There I am, spending the evening the same way I have spent so many, holding down a bar stool at The Pit.
It‘s our local tavern.
During brighter days, the sign above the door read The Pit & Paddock as an homage to the establishment’s racing theme, but over the years, the harsh Minnesota weather and the decline of its clientele reduced the name to a more simplified form.
The building itself is a weary structure, barely able to lean into the wind rather than shy away from it and its regulars are an equally weary lot. So much so that local opinion holds that The Pit, and all within, dangle precariously over the edge of oblivion.
Its regulars disagree.
They deny their watering hole teeters over the crack of doom – but when pressed however, they will concede that you can clearly see it from there.
None the less, it is a happy place. Happier than most because its social fabric is bond firmly together by the magnetism of the bottom of the barrel – and the basic essence of that attractive force is – complaining.
This evening is more dour than most, so Dewey the bartender, raises a simple question to elevate the crowd’s spirits.
“What would you do if you won the lottery?”
Eddy, a guy who still wears road safety yellow, years after being laid off the county crew, is first to take the bait.
“I’d send a sympathy card to each of my former coworkers,” he remarks, then waiting a full three measures, adds, “every… single… day…”
Another guy whose name I forgot says, “Hell, I’d buy a house so big it would have to have climate control rather than a thermostat.”
Not to be outdone, Sid, a young man with wit but no ambition, quips, “I’d get a SUV with a fuel tank bigger than Kuwait.”
“You know what I would do?” Dewey muses.
The crowd turns its attention.
“I’d buy a one-way space tourist ticket.”
No one is sure how to respond.
“And give it to my ex.”
We all shudder, knowing Dewey’s former Mrs.
Sid then asks the question on everyone’s mind, “Is space far enough?”
“What would you do?” Dewey asks me.
“Worry,” I tell him.
“Both good and bad luck respect the same mathematics,” I tell him, “Asking for a hundred million to one odds is just tempting fate to reach down deep into its nastiest bag of tricks.”
“Gosh, aren’t you just a ray of sunshine?” says Eddy.
This leaves only a retired farmer named Walt to venture his opinion.
Being near the end of the month, he cradles a penny jar on his lap. It is is how he manages to afford the small glass of light beer he has been nursing all night.
“I already won the lottery,” he says.
“How so?” we want to know.
“I was born in the age of painless dentistry,” he says. “It don’t get no better than that.”
It takes a moment for the crowd to realize that by being born in a modern country during a modern age, every single one of them had won history’s greatest lottery. The conversation then launches in a new direction.
“And being born into the age of indoor plumbing,” someone says. “Imagine sitting in an outhouse during a Minnesota January.”
“And electric lights…”
“And central heating and air conditioning…”
“And cold draft beer…”
“And canned peaches,” the guy whose name I forgot says.
This gets a few bewildered looks.
“I like peaches,” he explains then emphasizes, “all year around.”
This counting of blessings goes on well into the wee hours…
And sometime during the night, as its regulars tally their luck instead of their misfortune, somewhere beyond the weathered walls of a bar named The Pit, quietly and magically, the brink of the abyss shifts just a little further away….
Probably in the direction of Iowa.
50 thoughts on “My Bar Stool”
Amazing writing! Can’t you collect some of this stuff and publish a best-selling book? Oh wait! That might be dangerously close to winning the lottery.
There’s one blessing all of you forgot. At least, you’re not hanging out in The Pit and The Pendulum.
Life is definitely ‘how’ you see it. Good post to remind us all how lucky we are already. 🙂
Probably the worst luck of all is not finding the good luck under your very nose.
A bar without the ching of those damn machines (one-armed bandits) is another blessing surely.
This winter I’m in a house without indoor plumbing…. but at least it does have a great fireplace.
Minnesota has pull tabs and video gambling in bars…that’s bad enough. Couldn’t imagine one-armed bandits.
I would definitely live in a cabin without all the amenities, (I have a specific place in the Yukon in mind).
Like you, I’d love to live in a cabin out Bush, forego the little comforts. For now, I’m in a small town in a friends house which is in process of renovation. So it’s neither one nor the other…. but affordable and that’s a bonus. And an easy step to the Bush.
Nice little cosy place !! well described post ! 🙂
It would be a bit more cozy if Dewey would replace the glass in the broken windows. 🙂
Haha… Yess.. pleasure to make your acquaintance. Hope to see more of you. Have a great next week ahead 🙂
Oh this reminds me of my fav local bar, a.k.a my watering hole and second home: “The Welder’s Dog”. Love that place, the craft beer on tap, the smell, the mood lighting ..
One of my favorite bars is called The Contented Cow. It is located in Northfield, Minnesota, a college town whose motto is “colleges, cows and contentment”.
Sounds like a nice little bar to spend some time, and people to spend it with.
