Posts Tagged ‘Nostalgia’

A Drama of Self: The Tipping Point

dilemma

PHOTO CREDIT: MS WORD CLIP ART

©2016 By Bob Litton. All Rights Reserved.

I’m curious: Do you see yourself as a character — in particular, the protagonist — in a screenplay? Ever reflect on the plotline, its beginning and all scenes since then, trying to figure out the other characters’ parts and the probable denouement? Or am I the only one so deeply solipsistic as to be constantly gazing on the internal screen? No, that can’t be the case, else the word “solipsistic” would never have been coined; they don’t make up adjectives applicable to only one person. Still, I find it difficult to imagine other people’s dramas, whether they be adventurous epics, tragedies or comedies, except as they tangentially affect my drama.

Many of us bloggers, I believe, use our blogs as candid diaries — electronic volumes open to the cosmic universe instead of little books hidden away in secret drawers. We can use them as depositories of our thoughts and feelings (mostly feelings), pretending that they are locked up in our computers, at first only peripherally aware that they are actually scattered across the planet and beyond. But then another part of us wonders how invisible and generally non-responsive readers perceive our outpourings. Mostly, all we can glimpse are their national flags. We are, then, self-analyzing split personalities.

So, desiring to be more honest than I have been during most of my life, I intend to relate the story of how I believe my solipsism became the major theme of an imaginary biopic; if one cannot repress a congenital tendency, then perhaps he at least can relieve the pressure by allowing it full expression, like steam from a teapot.

Going back to childhood meditations and actions, though I truly believe the habit really began that long ago, is beyond my capacity; the images are too fractured and vague. A clearer scene is more available in my nineteenth year, while I was in the air force and stationed on Okinawa, largest of the Ryukyu Islands. That was when I began to read very serious books for the first time; when, under the influence of the late British philosopher Bertrand Russell, I developed a longing to resolve all paradoxes; when I began to question my beliefs and especially every action’s motive. As a psychiatrist two years later put it, “You look at both sides of the coin and the edge too.”

An anecdote that quite well illustrates my message here concerns a book discussion group that one of the chaplains on the base initiated. As I recall, there were about a dozen of us airmen and civilians sitting in a circle at the first meeting, when the chaplain reviewed some nonfiction book and invited the rest of us to offer our comments. Then the chaplain explained that his performance was essentially a pattern he wanted us to follow when reviewing our own reading choices in future meetings. I, the eager fool, volunteered to present a review at the next meeting, a week later.

I had already been reading two books alternately: Arthur Koestler’s Reflections on Hanging, a critique of capital punishment; and some book whose title I cannot recall, a collection of historical narratives about various heinous crimes committed in England. While reading them I became aware of the dichotomy in my reactions to the books’ subjects: when reading Koestler my feelings reacted against capital punishment; when reading the other book my revulsion could be so strong in some cases that I believed no type of punishment could be harsh enough for the perpetrators: they were all hanged. That experience got me to musing over how much I was susceptible to weirdly and quickly varying attitudes, how my values could shift radically in just a short time, from the setting of one book down and the opening of another. Was my value system really that fragile and unstable? I wondered if this phenomenon was true of others, so I decided to try an experiment.

I do not recall the details of my mode of presentation, only that I alternated between summarizing various parts of each book and interpolating quotes here and there. I didn’t realize how long it was. I guess the chaplain felt the room was getting stuffy, for while I was reading he got up, went to a window and raised it. Shortly afterwards, one man, only a few years older than I was, interrupted me by asking, “Are we going to get a chance to discuss this? It sounds like a bunch of morbidity to me.” Another fellow murmured something about people who “should have gone to college”. I don’t remember how I responded or even that I did; I felt deflated and defeated; my lack of response was way too predictive of future encounters; I probably just said, “I’m sorry you feel that way.” The whole episode might have turned out better if I had begun the presentation with an explanation that I was conducting a psychological experiment; but, on the other hand, to have done so would probably have compromised the validity of the result.

When no succeeding review was announced, I went to the chaplain and asked him what was up. He replied that he had discontinued the book review sessions because too few people were participating.

During all my life since then I have from time to time pondered how we can act decisively in murky situations and dilemmas when our ideas and feelings react against each other. Just what is the “tipping point”, as it has come to be nominated?

Finis

For more commentary on this topic, see my Dec. 15, 2013, post “To Be Or…Catastrophe!”

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A Maternal Memorial

thread spool

© 2016 By Bob Litton. All Rights Reserved.

Pardon me, folks, but I want to interrupt this extended silence for a  brief while to try and make some amends for the neglect I visited on my mother. She has been dead now for nearly twenty-two years, so of course I cannot justify or redeem myself directly. It’s only if one believes in an afterlife or even that some kind of resonance inheres in lingering cosmic memories that one can accept the following as meaningful to anyone but me. Regardless of the possible unreality of either of those concepts, here are my flowers for Mothers Day 2016. (Oddly, though, Mama was not a floral enthusiast; not that she disliked them, she just didn’t gather blossoms or maintain vases.)

I have written in previous blogs that Mama and I did not communicate well after the onset of my teen years. The problem, as I view it, was not that any sort of major psychological imbalance (such as stood between me and my brother Vernon) or contrary value systems (such as stood between me and my brother Elbert)  hindered our conversations. Our off-moments derived from a much more down-to-Earth dysfunction: I was frequently annoyed and embarrassed by Mama’s lack of tact, of which I have given instances in previous posts. On Mama’s side, she looked askance at my pub-crawling, drifting ways and impracticality; she said to me one day, after I had expressed an interest in majoring in philosophy, “Bobby, I think you live in a dream world. If you are so smart, you ought to be able to make a lot of money.” As usual, I did not utter a rejoinder to that.

Such perceptions, naturally, are not absolute. One morning, while I was seated at her kitchen table, she wanted to discuss Elbert, whose carpet store was in a state of bankruptcy due to the Reagan recession of the late 1980’s. Elbert had not spoken to her for two years because she had persistently tried to dissuade him from getting involved in any more of his former business partner’s get-rich-quick schemes. I did not want to talk about it, because I had opted to stay with Elbert at the store as it was going under very, very slowly and I was losing my house in West Texas in the process; I was in a heavy depression.  While she set a plate of eggs and sausage before me, she asked me to intercede for her with Elbert, whom she said she loved. I did not say anything; the weight of the whole financial disaster was too great. I don’t recall the immediate trigger for her final comment, “You’re a good man and an honest man.”

