgatory at Court Square Tavern. I was supposed to have tonight off, but that's just not how it works. And, I can't afford to take Saturday off, except on rare occasions.
So I sit here by myself listening to music while waiting for the first customer to come in. I can't fully give over to the writing because anyone can come in at any second.
I actually hid a few minutes ago because a pair of elderly couples poked their head in the window, and I just didn't have the energy to go out and retrieve them, to turn them into my customers. I'm not ready yet, and they seemed needy and my cook isn't here and I just didn't feel up to it.
This happens a lot. Last night, as I was closing up, a couple came in, and they could see on my face as they walked in that I was displeased to see them. All of the other tables were about to go, as were the folks at the bar.
But, I cheer up knowing someone new has come in the place. I've met so many people here in my time, and gone through so many cycles of life while calling this place my second home. So, they ended up staying for an hour while I slowly closed up, all of us enjoying our time, chilling out and relaxing. And I got paid to do it.
I just wish there were more people in here on a regular basis. The tavern is not the owner's first priority, and my efforts to try to do something new only occasionally work. To truly build business, you need the owner's full support, and I know I'm not going to get it.
Still, the proceeds of working here go almost exclusively to my children, except my cash tips, which I use to spend on whatever I want. This means, though, that I will miss the party I was invited to. And I'll miss a summer's worth of weekend parties while I sit here, making sure I'm providing for my kids.
This current version of me is the sum of a whole set of choices made, as well as the opportunity costs of not making choosing other paths. I've got a pretty full life, and not a lot of free time to wind down.
Thankfully, though, my second job here at Court Square Tavern is the best possible purgatory. My friends come here, and I make new friends almost every week. That's if people come in, of course. I'm happiest when I'm able to provide people with a happy time with their friends.
I never thought this would be a major component of my life, but it is. I won't leave this place, even though I'm constantly frustrated about how poorly it is run. But, I don't blame the owner for his eyes being elsewhere. He listens as much as he can, and I'm grateful for what he's allowed me to do.
We have a great time here. I feel like Sam Malone, minus the good looks and the years as Boston Red Sox relief pitcher. I feel that running this place on weekends is just as equal a service as the work I do for Charlottesville Tomorrow.
And sitting here waiting for customers is equivalent of sitting in long meetings listening to the decisions our elected officials are making, and the reasons for making them. I'm a good listener in both positions.
So, I choose this afternoon to not see this time sitting here alone in an empty bar as a negative. I may miss some great parties, but in choosing to spend my weekends and free time working, I help make sure my children are being taken care of, and that they are in their preschool.
I walked up the steps from the transit center, and tried not to listen. But suddenly I couldn't stop thinking my children. I couldn't stop thinking about how disappointed I am that my life didn't turn out the way I wanted it to. Tears came to my eyes, and I could feel myself beginning to fall away, the same way I did when I realized my marriage was over and...
I pulled myself back. I felt for one second the feeling of total mental weightlessness, and decided I didn't want to drift away from self-control.
I kept walking, my back to the Pavilion as my disappointment bubbled up into a full boil. I tried to think about Court Square, and that I was going to go spend a spring night in a place that keeps me whole, keeps me focused, keeps me going.
I'll see them tomorrow. We'll play music together. We'll read books. We'll have a great time together, being a family.
This has been a very stressful week, with every crises in seemingly every corner of my life, except this bar. So, sitting here now I'm trying to think how I can make it better, make all of it better.
One of the crises this week involved a tweet I had posted mistakenly on the Charlottesville Tomorrow feed regarding my frustration about hearing a healthy-looking twenty-something brag about having his food stamps renewed. I wasn't mad at the guy, but I told the world that it rankled me a bit because I easily work 60 hours a week every week.
I know I work too hard, and I feel like I'm missing out on things, but then I remember that I am only in charge of my life - no one else. Tomorrow, when I see my children, I will feel whole in the same way I feel whole now listening to Billy Bragg sing about "looking for some relief" and I know that I'm in the right place, no matter where I am.
I am growing towards something, and I'm frustrated at the moment I can temporarily not see the bigger picture, so focused on the day-to-day of local politics and tavern politics and family politics, all of struggling to figure out the best way to allocate our time, our resources, and our minds.
A couple of pairs come into the bar and sit down, and I bring them drinks, and I'm happy. One of the couples had their first date here in October 1989. So many things have happened here, and it's worth noting, and it's worth writing down, and it's worth keeping.
I'm glad to be a bar keeper.