Years ago, I frequented a bar that was remarkably similar to a bar depicted in the old TV series, ‘Cheers’. I loved that show, but when I watched it, I always thought that it was was so completely made up. ‘People don’t really live in a bar’ was my thinking. I went to the said Legion Hall because some friends of mine were ‘sons of the post’ with all the pomp and responsibility that went with that. Early on in my visits, I had to learn a couple of lessons the hard way. I’ve learned a lot of things the hard way. First, I was wrong in my thinking that people don’t live at a bar, which dovetails directly into my second lesson, which is that people who live at a bar do not appreciate someone like me pointing out that they always seem to be there. Even though it’s true, they don’t like that. Norm, at Cheers, never seemed to care, but these people do. I had thought it was humorous. Another thing that I learned was that many of the people there had either dated, or been married to many of the other people there at some point in the past. It was clear that with each breakup, they were all granted ‘joint custody’ of the bar.
There was an older gentleman (as most of the patrons were older), nicknamed ‘Jupiter John’. This is because he was knowledgeable and grandiose about science and philosophy, not at all standard subjects in an American Legion Hall. He was a remarkable stand in for Cliff Clavin, except Cliff was a pretty normal guy, and had a job. As ridiculous as Jupiter John was, he endeared himself to me, even if he was quite over the top and many made fun of him. I suppose that he was searching for something; belonging, worthfullness, pursuit of knowledge, well, at least the first two. I suppose that we all are.
Sadly, after I had known him for a few years, he developed a cancer in his neck. He seemed to have little money (except for beer, though they were dirt cheap). I think he was getting radiation to his neck at the VA. As things were changing for him, his dentures no longer fit, and were causing sores in his mouth, sores that were threatening to cause real problems. He was starting to get rather worried about the situation as he could not seem to get any medical (read that financial) help with his dentures. After realizing how serious of a problem this was becoming for him, I started to take just a little interest. “Where is it cutting into you?” I asked. He showed me. I have had to endure a little bit of similar trouble after knocking out a bunch of my teeth in a bike accident almost 40 years ago, so I knew something about this. I also knew that I was rather skilled with things such as dremel tools. ‘What the heck’, I thought. I can help. I found myself in the bathroom of an American Legion hall, with a pair of dentures in one hand, a dremel tool in the other, doing some arts and crafts, while cooling the areas that I was grinding on with the water from the sink. The people who wandered into the men’s room thought this was all pretty weird. Now I am quite capable of embarrassment, but not after I have decided that something I was doing was good and right.
It seemed to turn out well. John was ecstatic. “They’re so much better! It’s quite comfortable!” he exclaimed. The favor, actually, ended up being done for me. It is surprising how good it makes one feel to accomplish a good thing for someone, something that was unexpected, by either of us. I’m not sure what has become of Jupiter John. Let’s just hope he didn’t have complications from ill fitting dentures.
The people who would open up to anybody were usually interesting. Then there was the small click that seemed to hold themselves as superior. I thought to myself, ‘really, is it important to you to be queen bee of a dive bar?’ I must say that helping with their food tent at fairs was rather enjoyable.
Because of the intersection of a couple of things, one being, most of them were older, and two being, time flies by when we’re not looking, quite a few of them are either deceased or in nursing homes now.