Mama and I hardly ever discussed serious matters other than those concerning the family. In fact, most of our conversations involved an exchange of something: she would want me to do something for her, like take her to the grocery store; or she would give me odd things she had picked up at flea markets and garage sales, like a lava lamp (when such was an “in-thing” during the 1970’s), a pair of binoculars (I was not a birder), and an antique walking cane (which at the time I did not need but, after three decades, do now). However, those interactions were after my own hair had started to gray.

During childhood, there were more prized moments of sharing. While I was in the Cub Scouts, Mama went with me down to Turtle Creek one Fall day to gather different types of leaves for pasting in a scrap book. And, when I had the part of Santa Claus in an elementary school play, she made a red-and-white costume for me, complete with a hat peaked by a cotton  ball. (No boots, of course.)

I have related how Mama had worked both as a seamstress in a dress factory  and as a steam-presser at a few cleaners. She also made all my shirts and pants during those early years. Naturally, she always had plenty of thread spools (like the one shown at the top of this post). One afternoon, while I was sitting on the front porch step reading a Dick and Jane book, she came outside with a saucer containing a bar of white soap, some water in a glass, and an empty thread spool. Then she showed me how to amass a sufficient quantity of soapy water on one end of the spool and blow through the other end to make bubbles float out onto the air.

And I will never forget the early morning she came to the combination bedroom and living room to wake me up. She went to the window, raised the paper blind, and announced, “Look, Bobby! It snowed last night!” When the day got light enough, Mama gathered some snow in a big pan and made some ice cream out of it. One cannot do that in Dallas anymore for two reasons: it seldom snows there and, even when it does, the snow is too shallow and too polluted to transform into healthy ice cream.

I have no authority to reference for this assertion, but I believe that only a  girl raised on a farm, such as Mama had been, would have known how to capitalize on a thread spool and a mass of fresh fallen snow.

Happy Mothers Day, Mama, wherever you are.

picers_0004

Maurine Emily (Tanberg) Litton b. Feb. 23, 1910, Eau Claire, WI;  d. Dec. 19, 1994, Dallas, TX

Now I can return to my cave.

Finis

How a childhood trait became an adult habit

© 2016 By Bob Litton. All Rights Reserved.

I believe I have written elsewhere in this blog’s archives that major reasons for engaging in it were to analyze my own personality and to obliquely write my autobiography. What I mean by “obliquely” here is that, although the primary topic of any particular essay might seemingly be far removed from the notion of personality traits, some of the illustrative experiences as well as the attitude revealed therein could add tone, form, color and dimension to the hidden autobiographical theme of the blog site as a whole. (I want any future biographer to have access to the most reliable resource imaginable: this blog.)

Some traits, however, cannot be easily presented in such a camouflaged manner. The trait of which I am thinking here is parenthetical remarks, i.e., comments inserted into a scene or conversation that have nothing directly to do with that scene or conversation. Some, in my case, were naïve remarks I made as a child, and some were “zingers” I made as an adult. The only real difference between them was that the youthful ones were simply expressions of curiosity without any intent to be hurtful, while the adult ones were simply attempts to be comical in a stinging way but still not really hurt. Zingers are, I lamentably admit, a regrettable, deeply ingrained aspect of my personality; for laughter-inducing humor usually comes at the expense of somebody’s self-image. My only partial defense here is that I often try to pull the joke out of my own hat, i.e., at my own expense.

What brought this topic to mind at the present is that I have done a lot of reminiscing about Mother lately, particularly of my childhood years when we were closer to each other than during later years. Much of the youthful time, I was what has become classified as a “latch-key kid”. Mother worked as a silk-finisher at a Dallas dress factory called Lorch’s, so, when school was not in session, I was often left to mind myself. However, she did occasionally find someone to keep me in tow.

For a while there was a next door neighbor named Mrs. Woodruff (family and friends called her “Woody”). I don’t remember much about her other than I loved her, that she liked to listen to soap operas on the radio, that she described for me a road that wound around a mountain, and that she had false teeth which she would suddenly stick out at me: it was one of those tricks that kids love, the kind that both scares and makes them giggle.

Also, for a while I stayed at Mrs. Lybrand’s house a couple of blocks away. Mrs. Lybrand and her husband had a large back yard that was a very pleasant place to play. She also was a great cook and she liked to listen to gospel songs on the radio much of the day. I didn’t appreciate gospel music and one day asked her, “Why do you listen to those ol’ god songs instead of Gene Autry or Bing Crosby?”  I don’t recall her answer, if there was one. I liked Mrs. Lybrand and certainly did not mean to offend her; and I do not believe she was offended. She most likely viewed the incident as a child being innocently too curious and too honest.

Last May 9, I published here an essay for “Mother’s Day” in which I discussed attending a kindergarten in Dallas and how a cab came to pick me up and carry me downtown to Lorch’s, where Mother was still at work. I did not mention in that post an interesting incident at Lorch’s which I don’t recall personally but which Mother related to me many years later. “My supervisor,” said Mother, “was a very tall German woman of whom I was afraid. You looked up at her and asked, ‘Are you a giant?’” Mother said she was “scared to death” because she didn’t know how the big supervisor would respond, but there was no reaction.

Another episode Mother had to relate to me many years later happened on a streetcar. (Many readers won’t know what a streetcar was: it was a vehicle about as long as a modern bus but more strictly rectangular in appearance and it was powered by a wire strung above the roadway that fed electricity to the streetcar by movable antennas extending upward from each end of the vehicle.) Now, back to the incident. One day while Mother and I were on board a streetcar bound for downtown (she told me) I noticed a very old lady across the aisle, with deep wrinkles; I turned to Mother and asked, “Mama, why is that lady’s face all wadded up?” I have no memory of the incident nor any recorded continuation of Mother’s anecdote to regain the consequence of that comment.

So, you can see how early my bad habit of spouting “zingers” began. As an adult, the tendency became more conscious and pronounced. Most targets know me well enough to realize I am just trying to be funny…in a fairly blood-thirsty way. A local bar-maid and a waitress here have put up with me long enough now that they have practically developed rhinoceros hides. And, like I said above, I try to balance the cajolery out by occasionally making myself the target, usually uttered in a manner that hints they should reply by saying, “Oh no, you shouldn’t say or even think that way about yourself!” They don’t swallow the bait.

