Nov 3, 2017

Tubby’s: Friendship and poetry (!?) on Kosciuszko

Doc’s report:

To paraphrase Woody Allen: Now that I’m 68, I know that my life is easily a third over.

Indeed, it is the autumn of my life. And it is autumn here in our beautiful and historic city by the bay. Keats nailed that combination of ripening maturity and nostalgic wistfulness, in our lives and in the season, when he addressed autumn as the “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.”      

So it was with a certain sense of urgency to share the latest products of my maturing imagination that I met Harry and the G-man on a recent Wednesday afternoon at Tubby’s. But before you could say “Watch this,” a bear, a monkey, and a platypus walked in.

Our charming and efficient bartender Lyndsey said to the platypus: “So, it looks like you’ve got the bill.” That raised the bar, so to speak.

Too high for me, as it turned out. When I offered a harmless pun about delousing a room at the institution where I’m a janitor -- “The Liceman Cometh” -- Harry and the G-man shot me “the look,” and the conversation turned to other matters.

That’s why I go to a bar, now that the autumn of my life has closed the avenue to pleasure formerly paved with Jack Daniel’s: to talk and to listen.

The G-man is a Lutheran, and it’s the 500th anniversary of Luther’s reforms. We briefly discussed some of the lesser theses, e.g.:  “82. Such as: ‘Why does not the pope empty purgatory
Sign near the back door
for the sake of holy love and the dire need of the souls that are there if he redeems an infinite number of souls for the sake of miserable money with which to build a church?’ The former reason would be most just; the latter is most trivial.”     

Luther had a point, but he had no way of knowing, of course, that, if the pope were to empty purgatory, the lines at every Starbucks between here and purgatory would be unmanageable.

Next, we spoke of money. It’s a real measure of friendship, I think, that you can speak frankly about money. One of us spends a lot of time managing his money. One of us is debt-free and comfortable. And one of us still works as a janitor in a lice-infested institution.

But we all agreed that, if we were as rich as a member of Trump’s cabinet and could be anywhere doing anything, we’d be doing exactly what we were doing: spending Wednesday afternoon with each other at Tubby’s.

I was reminded of a Sandburg poem, “Happiness”:
I asked  professors who teach the meaning of life to tell me what is happiness.  And I went to famous executives who boss the work of thousands of men.
They all shook their heads and gave me a smile as though I was trying to fool with them
And then one Sunday afternoon I wandered out along the Desplaines river
And I saw a crowd of Hungarians under the trees with their women and children and a keg of beer and an accordion.
That, in a nutshell, is Tubby’s. Harry’s post does a better job than I can in capturing its time-earned authenticity, perhaps best seen in the Wednesday afternoon “Beer and Schmier.”

But these are my people. Across the street is Susan’s Salon, where my barber, Sue Stevenson, gives the best haircuts in town. Just ten bucks for men -- which, in my case, is a buck a hair.

I went to school just three blocks up Kosciuszko at St. Stan’s, now part of Our Lady of
Schmier players at Tubby's
Czestochowa parish, and I saw a former upper classman that afternoon. We remembered a priest, a nun, and a football coach, and I imagined a joke with them walking into Tubby’s.

At the end of the block, my neighbor John Drzewicki sells State Farm Insurance.

Coincidentally, Czestochowa, Kosciuszko, and Drzewicki might be the three words with the highest word scores in Scrabble, if proper names were acceptable in Scrabble.

At 4 p.m., Jamie Gradowski arrived to begin her bartending duties. I saw Jamie on a daily basis when I patronized the Ideal Party Store, where she sells beer, wine, and spirits. Today, she was serving them at Tubby’s. “Busman’s holiday?” I asked Jamie. Same look as the one I got in response to my “Liceman cometh” joke.

Harry’s post explains how Tubby’s came to be “Still Tubby’s.” I suggested to a stranger that, if the bar had been established during Prohibition, it might have been called “Tubby’s Still.” Again, the look.

I retreated into my private store of memorized poems, this one Shakespeare’s sonnet on autumn and middle age, which begins:
That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang
Sounds sad. But never underestimate the Bard.
He saves it in the couplet:
This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.
Then I watched these aging South Enders drinking beer and playing Schmier on a Wednesday afternoon at Tubby’s, laughing and counting their winnings, and I thought: “You can’t tell the winners from the losers.”

For once that day, I nailed it.

See the hairy guy's report on Tubby’s: A longtime South End joint for beer, burgers and games galore, including Schmier (just for mom)

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