The pub was fairly empty when we got there, but it was still early for New Year’s. I didn’t recognize a soul. I ordered two gin and tonics at the bar and sat down with Erica at one of the picnic tables out front. At the one next to us, there was a crew of sloppy drunks, probably all regulars. What happened to all the ten-years-ago regulars? I felt like a stranger there. We drank our gin and tonics while eavesdropping on the drunks, but they had nothing in the way of wit. They knew they were dull, but couldn’t do anything about it except be loud and volume wouldn’t save them. They knew that too. And now I knew why I never became a full-on regular at that bar. It was a magnet for dullards, wet-a-beds, bloviating dillweeds.
When we finished our drinks and did a long circuitous peregrination from pillar to post and from post to the beach. On our way back, we stopped at The Blue Anchor (which I have written about here), and it was around 11 p.m. when we returned. The pub was now jammed with people. I squeezed into the bar, ordered two more gin and tonics, and we stood just outside the front door watching the New Year’s Eve passers-by. While we were standing there, a guy with beard and longish ginger combed-back hair greeted me with a friendly hello, and sat down at one of the picnic tables. The greeting came as a surprise because I didn’t recognize him. I studied his face for moment to make sure. Nope. Never seen him in my life. Erica and I sat down at the picnic table near him and waited for the hour to drum itself down. Meanwhile, the bloviating wet-a-beds who were circumscribing the table-end three hours earlier were still circumstribing, but one was added to their party. This one I recognized, though I didn’t know where from and he looked much older than how I remembered him. He looked tragically older, probably because we were both about the same age, and his aging spoke for my aging. It wasn’t good. We were plants someone left out years ago and forgot to water.
One buzzword I keep seeing nowadays on social media and in marketing campaigns and elsewhere is authentic. Everyone seems to be pushing the idea that the best and most noble thing a person can be is authentic, but I remain suspicious. I would much rather a person be sincere than authentic, given that authenticity more often than not is determined by what’s on the outside.
What was on the outside of the unwatered fellow I recognized gave the impression he was the victim or casualty of a bad marketing campaign for a-u-t-h-e-n-t-i-c-i-t-y. He was wearing (donned or clad in would probably be better terms) a banana-yellow button-down shirt with a long Chinese violet scarf hanging over it. The scarf looked long enough to reach to Miami and back, looping several times around his neck and falling limply to the sad copious trousers which were partially tucked into a pair of elephantskin cowboy boots. But saddest of all was his hairdo. It was done up in thin braided pigtails. Erica said in England they are called ‘plaits,’ so for the rest of the evening, we referred to him as ‘Plaitman.’
At midnight, I was expecting to hear fireworks and raucous shouting and laughter, but strangely, it came and went very quietly. Even Plaitman and his crew seemed relatively subdued. Did the silence forebode something about the coming decade? We started talking to the people sitting beside us, a brother and sister in their fifties.
“Do you guys know Justin? I asked, thinking they were regulars.
They didn’t know him.
“Well, I started coming here fifteen years ago,” I said, and began telling them about the time Justin did the headstand on the bar, but the story was a flop and soon I let it trail off and die. I didn’t want to come off like one of those guys who never lets you forget that he was HERE BEFORE YOU. I told them I was now living in Germany, which got us talking about Germans and the German language and the friendly ginger guy who said hello to me earlier joined the conversation, proving to be just as friendly and genuine as I’d expected. He reminded me of Lucian or Menander, those noble old Greeks you imagined had suffered greatly, but nevertheless were always cheerful, open-minded, and friendly and hospitable to any stranger or fellow-sufferer, the spirit of xenia being alive in all their words and actions. It was this very spirit I wanted to bear with me into the new decade, but unfortunately before I could absorb any more from that hospitable ginger-haired demigod, the UBER we had called had arrived.
“Guten Rutsch,” I told him.
“That means Happy New Year in German,” I said “Literally, good slide… Don’t ask me why.” We laughed and hugged and gave a friendly handshake.
Then Erica and I were off, and I’m not even going to mention the price of the UBER.
Two days ago, when I sat down to begin the first part of this story, I kept getting distracted, first by the news, then by YouTube, the by this that and the other damn thing. Finally, I was ready to get something down, but first (because I was yet completely done with procrastinating) I did a Google search on Justin, thinking maybe I’d find something I could add to my story, or something that would explain his recent deterioration. As I said, the last time he came into our shop was in September, and it was told he looked about 20 years older than how anyone remembered him.
What I found was this: Justin was dead. He died two months ago, on November 16th, age 46.
Here’s a review a friend of his left on the pub’s Facebook page.
In my belief, Owner H— is toxic. Wouldn’t let her ex husband see or speak to his own kids on his deathbed. This is true. He Just died recently of a heart attack I believe due to her ruthlessness and keeping his kids from him. Yet it’s still all about her. Make no mistake. Never was about the kids . Pure evil. She cheated on him with mike and then hated justin lol. Her disgusting texts while he was sick WILL be posted and distributed and you can see for yourself. You want to go to this place? There’s a million better bar owners that could use your support.good people that are kind.
Don’t want to join
(Part 3 of 3)