Oddly enough, I don’t recall many of the adult zingers, I guess because there have been so many. There is one, however, that I do recall only too clearly and which I wish I could go back in time to expunge. One noon-day, I was sitting in a “blue-plate-special” café in Dallas that I had recently begun to frequent when I heard the main waitress relate to another regular customer how she needed new tires on her car and that she didn’t know how she would cope if she had a flat someday. “Don’t worry about it, Jane,” I called out. “You’ve got a spare around your waist.”

Jane looked over at me kind of sad-like and, after a few seconds of bewildered silence, replied, “I can’t believe you said that, Bob.”

I should have apologized then and there, but I didn’t. And to this day I don’t know why I didn’t apologize. Perhaps the additional stress that an admission of impropriety added to the impropriety itself was too much for me. I don’t know. But Jane, although she was indeed slightly plump around the waist, was not obese, and she was pretty and one of the most pleasant people I have ever known. Oh, how I wish I had an operable time machine!

So, you can see how a childhood capacity for curiosity can develop into an adult habit of zingering.

Finis

The Perils of Journalism

Bob Litton in office at Monahans News in 1980

The author in his office at the Monahans News in the early 1980s. He believed it was always advantageous to look severe–or serious at least–when visitors intruded on his daily cogitations.

© 2014 Photos and Text By Bob Litton. All Rights Reserved.

Most of the folks who have read my blog posts over the past two years are aware that my only “professional” jobs were as a journalist and sometime school teacher. (I’m not sure whether Food Stamps and AFDC eligibility caseworker for the State of Texas fits into the professional category, since only two years of college, with any major, were required for that position.) And as for carpet sales, I put too many years into that; it was always a stop-gap measure while I tried to figure out what I really was capable of doing.  Anyway, I have always considered journalism as my true calling, despite its hazards.

Yes, life in the newsgathering world can be risky: Just recall the numerous reporters and photojournalists who have been imprisoned or killed in the Middle East, in Mexico, in China and in North Korea. But we have a dangerous situation here in the United States, too, although not as extensively nor as intensively, yet, as in other nations.

Years ago, I was very subtly threatened by a county sheriff. Oh, that was an adventure! The sheriff had been caught by the feds using funds designated for prisoners’ meals for his own benefit; he was placed on probation and was allowed a much smaller pay check, I suppose until he restituted the funds he had pilfered. All that occurred before I took up the job of reporter for the small daily in that West Texas town. However, while I was working there, the county attorney took me aside one day and informed me that the sheriff was regularly soliciting contributions of five bucks each from county employees. I didn’t know what the county attorney expected me to do about the situation; it looked to me like a job more appropriate for his office.

Then one day, I got a telephone invitation from the sheriff’s secretary inviting me to a little get-together over at the courthouse. I went. Inside, I was directed to an average sized meeting room where a bunch of the deputies and the secretary were sitting around looking at a birthday cake; it just happened to be the sheriff’s birthday. Although not especially small, that room, filled with all those people, looked cramped. I couldn’t believe I had been summoned away from my desk for a birthday party! I suddenly felt trapped; it reminded me of that scene in The Adventures of Robin Hood where Robin (Erroll Flynn) “crashes” a Norman feast, toting a dead deer over his shoulders, and engages King John in a bout of threats and insults before he is attacked by a roomful of the sheriff’s henchmen. I was not as bold as Robin, but I managed to sit through the rigmarole, which included a speech by the sheriff in which, at one point, he subtly threatened me in a manner that could be defended as jocosity. I can’t remember the exact words but it was something about finding me out on a dirt road.

That incident did not happen in Monahans, but in Pecos. However, I faced a few threats in Monahans as well. In most cases they were not threats of physical harm, and one, in fact, did not appear to be directed toward me individually but against the newspaper building or City Hall, which was right across the street. I had been out gathering news one afternoon, and, on my return, another staff member told me that a small explosion had occurred out in the street. The concussion had broken the pane of one of the newspaper’s plate glass windows; City Hall had no windows facing the street there. However, a young woman walking down the sidewalk had been frightened nearly out of her wits.  I wrote a column for the next edition castigating the anonymous prankster — if in fact it had been only a prank. Borrowing the term from a Marlon Brando film (One-eyed Jacks), I called him a “gob of spit” and invited him to sue me for libel. The next day, I was getting my haircut, when our local barber opined to one of his other customers waiting in a chair, “I don’t think anybody is going to take Bob up on that invitation to sue.”

On another occasion, the threat was more direct.  One young man whom I had listed in the “Police Report” as being charged with DWI came to my office and asked me why I had put him in the report. I explained to him that I reported all arrests for any offense from public intoxication on up. He left, but the next day I noticed him across the street, lurking in an alleyway and half hidden by the corner wall of City Hall. He was gazing at the newspaper building. I called the police station and asked the sergeant who answered to go out the back entrance and come up the alleyway behind my presumed potential assailant. Before he could do that, however, the suspect came across the street and into the newspaper office. The sergeant followed him and stood in my office, against the window, while my visitor voiced his negative opinion about me and “Police Report”, then left. A few months later, I heard that the visitor had shot a Border Patrol agent to death in El Paso, where he had reportedly moved. My informant told me that he had been acquitted of murder, manslaughter or whatever.

Backing up a bit in time, one day during the first month of my term in Monahans, the citizens were shocked by two deadly motor accidents in a single day. The first collision occurred on the Kermit highway just a few miles north of Monahans. Two pickup trucks collided head on, while the morning sky was clear. Two men in the southbound truck were killed; as was the driver, alone, in the northbound truck. I drove out to the site to photograph the scene and get a report from the investigating officers. One of my photos — remarkably evocative in the narrative and the artistic senses — revealed the single driver’s leg in front of the seat, twisted abnormally and protruding through the open door of his truck. One of the investigating officers told me that a letter found in the latter truck led him to believe the driver had been reading while driving.

I had the issue before me of whether to publish that photo: to do so would bring it home to the public that vehicles are not the only things damaged in a collision, but their occupants as well; to not publish it would spare the deceased’s family the additional pain of viewing their relative’s painfully unpleasant last moment spread on the front page. I decided not to publish, although I have pondered that event since then several times and have concluded that I should have done so; it might have caused readers to be more cautious. A state trooper at the time urged me to pictorially publish a subsequent violent scene, saying, “We have feelings, too. We don’t like viewing those accidents, but we have to.”

