Apr 11, 2018

Thoughts on life (and a victorious pool game) at J&R’s

Kelly, the bar manager at J&R's
Doc’s Report:

I pass by J&R’s on Center Road twice a day, five days a week, on my way to and from work. You have to be careful on that stretch of Center, just east of Essexville, in Hampton Township. I’ve had a lot of close calls; you have to drive defensively.

Last month, I was coming home from work and saw the police cleaning up a horrendous car crash.  I read in the paper that a driver blew through the stop sign at Jones and Center and was struck by a Metro bus. The bus driver and the five passengers were uninjured; but from the looks of the car, I was surprised its driver survived.

A week later I read that, after nine days on life support, he hadn’t.

Life is fragile, and not just on Center Road in Hampton Township.

On a recent trip to J&R’s with Harry, we heard that point underscored in a discussion between our charming and expert bartender Kelly and a wizened patron. Their point was that you simply can’t have two drinks in a short time when you go to a bar anymore, if you’re driving. You’re legally intoxicated, and you’ll be caught.

Kelly had recently returned from a Caribbean cruise, and said that the police in Puerto Rico drink with the bar patrons. But here, the J&R's patron observed, the money from arresting drunk drivers is a cash cow.

Speaking of cows, I enjoyed a bowl of the cheese soup, made from Wisconsin cheddar. Our other competent and charming bartender, Heather, was at the end of her shift and had the fajitas.
The view inside J&R's
When an employee of a restaurant orders off the menu, it’s as solid an endorsement as four 18-wheelers at a diner.

The Friday fish special at J&R’s is so popular, Kelly tells us, that they have to deploy three waitresses, two cooks and an additional bartender.

We pressed Kelly on her trip to Puerto Rico, in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. On her smart phone, she showed us many pictures of buildings with their windows blown out. Some beaches are closed. There’s still no running water in many places, so people drink and cook with the same water they wash their clothes in.

In one remarkable picture, Kelly showed us a devastated neighborhood, with the adjacent cemetery untouched.

Center Road in Hampton Township isn’t the only place where life is fragile.

But I don’t want you to get the impression that our visit to J&R’s was a downer. Just the opposite. We had a wonderful time. My pool game, honed to a fine edge during years of grueling practice on a table in the basement of my youth, has seldom been sharper. And the absence of a shuffleboard table left Harry no recourse but regret.

For another, I love the décor:

  • The afternoon light is a warming southern exposure, my favorite.
  • The walls and ceiling above the spacious bar are a polished knotty pine. You feel like you’re in a hunting lodge.
  • There are two – two! – large prints of dogs; one playing cards, the other shooting pool.  (I‘m a dog person, and Harry loves cards. You’ll never see a picture of cats playing cards. A board game, maybe.) The men’s room gets my highest professional janitor’s rating for cleanliness with its pristine walls barren but for one small sign next to the sink that reads: “Employees must wash hands.” (So must everyone, here as in Puerto Rico.)
I’d thought I’d got off the best line of the day when Heather asked Harry if he was going to eat the second half of the world’s largest burger there, at J&R’s, or take it with him, and I said: “Well,
Daily specials on the wall
both. I hope.”

But Heather did me one better when Harry ordered a Manhattan and our much set-upon hostess at the end of a grueling shift rolled her eyes and exhaled a sharply ironic: “Oh, great!” Kelly tried to support her work-mate: “I had to make one once. That was not fun.” (I like that “had to.”)

But, according to Harry, it came out just fine.

Our visit coincided with the Wednesday before Easter, and you can’t help but think of new life this time of year: the opening day of baseball, Easter eggs and bunnies, the new free seed library at the Wirt Library. Harry saw his first robin of the season the morning of our visit.

Of course, especially here in our historic city by the bay, where we’ve again survived an especially trying winter, we celebrate spring with pronounced gratitude. Perhaps that’s because it reminds us that not everyone we knew made it through to spring.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How often do you read a commentary on a bar that mentions cats, dogs, fish, cows, and a robin?