|Kristie at the bar|
The Tigers had just clinched their division, Margie met me for lunch, and autumn is as close to heaven as you're gonna get here in Bay City. And that's real close.
But heaven doesn't just happen. On the southwest corner of 28th and Michigan -- halfway between St. Hyacinth's and St. Stan's churches, within the parish of Our Lady of Czestochowa -- Barney's Bar & Grill makes it happen.
First, there's the burger -– Bay City's best, for the moisture of the bun and sturdiness of the beef. Everyone's got the same condiments and sides. Barney's comes with just a steak knife.
There's Kristie. She puts the “bar” in “bartender” at Barney's. Every Bay City bartender could take a lesson in service, efficiency and creativity from her. A new shot of the week every week, which she finds online. A new-age, high-tech, South End Penelope waiting for her Ulysses to return from Alger on the first day of bow-hunting season. She dots her i's with hearts.
There's the company. Harry and I love new friends. That's mainly why we do this. And our new friend the G-man was, as always in the city by the bay, one of us: fun-loving, unpretentious, interesting to listen to, with a lot to offer from a life fully lived. You can't make old friends at our age, so new friends will have to do.
And there are the muskrats.
The careful reader of this blog will remember that we discovered that the 1960 Bay City phone book listed muskrat as an offering at the Green Hut on Columbus. In season.
But the Green Hut no longer serves food, and we were left rat-less.
Now, though, seated next to the G-man, Harry and me, were four members of the Bay City
|Members of the muskrat club|
The muskrats are a fraternal order whose membership includes a judge but is otherwise as closely guarded as the details of the rigorous initiation ritual. There are more members on the necrology than on the current roster. Membership is limited to 65, so aspiring members have to read the obits.
They meet the first Sunday of every month at a village hall and, informally, at a rotating series of bars: Barney's, the P.L.A.V., Am Vets, Pulaski Hall, Chet's Corner Bar on Sundays. At Chet's, the Bloody Marys transition to beer, then the final Manhattan.
The members eat muskrat, which they say they acquire from a trapper near Tawas, on dark rye with Limburger, onion, hot mustard and horseradish. You have to have real cajones to stand up to it.
You can see their insignia on a few license plates around town, if you look for it. One muskrat, a truck driver, advises one to ride a bike when patronizing the local bars.
You get the sense that they're great guys. You have to drag it out of them that they'll do anything for anyone, through St. Vincent de Paul and other organizations.
Say! My alma mater down in Ann Arbor could use a new mascot -– and a new athletic director.
See the hairy guy's report on Barney's: A fine burger, a blue Big Ass, muskrat love and why didn't we get here sooner?
... and the G-man's report: An old-school bar with friendly conversation, a maestro and Captain Crunch