I was still struggling with my decision on that accident when, at dusk, another accident happened on the west-bound lane of a street not far from the newspaper office. An elderly woman, who police believed might have been blinded by the setting sun’s glare, rammed her car into trailer that was parked on the side of the street; she died. The woman and her car had been cleared away by the time I got there. The investigating officer speculated that the setting sun’s glare had blinded the old lady.

The next day, a state trooper came to the newspaper office and asked me to write a column urging people to keep their eyes on the road while driving. I did so, rightfully supposing he had been referring to the first accident described above. However, after the paper was distributed that Thursday, the grown grand-daughter of the woman who died in the second accident came in and upbraided me for insinuating that her grand-mother “had her head up her ass”. Of course, that had not been my meaning at all, but I did not dispute her accusation: she was angry, grieving, and seemingly not rational enough for any explanation. Also, I did not know but what the old lady might have been distracted or too old to be driving. But it did not end there, the grand-daughter tried to get her two male cousins to beat me up, which, after discussing the matter with me, they declined to do. Then, a year or so later I saw her in one of the bars; and when she noticed me she started whispering to a young man on a stool beside her. He glanced around at me, then turned to her and shook his head, indicating “no”. That was the last time I saw her.

On a lighter note, I was enjoying beer and a pool game one Saturday afternoon at Charlie Chailland’s Game Room when we heard a crash outside. A few minutes later, a policeman came inside and said to me, “Bob, looks like you’ve got a new car coming.” I followed him outside and saw where a “nipple up trailer” had become disconnected from the truck that was hauling it (while the truck was turning left) proceeded across the street, and struck my Ford Pinto. The neck of the trailer had ploughed through the driver’s side door and hit the hump right above the transmission. If I had been in that vehicle I would have lost at least one leg. Fortunately, the nipple up service was owned by one of our local auto dealers. We settled for a couple of hundred dollars above the Blue Book value of my car and a new truck at wholesale price.

While all that negotiating was going on, however, I needed something to carry me from one news event to another; so I bought a bicycle. One day during this interim, the newspaper publisher and I decided to do a little “horsing around”.  So we unplugged my phone, gathered my .30-.30 rifle and my notepad, and went out into the street for a photo shoot. However, we did not publish that particular photo, but another one…minus the rifle and the phone…shown below:

Bob on the job after a trailer wrecked his car

Not all journalistic risks are actual; there are also those fantasy hazards. One day, for instance, a Star Wars character copy-cat wandered into town promoting something, although I do not remember just what. We chatted awhile and then horsed-around awhile, pretending that Darth Vader was doing the local editor in. Our conversation was pleasant and I suppose interesting but not interesting enough for me to put in the paper; I don’t think we published this photo there, so this is a first time publication of Darth Vader attacking Bob. A few months later, I read in another periodical that this Darth Vader wannabe (or perhaps another just like him) had been ordered by New Mexico authorities to cease their promotion game or face civil action:

bob and darth

Well, so much for the perils of reporting. You might be able to gauge from the above why I suffer from just a slight case of paranoia.

Be cautious out there..especially if you’re a journalist. Okay?

Finis

Favorite Photos — Album I

Old Masonic Lodge on Hwy 67 somewhere between Brownwood and Dallas

© 2014 Photos and Text By Bob Litton. All rights reserved.

During my first few years as editor of the Monahans News I would return to my hometown of Dallas about three times a year taking the US67 route. That way is more dangerous, in a sense, than is the I20 route because it is (or was during the 1980s anyway) a two-lane highway and I too frequently found myself caught in an unorganized “caravan” of vehicles; at such times, passing three or four other vehicles by going into the oncoming traffic’s lane is a dare-devil’s game. However, on the positive side, US67 is much more scenic and — except for the occasional “caravan” — more relaxing.

It was while I was headed to Dallas one day that I noticed the “ghost Masonic lodge” above, somewhere between Brownwood and Weatherford. It must have been the time of my high school class reunion because I had the newspaper’s camera with me and there was no other reason for me to be toting it to Dallas. I am always attracted to objects (and people, too) who are not beautiful in the conventional sense but are uniquely odd. Here was this old general store-like structure that looked like it was probably dangerous to enter and yet with the Masonic emblem still dangling from a post. I just had to capture that image for myself and for posterity. I have not driven on US67 again in more than twenty years, so I have no idea if that “ghost lodge” is still standing.

Collapsing structure south side of Hwy 80 just east of Barstow

An even odder structure captivated me a year or so later — this old prairie shack on the south side of TX80 a few miles east of Barstow in western Ward County, Texas. A local ranch foreman informed me recently that such little one-room shacks are  (or were) used as resting spots by cowboys settling in to rest a bit off their horses or as shelter from storms. But, as you can see, what makes this particular shack uniquely interesting is that it has become severely weathered and warped and pushed almost to the ground by West Texas winds. I frequently passed it during my years at the Monahans News when I traveled to Barstow to gather news. Eventually, of course, I saw as I drove by that it had finally collapsed.

Children in the Rain

Not all my interest resides solely in empty, weather-beaten buildings, however; I do have a place in my mind’s pleasure palace for people, both young an old. One part of my job at the Monahans News was to go out with the camera and try to find appropriate images that told a story whenever there was a change in the weather. Too often we had to rely on scenes of vehicle tires splashing through rain puddles or sliding on black ice. One day, however, I was much rewarded with a unique scene — the brother and sister above illustrating the fun a good rain can be. Oh! How that image arouses memories within me of my own childhood joy of building little mud dams by the curbside to divert a small stream of rainwater!

Shine Wilcox & Joe Brandenburg in Eleanor Eudady's Store 1981

But, we old folks can have our charming moments, too. Above is a couple of old timers who resided in Grandfalls, Texas, about 19 miles due south of Monahans, during the oil boom years of the 1930s. This photo was taken during one of my trips to Grandfalls for news-gathering and to collect tall tales for one of my columns, the heading of which was “Out in the county”. The fellow on the left is Shine Wilcox, and his companion (to your right) is Joe Brandenburg as they appeared in 1981. They are sitting and gossiping like a couple of cracker barrel philosophers in the grocery store owned by Eleanor Eudaly, Shine’s long-time girlfriend. A friend had informed me that Shine was unique in that he had a deep-well fund of local lore in his memory, and that every time he told a story the account was exactly as he had told it on previous occasions: My friend averred that such is not the case with most people. I asked Shine to give me some juicy anecdotes with which I might make my column bristle. His answer: “Nope! Can’t do that. Too many of those people are still alive.”

