Responsible parenting and leadership are a start. In between reaching for the sky (Toy Story rocks).

Screw the darkness. I prefer the lightness of Pop.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Where Our Troubles Are All The Same

"You want to be where you can see
The troubles are all the same
You want to be where everybody knows your name..."

–Theme from Cheers


The news update read: 99 Bottles closes permanently.

"Sweetie, 99 Bottles is closing forever," I said to my wife, Amy.

"Oh, so many memories there," she said. "So sad."

"I know. And they're laying off all 30 employees."

This was only the beginning, I thought. So many businesses will bleed out because of the coronavirus impact. So sad. 

Thankfully, so many memories there...

I sipped my beer and smiled at the question forming in my head. We had just returned from a road trip vacation through the Southwest and were again at our favorite watering hole called 99 Bottles for Friday date night. Nearly every week since we met we'd been going there to sit at the bar, play Scrabble, drink beer and eat burgers. We got to know the owners well and many of the regulars, especially those who sat at the bar like we did.

“So, do you want to have a kid?” I asked Amy.

Without missing a beat or looking at me, she formed her next word on the travel Scrabble board we used religiously, and then she said:

“Okay.”

And then that was it. For years since we'd met we didn't want to have children, and then we changed our minds. Happily so. But that night at the pub we didn't talk about it again until the next morning. Then within a few years came both our girls: Beatrice, our oldest, and then Bryce, our youngest.

After we had the girls we went to 99 Bottles less frequently, but both girls loved the waffle fries and burgers every time we went. It would always be nostalgic for us when we dined there, sitting in the booth with the kids each time, not at the bar. C'mon, we're better parents than that.

When Beatrice was only two weeks old, we took her there to celebrate my birthday. New parents just figuring things out, we needed an early night out and made the best of it. We sat in the back of the noisy and packed pub, rocking Bea in her car seat while we had our date. She actually slept through most of it and we basked in our burger and beer love.

A few years before that, we finally finished our 99 Bottles drinking-beer card: drinking all 99 beers they had on tap and in the bottle. Now, keep in mind that took us a few years to finish, even between the two of us. Upon consuming all 99 beers, we eventually got our names on a small nameplate mounted on the wall of the pub restaurant with the hundreds of others who did the same. When the pub decided to update their nameplate wall, they contacted us and asked if we wanted our original nameplate. Of course we did and now it's framed in our house.

The quote we picked for the nameplate was perfect for us: Two Halves Make Two Pints. It was based on the Rush lyrics from the song The Speed of Love penned by the now deceased Neil Peart:

Love is born with solar flares
From two magnetic poles
It moves towards a higher plane
Where two halves make two wholes

Contemporary romantic sentiment dictates that when two people in love bond together and maybe even get married, their union is of two becoming one. But for us, it was about becoming two wholes together, our unique spirits made stronger because of our union. 

A few years before that before our wedding day, we decided to have our rehearsal dinner at 99 Bottles. We had such a great time, both our families celebrating the joy of our love. We took over the second floor of 99 Bottles, the game room at the time also used for special events, and we enjoyed our fellowship of burgers, beer and family.

A few years before that, we rang in the New Year at 99 Bottles, making it until closing time, probably the latest we've ever stayed out on New Year's Eve, or any night for that matter. Like, ever. C'mon, we've gone to bed by 9:30 pm every night for years now.

And a few years before that, one day on the beach, destiny awaited. Shortly thereafter, the Friday night date nights ensued, where two halves made two pints.

So many memories there. We planned our careers, our travels, our children, our entire lives sitting at that bar. We discussed books, music, spirituality, religion, politics and more. We shared our experiences of Y2K, hanging chads, September 11, the Dot.com bust, the Iraq war, the Great Recession and other timely events.

I'm sure many of you have your own special memories of a local establishment you frequented with those you love -- your husbands, your wives, your significant others, your children, your families, your friends, your peers and colleagues. A place where our troubles are all the same and everybody knows our names. 

There are those business that struggle even in the best of times. During this healthcare crisis, many small businesses will die (even with our help as consumers and government assistance), and many more will be born on the other side (we hope), and through it all, as we shelter in place, our homes become the places where our troubles are all the same and everybody knows our names. Farewell, 99 Bottles. These two pints are for you.

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