Friday, April 7, 2023
It was a day. A long, long day of server management and website migration and security rule updates. It’s one of those necessary evils of our business that happens every few years and sucks a week or two out of our lives. Today was no exception.
But I don’t want to talk about the server.
It was Kevin’s last day here before he returns to the east coast and we were planning to go to early cocktails and dinner at Gray’s on Main.
Gray’s is a really neat place inside an old pharmacy. It has a lot of the original brickwork and some original machinery. It has an entire wall papered with old prescription slips that were found in a box when the place was sold and turned into a restaurant.
It’s three stories. The first floor is a restaurant. The second is a bar and restaurant, with a stage at one end for their frequent musical performances.
The third floor is members only. It’s a beautiful space, all preserved brick and big windows overlooking the town. There’s a balcony looking down at the stage on the second floor below. We were members for a year and I quite enjoyed it.
But they have a new bar downstairs now, too. They gutted half the restaurant to make room for it. Brilliant. We decided to check it out.
We planned to get there between 3 and 4, like we do. And the plus side is that it made dealing with tedious and relentless server crap a little more tolerable. At any rate, it made me do it faster.
What’s that rule about your tasks expanding to fill the time you give them? I gave them until 3pm.
When we go to Cork & Cow we get there by 4 absolutely, because otherwise the bar spots get taken, and the good spots especially get taken. But Gray’s isn’t Cork. It was pretty quiet when we got there which was fine with me. More attention from the bartender.
I go to Cork & Cow for John, who makes you feel like you are the utmost of human beings and he most certainly could not have survived the night had you not walked into his bar. I go there for the food, and for the ambiance.
I don’t, however, go for the cocktails. The pours maybe. But Gray’s and its sister bar next door, O’Be Joyful, have a great cocktail game. And they change it up often enough to keep it interesting.
At Christmas, one of the cocktails was served in an actual ornament. Others came with tiny letters for Santa clipped to them. I love it.
But one of my favorite parts of going to any of these bars is that your chance of striking up an interesting conversation with a total stranger is fairly high.
Your chance of striking up a not very interesting conversation with a total stranger is also moderately high, but that’s when you suddenly get engrossed in the menu or posting your cheese biscuits to Instagram.
After a while, a lot of the people are not total strangers anymore which is also fun.
I have a weird relationship with people. Sort of a love-hate relationship with relationships, if you will.
If you asked me if I wanted to see people, that would be a resounding hell no. Give me a porch rocker and get off my lawn.
But then when I meet people I’m delighted.
We met people at Gray’s.
On the down side, I was sitting between Ralph and Kevin, so Ralph got to have a great conversation with the people to our left, and Kevin got to have a great conversation with the people to our right, and I got to try to catch a few snippets in between the pounding of bass and laughter from the tables next to us.
All true. Not even just “I’m writing a blog” true.
We were talking to the bartender for a while. Her name is Rae and we met her for the fist time. I’d already stalked her on Instagram and posted the cocktails she made me. But then the bar got busier and she had other things to do beside entertain me, so I was kind of stuck in the middle without an anchor. Listening in to my left, listening in to my right, looking around the room, drinking more.
And somehow I noticed this woman and kid sitting at a table behind me near the window. The kid was maybe 9, and he was staring out at the street. He had spiky-tall hair and a big gold chain around his neck.
The woman was staring at her phone. She was wearing a green sweater.
I kept coming back to those two because it was so anathema to the socializing happening around me and the connections I always make with people in these places.
And I just spent five minutes trying to figure out if I used anathema correctly. Still not sure, but probably you’ll get the point.
Anyway, I had drunk just enough that not only was I happy to see people, but I was in a mood to allow them onto my lawn, so I decided I needed to go talk to these two. They just looked so completely alone together.
So I invited myself to their table and made a vague apology about interrupting them but omg, I love your necklace and I couldn’t help but notice.
And this kid got very excited talking about his necklace and showing me his belt which was very large and sparkly. He told me he was an Elvis fan, which would make total sense if you actually saw him.
He was really adorable.
I told him he was a little young for an Elvis fan and how did that happen and he told me why but it was really loud in there and I had to resort to nodding and smiling because I already had my ear in his face and still couldn’t quite make it out.
The story was less important than the telling of it.
I also found out it was a mother-son outing and they were from Kentucky.
A mother son outing!
And mother was face-first in her phone while son stared out the window.
So I told mother that I really liked her sweater, because I really did. It was a lovely lime green, and that got a smile out of her.
I was smart enough to excuse myself before things got weird and told them how I had merely been admiring them and how cute they looked together and I just wanted to say hello.
It sounds kind of condescending coming out of my keyboard right now but it seemed perfectly reasonable at the time and besides I don’t think they minded.
All I can tell you is that I went back to my seat and continued my own conversation, but the next time I peeked back at them, they were talking and smiling with each other.
So that made me happy.
Maybe I shouldn’t have inserted myself into their evening. Maybe they were fine and mother just needed a break after a long day of sonning. Gray area. Too late to take it back.
But it reminded me that people are people. I don’t understand them. I don’t always like them. But everyone needs to connect with someone. And everyone needs to be reminded that they need to connect with someone. Including me.
Put your damn phone down.
In the end I think Kevin’s last night here was a success and I rather like the new bar. I wouldn’t mind if they turn the volume down a little next time, but it draws a whole different crowd than Cork so that means there is a whole different genre of people to meet, assuming you can get me out of the house to meet them.
Photo: something I drank that night. Too many too remember, but they were all fantastic.