I will have a few more photographs to present for your entertainment (I hope) in the near future. For now — in case I do not publish anything between now and the approaching holiday — Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

Favorite Bars

A Saturday afternoon at the Quiet Man pub in Dallas circa 1970. The author is the fellow in the center with horn-rimmed spectacles and a civilized haircut.
A Saturday afternoon circa 1970 at the Quiet Man pub in Dallas. The author is the fellow in the center with horn-rimmed spectacles and a civilized haircut. To my right, the guy with long sideburns is Mike Craig.  To my left is Pat Murphy and Ken Word. The guy lighting a cigarette is “Broadway” Jim Crump, and the fellow fitted into the  bottom right corner is Jon McNeill.

By Bob Litton 

Three things an ex-serviceman never forgets: his service number, his women, and his favorite bars.  I’m going to spare the reader an account of the first two of these and concentrate on the bars.

I had had very little experience with intoxicating drinks prior to joining the air force.  While I was still a child, one of my brothers, eleven years older than I, tricked me into taking a sip of our father’s Four Roses whiskey.  Then, on the night of my senior prom, my girlfriend’s aunt, who had invited several of us over to her office suite at the Adolphus Hotel for an after-the-dance get-together, poured me a couple of  mixed drinks.  My girlfriend didn’t appreciate her aunt’s giving me that.

A couple of months later, after foundering around trying to decide what I wanted to do, I joined the air force.  Of course, in basic training there was no opportunity for imbibing, even had I the inclination, which I didn’t.  Up in New Haven, Connecticut, and Fort Meade, Maryland, where I spent a year being trained as a Chinese linguist and a radio telephone intercept operator, I had plenty of opportunity but no desire.

It was only when I arrived at my first station, on Okinawa, that the opportunities were too much before me.  At a comrade’s urging, I tried burgundy and sloe gin at the Airmen’s Club.  I liked the sloe gin best, so I stuck with it, although on a couple of occasions I experimented with what was called a “rainbow”.  A “rainbow” is a small glass filled with liqueurs: half-ounce Crème de Nouyax (on the bottom), half-ounce Melon Liqueur, and half-ounce White Crème De Cacao (on the top).  The three don’t mix; they sit one on top of the other; the drink itself is one of a type called “floaters”.  And they are brought to the drinker aflame.  You don’t want more than one of those, not if you have any common sense left after drinking the first one.

I went to the Airmen’s Club only twice, maybe three times.  I don’t know why so seldom; they served good food — even a free steak dinner on your birthday — and the drinks were inexpensive.  (The services seemed bent on turning service men into alcoholics.)  And, each time I went, there was live entertainment.  Once, a ventriloquist had his dummy bend over to determine whether a female customer’s natural hair color was actually blond.  Another time, a small group of Oriental songstresses sang popular songs of the day, including : “Hang down your head, Tom Dooley; hang down your head and cly; hang down your head, Tom Dooley; poor boy, you’re bound to die.”  (That’s not a typo; Orientals have a tough time with the letter “r”, just as the French and Germans do with “t”.)

In Koza, the little town just outside Kadena Air Base, I went to several bars, where I drank either sloe gin or a red wine.  I don’t remember ever getting drunk in those days.  I never did drink to get drunk; drinking was something you did while talking or listening to music or just watching people. Anyway, my favorite place in Koza was Pierrot’s — not a very Oriental name, but then, none of the bars, as far as I can recall, had Oriental names.  Instead, they were called “Texas Bar” or “New York Bar” or “California Bar” : you get the idea.  So, already, Pierrot’s was different.  It was also different in other ways.  It didn’t have a juke box.  For music, you had two choices: pick one of a very limited selection of LPs at the small counter and have the lady there play it for you or, on certain nights, listen to a young man play classical guitar music.  Pierrot’s was really a cabaret rather than a bar; I would call it a coffee house except they didn’t serve coffee.  I became a regular there, consistently asking Kuniko-san to play Shelley Manne’s Peter Gunn album or the Warsaw Concerto by I forget what orchestra.  I still have fond memories of Pierrot’s.

After I was discharged, I didn’t drink much until I started attending parties at SMU and developing friendships with regular drinkers.  But parties, fun and interesting as they generally were, are not my subject here. Two of my regular drinking buddies were Joe Pitner and Dick Ouer, both of whom were undergraduates with me and went on to get their law degrees at S.M.U. Law School.  We would all go down to various bars on Greenville Avenue — before it was discovered.  These were real bars in the Texas plebeian sense of a bar.  They were all very dark — the only light coming from candles in apple-shaped jars on the tables, from the juke box’s stripes, and from beer brand signs scattered throughout.  They had cheap, ugly shag carpet and Formica-topped tables.  For entertainment there were the juke boxes; in those days you could get three songs for a quarter, one for a dime. The most popular song of that time that I remember was “Born To Lose” by Ray Charles: very much suited to the atmosphere.  The bar Joe, Dick and I frequented most was the El Toro Room, on Greenville near Lovers Lane, but actually it was probably the worst of all: very much a downer place.

I much preferred drinking in well-lit bars — either daylight or indirect lighting.  In fact, one of the pleasantest places I can recall was not really a bar at all, but an outside setting on Greenville near where White Rock Creek crosses it; in fact, someone had dubbed this drinking spot “The Creek”.  They had erected an awning over boards settled in a rectangle on barrels: a makeshift bar.  And there were some coolers on the ground inside the “The Creek”, but the coolers were there only to keep your beers cold — the beers you bought in the liquor store behind which the “The Creek” was situated.  As I remember it, it was simply a place where guys could stand and talk while drinking their beers in the open air.  There were some large cottonwood trees which assisted the awning in providing shade.  I didn’t go there often enough to be able to describe any of the other drinkers as “regulars”, but I managed to engage the few men I did meet in convivial conversations.

Another place, which was not really a bar as such but a pizza parlor, was Gordo’s on Mockingbord Lane near Central Expressway, just a few blocks away from the SMU campus.  The owner was Italian, I believe, although his moniker was Gordo (Spanish for “fat”).  He made great pizzas. Gordo’s was well-lighted, a little bit cramped, but SMU students still managed to load themselves in there.  It had cream-colored walls and, at ceiling level, visible gray pipes extending much of the length of its rectangular interior; one could easily imagine he was eating in the engine room of a ship. Oh, but it was always a cheerful scene, at least during the occasions I was there! One of my favorite songs on the jukebox was “Washington Square”, a 1963 hit by The Village Stompers. Either encroaching developers or a desire for a larger place caused Gordo to move his establishment to a rather out-of-the-way spot just off Knox Street.  It was nicer, in a way, certainly swankier, but it wasn’t nearly as lively as the old location.

