As Harry points out, what's O'Hare's real name?  And why is there an inverted Christmas tree decorated with tiny leprechauns  hanging from the ceiling? Does that signify Irish vampires,  inverted stuff generally being  the Sign of the Beast?   And the lovely Sharon, the other bartender,  born and raised in Pensacola, Fla., where was her Southern accent?

So, that's all well and good (and just what does THAT mean?)  But the biggest mystery is why I'm having a hard time writing about O'Hare's.

The hairy guy's reflection on the back wall
First of all, I like O'Hare's.  Always have.  Ate many a lunch there with a couple guys from work. I was bummed when it closed (and it looked for good) and elated when it re-opened. It's a classy lookin' joint (kinda-sorta) with big windows facing north that suffuse the open  floor plan with soft indirect lighting and directs the view to the vibrant (as I would imagine on a party night) passing Midland Street scene.  At 2:30 on a Friday afternoon, more a twitch (I think I saw the mailman walk by) than a vibration.  Calm before the storm, I'm sure. 

But we weren't the only patrons in O'Hare's; there were several on the other side of the well.  I think they were regulars.  Later, a couple came in and sat behind us at one of the highboy tables and perused the menu.  But none of us fraternized.

Anyway, all the better for bloggers-with-questions which the helpful bartenders, Sharon and Heather, did their best to answer between taking care of business.  It went something  like this:

Harry, referencing a sign in the window:  "Who came up with the dress code?"
Sharon:  "I dunno."
Baldo:  "What's with the upside-down Christmas tree?"
Heather:  "I dunno."
Sharon to Baldo, who'd mentioned he'd been stationed -- Navy -- in Pensacola:  "What base?"
Baldo:  "I dunno."

Stay tuned for more hard-hitting, in-depth journalism.

Heather and Sharon (and the nude)
Actually, we had a good time.  We did bombard Sharon and Heather with questions, which they tried their darndest to answer.  And did so completely and intelligently when they were on solid turf -- like how to make some of their specialty drinks and the philosophy behind them, which ones were big ("Love Potion"), which were weird (the "Scooby Snack").   Almost anything with Red Bull was a seller.  Hairy took all of that stuff down, then entertained us with a bar trick (which I'm embarrassed to admit I can't remember).

And this time we dragged along a third amigo, also a former classmate, also another dashing bon vivant -- I told him I was going to call him Sleazy,  after the 8th Dwarf you never hear about, but I was just teasing.  His real moniker is Doc, and he too performed a bar trick, quite intricate, utilizing 4 straws, a lighter, and a lot of patience.  My trick was watching, toasting  their effort, being amused, and more toasting. 

Unlike the previous places where the bartenders had to double as cooks, O'Hare's has a separate cook.  And a good-sized cooking area -- important when you're hungry -- to get a lot of  stuff out quickly.  I never did get to meet him; he bustled around the cooking area the whole time we were there, undoubtedly preparing for the dinner crowd.  He wasn't going to be distracted by three old freaks.  He had mouths to feed.  He and Heather wore
The busy "staff" cook
black tee's like you see at concerts and sports venues emblazoned with "Staff" on the back.  (Comment:  Having done a few years in healthcare, including being infections control officer, I would use "Crew" -- especially around food -- vs. something that reminded me of "Staph."   Just sayin'.)

The back bar is made out of a beautiful wood that blends perfectly with the other colors in there, the gold of the hammered tin ceiling  (faux), the tan of the panelling, the dark green of the tabletops.  Whatever it is, oak, sandalwood, it's like the color of Beyonce', the exact color I want when I come back in my next life.  Hopefully as a human, a cocker spaniel even.  But not a garden slug, some of which are that color.

And speaking of slugs, I know why I'm having a hard time writing about O'Hare's -- ghosts. They were all over the place. 

Not real ghosts (if that's not a contradiction in terms) but personal ghosts.  In the mirror
Heather the bartender
of another bar leaning against the wall across from the main bar, I saw pipe-smoking shanty boys cutting loose to the tinkle of a honky-tonk piano, the columns and scroll work of this old bar blackened by age and smoke.  At the grill, Mary Jo, a cook from 20 years ago, makes the best nachos in the world.  I sure miss them.  

In the huge nude painting above the bar, itself and its Reuben-esque proportions a paean to earlier times (and if you're PC, this "sexist" artifact would be the screen-out element keeping  O'Hare's from being, in some eyes -- not mine -- totally "classy") and in the dress code posted in the front window ("Pull up your pants, tuck in your shirt, straighten your hat")  today's equivalent of "Please check your guns and knives at the door."

I even see ghosts for Harry.  We came to O'Hare's because a former Bay City Times guy  referenced it in his novel, which Harry recently read.  When he mentioned this, I told him I remembered the newspaper crowd, who, like us, ate there regularly.  Harry, being likewise a newspaperman, wanted to see what O'Hare's looked like.  Back when a callow, underage youth interning at the Times,  the old-timers introduced him to "the wicked ways of the world" at Furlo's (long gone), a watering hole across from the Times building. I guess he wanted to see if O'Hare's measured up.  When I look at the highboy by the front window, I see the newspaper folk sitting there.  We never spoke but always nodded in recognition, as regulars do.

Mostly, though, I see Larry.  Larry was my best work friend.  He looked like a puffin, that sea bird with downturned eyes and a round beak and could turn anything into not merely a sexual allusion, but a sexual allusion with a twist  You never knew what angle he was coming from -- and I wish I could remember a concrete example -- but his outrageous creativity always made me laugh.  As a worker, he was conscientious; everyone loved him, plus he'd give you the shirt off his back (not without making a crude joke first). 

I retired before him and was looking forward to his retirement to pal around now and then. One day not long after he retired, I got a phone call:  Some rare, fast-acting cancer. He's dead.  And here's the kicker -- he didn't tell anyone he was sick (except maybe family) because he didn't want anyone to feel bad for him.  So typical Larry, unselfish to the bitter end.  I miss him a lot more than those nachos.  He would've made a great addition to our (ahem!) thirst for Truth, Beauty and the American way.

So the shanty boys, Mary Jo, the scribes and Larry were all back with me in O'Hare's and in retrospect, it was good.   It's probably a compendium of the colors, the wood, the bartenders, my friends, the memories, maybe the alcohol, but I get a warm, comfortable feeling in there.  So much so that maybe next time there, I'll feel brave enough to try a Scooby Snack.  I wonder what goes in that?  Ahh, another mystery....