Life as I know it is about to change … no, my wife’s not pregnant or anything like that … it’s much worse … In a sense, a close family member of mine is about to pass away … no, not literally, but kind of. You see, my very first watering hole, the Toll House Tavern, is apparently up for sale. Sure, it’s not like I go there a lot anymore, but the Toll House is like that Penthouse magazine from the late 1980’s that you have hidden somewhere in your house … you don’t necessarily partake in “reading” it anymore, but you gain some comfort in knowing that it is there for you to fall back on … in case you get the urge to “read” about the “overgrowth of wilderness.”
The Toll House was like my “Cheers.” I knew the bartenders, knew many of the patrons, and was sort of considered a regular there. Back in the day (1994), one could purchase a 50-cent draught of Pabst Blue Ribbon, which meant if I walked in with $10, I’d probably be stumbling home with a few bucks to spare.
It was a place were many of my friends and I gathered, ordered pitchers of beer, wings, pepperoni sticks, and played some god-awful juke-box music - which is one of the constants of this bar, the music never changed – but that’s not the point (or, is it?). It was like home for many of us. I knew that if I went down there on a Friday night, I would see familiar faces, be able to talk sports, politics, sex, music, or just make fun of the guy who sat in the corner and looked like Captain Kangaroo.
As the years passed, a lot of my friends “outgrew” the Toll House, started their own families, and maybe occasionally made a guest appearance there. Heck, when I haven’t been there nearly enough since I moved. Sure, other groups of “kids” went there and hung out, but it wasn’t the same as when our big group of friends “owned” that bar.
Just for my amusement (and the amusement of some of you who experienced the Toll House), here is a random list of things I’ll miss about the bar:
1. It was only about a 5-minute walk from my parents’ house … and about a 10-minute stumble.
2. The guy with the “lobster hands” that would come in and never notice us making fun of him.
3. The guy who said the word “dude” over 100 times in less than 5 minutes (yes, we counted).
4. Playing Golden Tee in the corner, while Ray-Ray would “acquire” pretzel sticks from the bar.
5. Going back to the Toll House after playing football every year after Thanksgiving
6. One time, my friend Ray-Ray and I played Megatouch for 8-straight hours there.
7. Going to the Toll House on Christmas night with a bunch of friends and buying each other the nastiest shots we could think of.
8. Listening to Jimmy the bartender try and sing the Police classic, “Doo-Doo-Doo, Dee-Doo-Doo-Dah.”
9. Having a few “conquests” with a few of the ladies that hung out there.
10. Making the “love call from the stall” phone calls – my friends coined that one.
11. Winning two deck hockey championships with the Toll House sponsoring us.
12. Never having to worry about getting a ride home from there if I was too drunk.
13. Spending hours a night there with a variety of friends talking about life and about girls (and never getting anywhere doing it).
14. Sitting in the corner of the bar with a big group of friends, and seeing a tall object walking into the place … and eventually realizing it was a college buddy of mine from Baltimore who knew exactly where to find me.
15. Never having to worry about the place being too crowded.
Incidentally, the sales price was around $640,000 … and yes, I gave some thought to the idea of being my own Sam Malone … how cool would that be?
As an aside, I think we should all get together at the Toll House one more time, like the old days … I think she deserves that much.
Writer’s Workshop: A Mother’s Reckoning
18 hours ago