About that time, Gordo sold out to some Iranians who still kept the parlor’s name, but the nature of the pizza changed.  It wasn’t as authentic as Gordo had made it; it was typical of the kind of pizza you could find anywhere.  My favorite song on the juke box there was “I Don’t Know How To Love Him”, by Helen Reddy, from Jesus Christ Superstar.

Those were the days of folk music — Joan Baez; Peter, Paul and Mary; The Kingston Trio; Pete Seeger — and “coffee houses” reminiscent of Pierrot’s.  The coffee house I went to most frequently was called the “Rubaiyat” on Maple Avenue, near downtown.  Again, it was snug; I guess they never could tell how many customers to count on, and everyone feels more welcome when there are not many empty chairs around.  Besides, folk music is supposed to be an intimate entertainment.  The fellow who owned the place, Ron Shipman, also played the guitar and sang there.  He had one song in his repertoire which everyone, including me, often requested.  Don’t remember its name, but it was a bit of soft-core about a rooster amorously involved with one of his hens; the strumming on the guitar speeded up toward the song’s end, finally ending with a “ping” on one of the higher strings.

But the primary action was on Knox Street, particularly at an “Irish” pub called the “Quiet Man”.  This pub was owned by Mike Carr, whose parents had come from Ireland.  I never did ask Mike if he had ever been to Ireland.  Mike had really wanted a traditional pub — truly Irish in the sense women would not be allowed.  The nonsensicalness of that notion was impressed upon him, so he changed it to a lady would be welcome only if accompanied by a man.  That restriction, too, was soon over-ruled. Also, as a wanna-be-lawyer, Mike hoped to cater to SMU Law School students.

I never met a customer there who claimed to be a law student (except my friends, Joe and Dick, who had already graduated), but there were several other students, me included, as well as a variety of professors, writers, musicians and artists.  I was a history major and then a grad student of English literature, who would recite the first fifty lines of Beowulf (in Anglo-Saxon) to anybody who would listen to me.  To shut me up, other options for them were to play Linda Ronstadt’s “Different Drum” or Gordon Lightfoot’s “If You Could Read My Mind” on the juke box.

Perhaps the best known of the “artsy” types who frequented the Quiet Man was Preston Jones, who wrote the  plays he called A Texas Trilogy, also known as The Bradleyville Trilogy (1973-74).  The second of the three, titled “The Last Meeting of The Knights of The White Magnolia”, was the only one I saw, in dress rehearsal, and I don’t remember much of it; but, on the other hand, I don’t recall that it was disappointing either.  Initially performed at the Dallas Theater Center, where Jones was a director, the trilogy made its way on up to New York and even to the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. (1976).  All I remember about Jones personally was that he was a tightwad who consumed his share of the pitcher of beer anyone brought to the cable-spool tables where we sat, but he never paid for a pitcher himself.

Another playwright, who came to the Quiet Man only occasionally and who didn’t strike me as the artsy type at all — much more as the lawyer or CPA type — was D.L. Coburn.  He won the 1978 Pulitzer Prize for his play “The Gin Game”.  I chatted with D.L. whenever I saw him, but he was never around enough for me really to get to know.  Good for him!

Among the artists was SMU sculpting teacher Wilbert “Bill” Verhelst.  I wrote a feature article about Verhelst while I was taking jounalism courses at UT-Arlington; it was never published.  Although I liked Verhelst the  man, I didn’t see anything admirable in his works.

Another scene, this one inside, the Quiet Man pub in Dallas, on a Saturday afternoon circa 1970.

Another scene, this one inside, at the Quiet Man pub in Dallas, on a Saturday afternoon circa 1970. From the left is Pam Eastland, SMU paleontology professor Bob Slaughter, Don Akers, Irwin Wingo (sipping his beer). The couple whose backs are to the camera are SMU sculpting professor Bill Verhelst and his wife Pat.

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A Saturday afternoon circa 1970 at the Quiet Man pub in Dallas. Shown here are (from left) Pan Eastland, Pat Verhelst and her husband Bill Verhelst.

Yet I didn’t take that tack in my article; I just tried to explain what he was doing as well as he could explain it to me.  At the time, he was producing rectangular acrylic blocks of graded colors reminiscent of the “Rainbow” drinks I mentioned earlier.  He had also done several large metal pieces, all abstract, including eight fountain sculptures, eight reliefs, two screens and one stabile during a 15-year period.

A couple of other artists are worth mentioning mainly for their weirdness.  One was a young fellow named Richard (don’t recall that he ever mentioned his last name), who didn’t seem to know anything but his art.  His works — at least the ones I saw — were legal pad-size, done in ink with colors added, and they were spacey.  I mean like he was trying to imagine life on some distant planet: weird wiry shapes; imagine multi-thickness clothes hangers joined to hula hoops with strange-shaped flora blooming out of them.  They didn’t appeal to me at all, but he was selling them for pretty good prices.  Also, one night Richard informed me he was scheduled to have a show opening at a gallery in New York.  I just rolled my eyes and changed the subject.  Another drinker told me Richard had begun his career hawking his drawings on street corners.  Recently, a former Quiet Man habitué told me Richard eventually moved to New Mexico, where he lived in a teepee and continued with his painting.

Then there was Bill James…oh well.  Bill, an older alcoholic, had some physical disability; perhaps he was a polio survivor; I don’t know.  Anyway, he regularly hobbled to the Quiet Man and to the Knox Street Pub two blocks down the street with a sketch pad and pencils in his hand.  He drew portraits for beer money: back then a pilsner glass of beer cost 15 cents; a mug, 25 cents.  Bill’s drawings were unremarkable, but the subjects were at least recognizable; and Mike paid him some small amount to draw all his regular customers, the portraits to be tacked or taped onto the bar’s walls.  I have mine, retrieved a few years after Mike left the bar business and distributed all his memorabilia.

I, too, did some sketching, briefly, for beer money.  If a customer caught me during my first or second beer, the portrait would be most acceptable.  But after the third or fourth beer, they were gambling, assuming they were too shy to refuse to pay for the sketch.  (One fellow demanded a refund —$2— which I gave him and didn’t get my drawing back.)

