7/03/2015

Reviewing the night and the Tavern

I smell like the tavern. It wasn't a busy night. I cooked nine meals and worked about six hours or so. I met a new surgeon at the University of Virginia who had a bratwurst. I cooked a rueben for a guy who works at the Inn at Court Square. I made two chicken sandwiches, a shepherd's pie and a bratwurst for a table of four. I made an Italian sub for a woman and a portabello stuffed mushroom for her boyfriend. I made a taco salad for my friend Sidney who was there to see the woman and her boyfriend.

I think that adds up. I don't know when I'll be back there again. Likely not for a few months. At the end of the night I feel much better about having been there all night.  I figured out how to move the satellite radio receiver in such a way that it won't overheat and thus stop the music. 

In other words, a good night of being a caretaker. 

Another night in my life. A happy one because I made some extra money I didn't have before. 

I would have liked more customers. I would liked to have had more people to entertain.

Charlottesville is not the same as it was when I began working for the tavern back in August 2004. But then again, nothing is the same day and day out. Dust settles into an eventual grime. Things come and go as the seasons change. 

Yet it's somehow comforting to me to clock in and out in a small dungeon-like room that's been part of the building at 500 Court Square for 90 years. The building seems so ancient to me because I can feel things that have happened there before. I feel drawn to the place and have done since the second I walked in more than 12 years ago. I remember that first time every single time I walk in the door. I felt like I was in the best place in Charlottesville, a hidden place of importance. A place of secrets. 

I began building up my own secrets that first night I walked in the door. I entered into a time machine that I'm still attached to and became part of and I'm still in that story. 

Tonight I told the surgeon that I live in the flight path of Pegasus and could watch the helicopters landing at the University of Virginia several times a day. We talked about what it's like to be a surgeon, and he told me secrets that I wish I could write down. They weren't anything specific, but he spoke candidly about risk and about being human while trying to fix others. 

That's the kind of experience I like when I'm a bartender. Since 2012 I've mostly been a catering server and that's more about creating a movable feast then tending the fires of a bar in a historic place. 

I don't know what's going to happen. There's part of me that leaves open the possibility that one day I'll play a greater role continuing to tend those fires. I'd certainly relish the opportunity to continue growing the place I love into something that helps me learn more stories. In turn, that will help me tell my stories.

That's what happened before. I was able to sustain my return to freelance journalism in the summer of 2004 because at least a third of my income was based on working there. In 2004, the place was still relatively popular. The fire hadn't happened yet and it still had its old reputation and old clientele. 

Thinking about that now, on a night when all the people I knew then have moved on, makes me happy. I learned so many lessons in the year that followed and they are still with me now.

One of the people I worked with then is now engaged to be married to his boyfriend. I'm so glad that sort of thing is no longer a secret. 

If the last ten years of my life were scripted as a television show, Court Square Tavern would be one of the major settings. I can relate my life as a series of seasons that took place there, and I could break down each one if I chose to. Who I am now has been created by each year I've gone through the place, including tonight. 

I feel these narratives don't tell the full story, but I feel the full story is within me waiting to be told. Who would want to hear it? Can I tell it from the perspective of others who are not me? What greater story would I want to tell?

I don't know.

All I know is that as I left tonight, I wondered for a moment what memory of my own I would go back to if I had that opportunity. 

But I can't describe any of those moments because they are mostly secrets, stories about my life that must remain within me and not for any sort of a public audience. It doesn't mean that they are bad, or awful, or anything. Secrets can be banal and absolutely uninteresting.

Maybe at some point those secrets can come out in fiction. I'm absolutely incapable of writing fiction. I'm trained as a journalist and I've certainly established myself in that field, at least locally in the same story I walked into that night in December 2002. 

The thing is... I want to walk into another story. I don't want to end this one, but I would so like to find something else that has as much meaning as a place as Court Square Tavern. Or do I figure out some way to secure its future? 

I have no idea. No idea at all. 

But that's okay. I don't have to know right now. 


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