Spike on the River
Neal in Antarctica
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October 16, 2005 - Sunday, 12:11 p.m.
Once inside the bar, we found that the band was directly to our left, a packed bar to our right and a number of full tables in the middle. People were standing and sitting near the bar, talking and drinking. We wove our way by all the standing people and found a table at the very back, just outside the bathrooms. We sat down and waited for a waitress to take our order.
I made myself comfortable and gazed around the room. The music was loud, very loud. It was almost impossible to hear my son speaking to me and beyond the music was the steady drone of conversations. Interestingly enough, no specific conversation could be heard, all I could really do was watch people. To our left was a table of young people and from their hooting and hollering I immediately deduced that they were friends of the band, specifically the lead guitar player and singer. This is a band I have listened to a number of times, so some of the people were familiar, but only about one or two from that table. The lead singer, itís his band. Heís a young man in his early 20ís and his band plays blues, with a heavy touch of electric guitar. He has a very good voice that sounds good with the blues repertoire.
Bars are an interesting place to sit, especially when no one seems to notice you. I sat and watched people come and go, and animated conversations at other tables. Though there was little room near the band what space there was, was taken up by people dancing. Dancing. So many people dance with total abandon. Perhaps theyíve had a lot to drink, or perhaps they donít care about what anyone will think, they just enjoy the music, the beat and what it inspires in them. To some extent I envy that totally abandonment of Ďwhat someone else thinksí. Much music is meant to be danced to, and all too often I find myself sitting at a table tapping my toe. Something holds me back at the table, perhaps too much worry about looking silly. Then on top of that is whole concern about being hit on, I donít want that either, so those two things combined keeps me sitting at the table.
We ordered a couple ice teas, as soon as the waitress came by, but she promptly forgot our order until the next time she made he rounds. When she came by again and saw us sitting there she suddenly remembered, apologized and quickly got them for us. My son ordered something to eat. The band took a break and the lead singer made his way back to the table of his friends. They visited, smiled, patted each other on the back and hugged. Though Iíve seen him a number of times and even talked to him briefly, he didnít recognize me, or even glance my direction as he walked by. During the next set his parents arrived and joined the table of his friends. There was an area of pool tables far off to our left in an addition to the bar. So people wandered back and forth into the area and a number of games were in progress there. All of the tables were occupied and people who showed up after us stood to our right and along the bar drinking, visiting, and listening to the music. The variety of people was immense from young to very old, skinny, heavy, nicely dressed, suggestively dressed, moderately dressed, to messy. Nothing much common between the people, other then almost everyone was drinking something alcoholic. My impression was that this was a common way for almost everyone in the room to spend their weekends and often their evenings. There seems to be this disassociation from the world that happens at bars. You can tangibly feel the Ďescapeí in the air. Drinking, smiling, laughing, dancingÖ all to forget something else in their lives. You can almost see the mask settle in place the moment the first drop of alcohol touches their lips. It doesnít feel real in thereÖ I guess that is a common feel for almost every bar Iíve been in. For a moment I get a glimpse of a personís life, not enough to really figure out anything, but just enough to create questions in my mind. Who are these people? Are they happy? What do they do for a living? What are they thinking about? What are they escaping from? What do they want out of life? Who are the other people in their lives? What are their kids doing right now? What kind of jobs do they hold down? I mean, I knowÖ I get this same group of questions in my mind as I shop, but at the grocery store I am busy, at a bar I am just sitting and watching, so those questions are more obvious then.
I love the music, but there is a certain amount of sadness in watching so many people escaping for a few moments. Itís not a place conducive to conversation. Itís not a place Iíd like to go and visit (though I often end up doing just that). It is a great place to watch people, and a perfectly good venue for listening to music. But eventually I want to just walk away into the silence and contemplate that as a well.
After the second set that we listened to, we got up and left. Slowly we made our way through the throng of people until we were suddenly standing on the sidewalk in front of the bar. It was cool and quiet. The streets were nearly empty as we returned to the car. We drove home slowly visiting and absorbing the night.