Anyway, I was more generally recognized not as an artist but as “the philosopher”, even though I never majored in philosophy and never consciously sought to appear as a philosopher (at that time).  One regular Quiet Man and Knox Street Pub customer named Tom Johnson — an Associated Press reporter who habitually pulled his trench coat together just before leaning against the bar — several times tried to engage me in discussions of the German philosophers, none of whom, except Nietsche, had I read.

The image error may have developed from my habit of standing alone at the bar and staring either into my beer or at the gleaming beer mugs lined up on the back counter, and indulging in revery.  I loved to get just high enough that I could relax and lose myself.  Another possible explanation is that I was a good listener.  I remember sitting a while with a local tradesman and listening to him without uttering a word myself.  After he had concluded, he said, “You know, you’re pretty smart.”  With some effort, I managed not to break out laughing.  I’m not sure that’s how my reputation got started, but it’s the only way I can imagine.

A few Dallas Symphony Orchestra musicians also frequented the Quiet Man. One DSO musician I remember was a tuba player named Ed Gilmore.  Ed was a seemingly very healthy-minded fellow who nevertheless referred me to his psychiatrist and spent a lot of time reading Psychology Today.  He often joined in impromptu jam sessions with a couple of other (non-symphonic) musicians at the Quiet Man.  Ed usually sat with me and our Pakistani physicist friend, Syed Rizvi, as well as a couple of other DSO musicians for Saturday breakfast at Henry’s café across from S.M.U. on Hillcrest Avenue.

After I had been away from Dallas for a decade or so working on newspapers in West Texas, I returned to find the Quiet Man no longer the Quiet Man.  Some younger set had taken it over under a new name, and a new sub-culture frequented it.

The cohering aspect of the Quiet Man and other neighborhood bars is the “family” quality of them.  I don’t mean “family” in the sense of blood relationships but in the sense that, since the customers there are mostly regulars, one gets comfortable around them.  Regardless of whether one likes another regular or not, at least he becomes acquainted with the other — with his or her quirks, strengths and weaknesses — so that one can cope with them.  They become “known quantities”, as the saying goes.

Of course, not every excursion to a neighborhood bar is pleasant; some very unpleasant things can happen there.  Just as one example, I will relate an episode involving a “tough guy” Quiet Man regular and his women.  I didn’t like this fellow from the first time I saw him, so I didn’t spend any time in lengthy conversation with him.  I didn’t ask his name, and, although I did hear it mentioned by others, I don’t remember it now.  For some reason, perhaps his name, I retain a sense that he was of Italian descent yet born here.  He had a regular woman; I assumed she was his wife.  However, after a couple of years he took on a second woman and kept her in an apartment directly above him and his “wife”.  He impregnated both of them.  But, just because he took a mistress doesn’t mean he wasn’t jealous — or possessive — of his “wife”.  One evening, when the pub was rather full, all of a sudden I heard a scream and turned about to see this lover boy jerking his “wife” by her hair off a chair and dragging her out of the pub.  He paused at the doorway and yelled, “Anyone in there man enough to stop me?”  No one reacted to his challenge.

I’ve already referred to the Knox Street Pub.  It was really my favorite place, although it opened a year or more after the Quiet Man, so the Quiet Man has a more substantial hold on my memory .  The Knox Street Pub was larger and had ferns all over the place, antique mirrors, indirect lighting, a juke box and a well-polished oaken bar.  The various light sources reflected off everything.  The owner — the owner at that time anyway — was Sam Wilson.  He had slightly effeminate mannerisms but he also had a beautiful wife and two daughters, so I never was sure what to make of him.  Every time I hear that song “Those Were The Days, My Friend” by Mary Hopkins I visualize the Knox Street Pub.

I was shocked recently when a friend forwarded to me the Knox Street Pub’s website.  Photos of the place, now removed to McKinney and Armstrong, revealed a multitude of TV sets tuned to sports events, picnic tables, and a crowd of plump people, some in crushed-brim cowboy hats and waving beer bottles.  A new generation. No emotional connection whatever was possible for me.  It was only depressing.

But, like I said, I spent some intervening years in West Texas.  It’s not really a comparable situation.  It’s like having a baby, I suppose: Even though you might have a second child, that first birthing can never be duplicated.  A whole new range of values is needed.  That pretty much describes the situation I encountered in West Texas.

My first newspaper job was in Clarendon, the county seat of Donley County in the Panhandle.  Clarendon itself is (or was) dry, but all one had to do is drive about eight miles north on State Highway 70, to just on the northern edge of the Red River’s Salt Fork, to find a couple of “watering holes”.  Actually it was a single, boomerang-shaped complex made up of two bars — one at either end of the boomerang — shouldering a liquor store.  If the places had names I never heard them.

The whole complex, I was told, was owned by one man.  I never met this man, but he was described to me as an extremely intelligent fellow with paranormal powers.  He lived in a house on a hilltop or a ridge; the house reportedly was fashioned after Noah’s Ark and was supposed to be a beacon of sorts for ETs, whom this fellow expected to arrive any day.

But back to the bars. The southern bar was dimly lit and mostly filled with comfy booths, what I consider a scene to take a date for seduction purposes.  The other, however, had a large plate glass window facing south toward the river.  I loved to sit on a stool, looking out that window at the changing level of shadows in the arroyos leading to the river, as the sun set.  The music from the juke box helped a lot, too: Karen Carpenter singing “I Need To Be In Love” and Barry Manilow singing “Mandy”.  I don’t think I’ve ever been more outside myself and deeper within myself than during those late afternoons.  The ultimate revery setting!

The large window had other engaging aspects.  One afternoon, for instance, I saw a Piper Cub plane taxi around the corner of the “seduction bar” and stop in front of the liquor store.  A cowboy hopped from the passenger side door and went inside the store, returning a few minutes later with a case of beer.  After loading the beer into the plane, he climbed back in, and the plane went back the way it came.  Then, one day, I took up my usual place at the bar before noticing that a dozen or so frogs were hopping up onto and along the sill of the plate glass window.  I thought it an hilarious scene, but the bar maid was not as amused.

When I returned to Clarendon one Fourth of July five years later, I drove up to the bars and was shocked to find that the plate glass window had been replaced with a wall.  The whole magic of the place had been ruined.  Maybe “Mister Paranormal” wasn’t as appreciative of frogs as I.

