The Place

There are many places. Places you’ve been to eat, places you’ve visited for fun and profit, places that you hate. But there is only one Place. Maybe two, if you’ve moved around a lot, but usually just one. The Place is where you met friends during high school or college, hung out and had fun. Some memories of The Place are fuzzy because you tended to be drunk there a lot. The Place is always there, in the back of your head, ready to tickle forth a memory of something that was funny, or sad, or weird, or often a little bit of all three. You know that if you go back to The Place at any given time, you’ll likely see someone you know. An old friend, an old lover, perhaps even an old enemy. Chances are, they will be there in the Place, knowing that someone will eventually come in and begin to share in the memory of what was.

I had a chance to visit my Place this weekend, occasioned by the marriage of a friend. My Place is what I think of as a True Place. I can go there any given night of the year, drink beer and shoot pool and know that I’ll see someone that I was or still am friends with. Sitting there late on the Saturday before the wedding after God only knows how many beers I began to think about everything I’d seen or heard in The Place, all of the friends and acquaintances and crazy goings on and decided that someone needed to memorialize my Place before the memories are lost to time. I saw people that I haven’t talked to in better than 10 years that night.

So now, while I’m still alive and my memory is pretty good I’m going to relive in words some of the things that strike me vibrantly about the Place. It’s about time since I came to the realization that I’ve been going to The Place for nearly 20 years. I’m going to share memories, some of which are probably better left quietly buried. There will be funny ones, sad ones, and ones that are important to me, but probably not to anyone else.

I will not tell the name of The Place, and everyone’s name has been changed, mainly because a few of my Place-mates read these boards, and probably wouldn’t want me to put their names out here for your consumption. Most of the stories will at least note what year they occurred, and I’ll try to be as chronological as possible, but I’m occasionally fuzzy on that, so don’t spaz if I don’t put a date down. I’ll try to be coherent. I’m happy to answer questions about any of the events or people you read about here. I hope that you find it enjoyable, though if not enjoyable, at least readable.

A note: These stories are true. They contain drug use, violence, adult humor, and a bunch of stuff that isn’t suitable for young children (and even a few adults), so if you’re easily worried, offended, or just plain looking for a reason to get pissed off go away now. I don’t know how much of the history I’ll share. I’ve got a lot of memories of The Place and I might tell you all of them, I might tell a few and taper off because I lose interest. Please feel free to inundate me with feedback.

** The Place**

In this episode: A little history, some description, and a brief introduction to the owners of The Place.

The Place is a large warehouse that was built near the train depot in the town in 1902. It acted as a warehouse for goods that were shipped via rail lines to various parts of the country. During prohibition a huge cellar was built secretly beneath the foundation of The Place. For a while the cellar acted as a secret bar and distribution point for alcohol, and the front for The Place was still to act as a warehouse for goods that were being shipped via rail. The Place was raided and closed sometime in the mid-20’s and seized by the government. For the next 20+ years The Place was a government warehouse for surplus furniture and equipment. In 1945 The Place was put up for sale as surplus government property and was purchased by an antiques dealer. The Place was sold as-is, and still contained a huge inventory of government equipment, much of which was stored in the cellar. The antiques dealer ran his business for many years, finally dying of a heart attack (in The Place) in 1964. The dealer had no family, no partners, and no one to leave his estate to, so The Place was again in government hands. It was put up for auction again and purchased by two friends, Ben and Jerry, who grew up in the town which hosts The Place. The Place was opened as a pool hall in late 1965 by Ben and Jerry.

Initially there were two pool tables, three dartboards, and a small bar that served Guinness bottles, a home made beer, a local home-made whiskey (for some customers), and water. The taps were added in 1969. The Place struggled to survive well into the mid-70’s. Ben and Jerry lived in the back area of The Place and put every dime they made working at other jobs into The Place to make it more attractive to potential customers. The bar is made from the lumber and timbers of a warehouse next door to The Place that was torn down in 1968. It was handmade by the partners, stained and polished with care, and sits there still.

In 1972 Ben and Jerry built a deck that sits along the entire back side of The Place. In 1976 Ben and Jerry moved out of the back room and made it into an area for darts and live music. By 1979 The Place had a whopping six tables, an expanded bar, and an active nightlife. In 1981 Ben and Jerry converted one of the store rooms to a pay play for quarters area with 6 tables and a few chairs. In 1982 the tables were expanded to 8 full size tournament tables and a sitting area along the bar was added. In early 1983 another storeroom was converted into a small kitchen and sandwich area, and The Place began to sell food. In 1984 I played my first game of pool at The Place, at the tender age of 12.

So I invite you to see The Place as it was then and now. There are four entrances to The Place, though most people only know about three of them. When you walk in the front door you take a trip down a short hallway and the room opens in front of you, yawningly huge. To your right is one of the two back entrances to The Place that lead to the deck. The tables spread across the warehouse floor, though the first thing you see when you enter is the beautiful bar. Behind the bar the wall is lined with mirrors and shelves. In the corner is a shelf that holds one bottle of each beer they serve. The taps are along the rear. The Place serves Bud, Bud Light, Fosters, Harp, Newcastle, Guinness, Sam Adams, and Pete’s Wicked Ale on tap. Bottles of Bud, Bud Light, Corona, Newcastle, Fosters, Harp, Newcastle, Guinness, Sam Adams, Abida, and usually a few specialty beers that Jerry has taken a liking to for one reason or another are available.