It certainly is, there hasn’t been a bar fight in at least a week. 🙂
I loved this! We live in such a “doom and gloom” world (how many times have I read those words, “I worry about bringing up kids in these horrible times”) that it’s nice to have a reminder that things really aren’t as bad as we like to think. Every era had its problems, and ours is no different. But as your friend pointed out, we don’t have to sit in a wooden outhouse in the middle of a cold winter night. And I, for one, am very grateful for that!
As I read this, Twiggy and her brood looked through the screen door in disgust. They are barn cats who spent the winter in the shed and had to use the cold sand of a litter box.
Some things never change. 🙂
What a great post. It felt like Christmas Eve for some reason as everyone counted their immense blessings. 🙂 Nice!
Like the day after Christmas, The Pit is back to normal… and can I tell you just how much that and everything else in life and the world, sucks? 🙂
Ah…this one is my new favorite. Big sigh of contentment. Thanks.
Ah, a big sigh of contentment, what every writer aims for. Complements don’t get much better than that.
Oh this was just fantastic. And since we’re all blogging – how about the wonder of modern computers instead of type writers?! 🙂 (And the abyss might have moved toward Iowa. Sincerely, a FORMER Iowan). 😉
Speaking of blogging and writing, let’s not forget the greatest invention of all time, the delete key, or the second greatest invention of all time, the backspace.
The universe must be telling me something. I had almost the same conversation at the local lunch place yesterday!
I hope your lunch place serves better fare than The Pit.
“I was born in the age of painless dentistry,” he says. “It don’t get no better than that.”
And thus the mood of The Pit does a 180. I love this, Greg. And I can relate, since I’ve put a dentist’s two children through school and enabled him take an early retirement. My new dentist spent a fantastic Christmas at Disney World thanks to yours truly. But I didn’t feel any pain, and I still have all my teeth. And I love Disney World and have been there several times. So I’ve won the lottery, too. Great story and terrific message.
Keep in mind that dentistry is painless…until you get the bill.
“They deny their watering hole teeters over the crack of doom – but when pressed however, they will concede that you can clearly see it from there.”
Best line I’ve read in a long time!
I kinda liked that line myself. 🙂
Great storytelling, GREG! How about getting up every morning! We older folks think that’s a blessing! The Pit tavern & people sound fascinating. 📚 Christine
Oh yes, there is that matter of crawling painfully out of bed…especially after a night at The Pit. 🙂
Man. I remember 3.2 beer on Sunday in Ohio. We actually had a 7.0 pusher in the neighborhood. Excellent story, Greg.
3.2 beer joints are a tha sacred piece of our history, I hope we never lose them.
Never seen a 7.0 pusher but I did frequent a few after-hours joints due to Minnesota’s 1:00 pm closing and a guy in Almost Iowa opened an informal bar in his garage after Saint Paul abolished smoking in taverns and restaurants .
(Nods and and offers up a beer-salute to Walt.)
Could we count our blessings & send the abyss to Washington, please?
Well done, Greg!
The abyss moved to Washington many. many years ago.
OH MY GOD!!!! I just learned from a friend in the old neighborhood that O’Gara’s is closing! I have drank there so often they put my name on a bar stool. I celebrated my cousin’s wedding and sadly, his funeral there. We threw a going away party for my boss and mentor there.
It is like hearing a member of the family has died.
And by the way, if you know the local history, kitty-corner from O’Gara’s on Snelling there was a little 3.2 joint call The Pit and Paddock owned by a former race-car driver named Dewey.
I found a link that recounts “Dewey’s” racing career.
Who needs a psychiatrist’s couch when you can have a bar stool? Very good story telling, Craig. –Curt
Dewey spends quite a bit of time working with psychiatrists and psychologists. I suppose everyone need both cheering up and cold 3.2 beer.
You mean the 3.2 beer isn’t enough? Go for the 6.8. Laughing. –Curt
This is a terrific piece of storytelling, and the way you wove in the positive message of being thankful for what we already have is the icing on the cake. Well done.
🔹 Ginger 🔹
Oh..Oh… you just reminded me of yet another blessing, icing on cake (and getting to lick the bowl too!). 🙂
Great storytelling! I like the turnabout and positive message.
We should all take time to count our blessings… even if it is just cold beer. 🙂
I made it as far as Kansas City over Memorial Day. I didn’t have a bar stool, but I sat on a patio and watched robins for 45 minutes, and listened to them sing themselves to their evening branches. I felt like I’d won the lottery.
I’ll bet the robins felt that way too. 🙂
Brilliant. I love this piece. I can visualize the scene, the people, the attitude…
Excellent message in a well-crafted story.
The story is an ode to a fading tradition, the Midwest 3.2 beer bar. You can’t throw a rock in Wisconsin without hitting one.
I was just in Wisconsin last weekend. I will not challenge that statement.
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