10:47 in the morning, February 5th. I wander into the bar/restaurant, Kroll’s West. The bar is dimly lit, almost like an old school lounge, with rope lighting lining the stairs and wooden railings. Forest green carpet covers the floor. On the outsides of the room are tables. In the middle stands a long circular, almost rectangular bar. Up a couple of stairs is a dining room.
“What can I get for you?” asks the barkeep.
“Gin, tonic and a lime.”
The barkeep, a woman in her mid-thirties with short blonde hair, goes about filling my drink in a rocks glass with little glass bubbles along the bottom that keep it from sliding away.
“Need another, John?” she asks an old man on the end of the bar.
John finishes his 10oz glass of beer and says, “Yeah.” John is in his late sixties, portly wearing some regional baseball hat of sorts puffing on Pall Mall menthols.
I’m 26, absorbing every word and action. I owe the great editor a piece by 1pm. I have no idea what to write about so I figure I’ll let the locals write one for me. My project for the day.
The speakers blurt out, “Ain’t that a Shame.”
An larger waitress walks up to the bar and says to the barkeep, “I lied. Not in a bread bowl. Just with Texas toast? No Jerry today? That’s odd, isn’t he the first customer everyday?”
The barkeep looks about quizzically, scanning her patrons. “Yeah, he is late,” she glances at her watch. “Usually he’s here at quarter to at the latest.”
The waitress, with her brunette hair and black rimmed glasses, turns to John, “You’re here early too. Aren’t you usually here in the afternoon?”
“I had to get my license renewed,” he informs her.
A license? I don’t even have a valid license right now. I didn’t even get here legally, breaking my $750 signature commitment to the judge. This cocktail is a second violation of my signatory rights, but that’s another tale.
“Making it an all day affair, huh?” she laughs heartily.
“Oh no. No. No.”
“It’s Now or Never,” done Elvis style, rocks out above me.
Another waitress wanders around the room taking orders at the various tables. She’s cute, petite, roughly 5’2” with short dirty blonde hair down to her chin. She has pale skin. I feel like I know her, or maybe that I should know her.
An ex-girlfriend I haven’t heard from in ages texts me:
Hey how are you doing? Lindsay asks. We saw each other on and off for about a year, 4 or 5 years ago.
Always interesting miss, I reply.
That’s good sir.
I guess. I think it’s a bit of a disaster.
Why is that?
For some reason I felt the need to pass through the looking glass and enter wonderland.
Ah i see.
Up the stairs from the sunken bar floor stands a silver beer cooler with a sign above, Locker Room it states. Lining the room are new LCD televisions with breaking news from a sport that just ended its season with a “triumphant Stillers title. Each TV plays a different cousin of the ESPN family. As I take inventory of the bars décor I realise that there is no off-season in Green Bay. Football is the one thing they’ve got as evidenced by the 8-foot Lambeau Field picture on the wall, which before renovation would have replicated the real thing across the street out the window. Mirroring the shape of the bar from the ceiling is a carpet football field with flood lighting every scaled down 10 yards.
“Mr. Tambourine Man” begins to play. Bobby D, Bob Dylan. There’s this beautiful girl lately who’s got me listening to Dylan and Gordon Lightfoot. She’s the reason I leapt into this wonderland, but we don’t have time for that.
The barkeep strolls past; Her nametag says Vickie. My phone begins fucking up and a stupid hourglass keeps rotating. I pull out the battery and replace it, attempting to restart the overloaded technological wonder.
“Find a new job?” John asks Vickie.
“No, not really. Been thinking about lollygagging maybe for the rest of this year,” Vickie answers.
It’s February. That’s 10 months of nothing. Kind of early to give up, isn’t it?
“Another drink?” Vickie questions me.
“Yes, please,” I reply.
My waitress wanders behind the bar to get herself a soda-pop. I notice that she doesn’t have dirty blonde hair at all, but rather it’s a sort of dyed reddish blonde. I can see her lips are a hint of red that stand out from her soft pale skin, accenting her choice in hair distortion.
“So what are you up to today, John?” Vickie asks.
“I had to get my license renewed today. I always pick one project a day, then I’m done. I’m free. Tomorrow I’ll get my car washed.”
“Tomorrow’s project, huh? To get your car washed.”
“Only You,” blasts on, declaring a love-struck era.
My phone comes back alive, verifying its security settings, and begins to shake on the bar top.
How’s the writing? Lindsay asks.
I’m actually sitting at a bar doing some right now.
Sounds better than what I’m doing.
Perhaps, what are you doing?
I know that she’s probably right, unless maybe she’s having sex, but then it can’t be very good if she’s texting me.
A tax return, you win.
You’re right. I do win, but I knew that. Maybe you should do something else.
No in some strange way I like it.
Yeah in a masochistic way.
Maybe a little. What ya writing?
Not sure yet I can send it to you when I’m done.
What’s your email again?
Vickie drinks her coffee while chatting with John, and a business man in a dusty beat-up wool suit chats up and hits on my waitress. He’s asking her about her hair colour and telling her how it reminds him of his daughter’s.
I finish up my drink, put on my overcoat and scarf, and head out. I drive away and thinking about John and his one project a day. Maybe I’ll retire today and go help John wash his car tomorrow and come on down to the bar for a couple 10oz beers too