I lasted only two months at The Clarendon Press.  I was ill-prepared to handle all the responsibilities of an editor/reporter without an on-site coach, and my boss, the publisher, was managing a publishing firm in Wichita Falls.

Two years later, in late 1979, I was “called” to Monahans, in Ward County, to serve as “editor” for the semi-weekly paper there.  I place “editor” in quotation marks because the job was really a glorified reporter’s position.  The owner, Pearson Cooper, was the real editor/publisher in the sense that he was the “boss”.  I say “owner”, but actually there were three owners — Pearson and his brother and sister, both of whom lived up in the Dallas area.

I, nevertheless, was the “show window” editor.  I covered all the governmental meetings as well as the police and court activity.  I also wrote frequent columns which often carried the aroma of editorials. I was the “face” of The Monahans News. I wasn’t bothered by not being the “boss”.  I didn’t want to be boss.  I have no managerial skills whatsoever.  And Pearson was a patient coach and had grown up in the newspaper business; his father had started The Monahans News back just before WWII.  Pearson gave me pretty much free rein to do whatever I wanted to do, as long as I filled up the paper.

As for bars, there were several of them along Highway 80 on the western edge of town and even a fairly decent one in Pyote further west.  But the one I liked the best was Charlie’s Game Room, mostly because it had plenty of daylight but also because it was within easy walking distance of the newspaper and my house.  Charlie Chailland also fried large catfish, very tasty.  His place was right next to the railroad track, and Charlie had a part-time job — or contract — with the railroad maintaining the resting engine and filling a storage bin in the caboose with ice.

Charlie’s Game Room was not the sort of joint girls were interested in frequenting, at least not during the hours I was there; I never stayed late. The most frequently played songs on the juke box were the C&W hits Mel McDaniel’s “Baby’s Got Her Blue Jeans On” and Don Williams’ “I Believe In Love”.  Charlie’s customers consisted mostly of oilfield hands, retired train conductors, a few cowboys, and me.   Charlie died of cancer, and his wife sold the business to a man not so interesting as Charlie.

Charlie’s Game Room lost its appeal for me, so I took to buying six packs and drinking at home or driving on down the highway to a really dark bar run by an ex-Marine named Jake.  That was a dangerous situation because Jake’s was definitely not within walking distance.  I should have been arrested for DWI dozens of times, and I suspect that the only reason I wasn’t was because I was the editor of the paper. I never realized how drunk I was until one night, on my way home, I stopped at a diner and ate some supper.  When I went up to the counter to pay my bill with a check I encountered much difficulty filling it in legibly.

Oblivious of  the hypocrisy I had become guilty of, I reported public intoxications and DWIs  in the paper’s “Police Report” twice a week.  I tried to be sure nobody was skipped over because of his or her “prominence”; and, if I had been arrested, I would have reported it. But Pearson had a different value system, and one day a fellow approached me in one of the bars and complained about the fact that a cowboy buddy of Pearson’s had been bragging about how Pearson kept him out of  “Police Report”.  From that day on, I never identified anyone by name in “Police Report”; I just gave their gender, age and town.

After five and a half years, I grew tired of the tensions between me and some of the other employees at The Monahans News.  Also, I had written feature articles about everybody I could think of without the articles becoming confounded with advertising.  I went back to Dallas and sold carpet at my brother’s carpet store.

In Dallas, I didn’t venture onto Knox Street.  Rather, I went to a restaurant and bar on Lover’s Lane called Roscoe White’s “Easy Way”.  They served good American dishes there, specializing in barbecue.  Like so many people in my life’s encounters, Roscoe was a contradiction: He was an old redneck, but he had a long-time black employee, a bartender named Slim.  Slim was the best bartender and one of the best-natured people I’ve ever known.  Evidently, Roscoe thought so, too, because, when Slim died, Roscoe framed a handsome 8×10 color portrait of him and hanged it over the bar mirror.

Another bar I frequented was the Cedar Pub on Cedar Springs near Love Field.  It had been started by Colin Jefferson, an English immigrant whom I used to love to annoy by breaking out in Old English lines from Beowulf.  For its last several years, however, it belonged to a native, a really good-natured fellow whose name I can’t recall.  Many of the regulars at the Cedar Pub were former habitués of the Quiet Man.  Not many artistes showed up there, though.  In fact, the only ones who did were a few jazz musicians.  Among them was a small group of medical students who had formed a jazz combo they dubbed “Afterbirth” — the slimy stuff clinging to babies when they emerge from the womb.

As much as I enjoyed the The Cedar Pub, it was the source of my undoing as a drinker.  In 1989, I had left the pub and was driving to my brother’s house in far north Dallas when I was stopped by the Carrollton police.  My brother bailed me out of jail the next morning.  The day before Thanksgiving, a judge sentenced me to two years probation and fined me $1,500. A year later, one of the several probation officers I endured, disgusted by the fact that I still drank a little, told me to go to some Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.  He gave me a log sheet to have initialed by an AA member after each meeting.

I attended AA daily for two years at the Central Group, until that particular crowd had to move because of declining membership and a rent hike.  It was one of the best experiences of my life and the cheapest, most effective mental therapy I can imagine. I stayed off beer entirely for a year and more after AA, and when I did take it up again, my intake was much less than what it had been prior to AA.  I don’t attribute the decreased drinking to self-control, rather to aging; absence of day-lit, revery-inducing bars; and bloating after three beers.  Dread of another DWI arrest also plays in, although not emphatically.

Now, here in Alpine, a remote spot in what Texas promoters call the state’s “mountain country”, I drink a little bit once or twice a week at local bars.  There are a lot of graphic artists in this area, but not many of them frequent the bars.  Some journalists (like me, for instance) do, and the two owners of one bar, called the Railroad Blues, contract with Austin musicians of all sorts to appear here on the weekends. There are also a few local bands, one of which is led by a former Catholic priest, the erstwhile “Father Rick”.  The décor has spun toward the funky, with odd objects such as a bicycle hanging from the ceiling in one place and defaced dollar bills stapled all over the ceiling of another.  Juke boxes are non-existent; all “down-time” music is streamed in over one of the Internet sites.  To keep things supposititiously alive, before the bands blast away after 8 o’clock, as many as five TV sets — in a single bar — are constantly tuned in to sports programs.   Most of the customers are cowboys, tradesmen, and college students, with a few tourists sprinkled in. I don’t hang around for the music; it’s too loud and generally outside my acquaintance.  I just drink two beers, talk to a few people, and go home.  I’m old now.

Finis

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