Both Ben and Jerry are Irish boys from Irish families, and you see no advertisements or promotional materials for any beer other than Guinness or Newcastle, with one minor exception. One of the Guinness mirrors that hangs behind the bar was broken during a fight in 1987 and was replaced with a Michelob mirror as a temporary measure. Ben decided they should leave it up “so that when someone tries to order a Michelob I can tell them we’re out and offer them a real beer instead.” Both owners believe that anyone who drinks American beer either has no taste or is just a cheap bastard. It is widely rumored that neither Ben nor Jerry has ever tried an American beer. Spend 10 minutes talking beer with either one and you’ll believe it too.

Passing the bar you walk through a small door and into the darts area. Eight dartboards “Real cork, dammit, not those fucking plastic electronic things” are situated along the back wall. To the left is the stage, where local bands can play music. The band room connects to the back of the bar. Many musicians have played drunk in The Place. To the right is the other door that leads to the outside deck. An array of tables and chairs stand between you and the doorway. Walking through the door you are on the deck, which faces a small wooded area. There is parking there, though it isn’t paved (The Place doesn’t have a paved parking area, it’s all gravel). You can’t park along the back deck unless you’re an employee, owner, or friend of either. There is a sign that announces this:


If you don’t work here or own the place, your car will be towed into the street and left there. Parking for customers is around the front.**

I’ve only seen a car towed once, and it was towed to a holding lot instead of into the street, but I still wouldn’t risk it. Get Jerry in there on a night off with a bunch of beer in him and you could wind up with a car that was towed to another county.

Welcome to The Place. Pull up a stool and order a Guinness. I hope you enjoy your visit.

Next: Meet the Kelly’s, Rats in the Bar, A few more introductions.

Sounds like a pretty good place. Don’t know that I have one myself: mine is more scattered in several places around the world, and some of these have come and gone and shifted shapes throughout the world.

A couple of questions, if I may: 1) If they’ve never had an American beer, then how do they know they taste like swill (and in my opinion they don’t all taste like swill, just the big brands, mostly). 2) Is this place in or near Fairfax, or another part of the country?

Can I get a black and tan rather than a straight Guiness?

My “place” an Alaska sadly is no longer there. With a sawdust floor and a couple of hundred thousand business cards on the walls and ceilings, they said it was the one place in Alaska you could rob with a Zippo.

Originally a trapper’s cabin and built in 1904, it had survived the Good Friday quake and countless tremors. The bar leaned precipitously and you had to grab your drink quick when the keep put it down, lest gravity send it sliding down to the left. That was, knowingly, where all the regulars sat.

There was a horn near a window they advertised as the ptarmigan call. Visitors would give it an expectant toot, only to be rewarded with a facefull of the powder lying within.

The jar of boiled eggs was near covered by the sign advertising chicken dinners.

The jukebox was the lewdest I’ve ever heard. We did in fact play The Pussycat Song quite often. I know the words by groin.

In addition to the business cards, there were assorted braws and undies there as wee. Word has it that at times everyone there would just up and get nekkid. Funny sort, those Alaskans.

Of thoses 100,000s of business cards, a highschool friend I’d not seen since happened to look up and find mine. 20 years of separation and he glances at my card out of the bunch. Stuff like that happened at the place.

It’s a pile of ashes and memories now. Nobody tried to rob it, just an electrical short at closing one night. I can still see it clearly, even feel it, and am happy for the opportunity I had to know it better.

Braws? What in the hell is a braw? I’m a frikkin’ retard.

One black and tan coming up.

Shibb and lieu thanks for the comments. I’d like to hear about more people’s Places. I think there’s something a little magical about them.

As for your questions, Shibb, my opinion on the matter is that Ben and Jerry have definitely tried an American brew or two in thier time, after all they serve the occasional microbrew as a “special”. On the other hand, you can’t enter The Place when one of them is there and not see a Guinness in thier hand. I can safely say that I’ve never seen Jerry in the place without a Guinness nearby.

I think that much of thier beer “snobbery” is an affectation, but they both play it so well you’d think that there was only one beer ever made and that everything else is mere imitation. They denigrate every other beer than Guinness, country of origin or taste makes no difference. However, both can tell you more about Guinness and beer in general than you ever wanted to know. The local brew that was served when The Place opened was a family recipe of Ben’s (I think, could have been Jerry).

The Place is not in Fairfax, it’s south of here by about 800 miles.

Hmm, 800 miles south of Fairfax? Directly, I guess that would be Atlantis, but maybe by American reckoning that would be maybe Savannah or Jax? Maybe a little farther into Florida if you do it by the crow. Now I just have to get out a compass and map and go to every bar within a certain radius. Yum.

Maybe I’ll write about some of my adopted locals when I get a chance. I’m a peripatetic sort, so it might be a series. My last real local was a place in Bangkok, so it could get a bit rowdy.

I never had a place. Then again, I’m not much of a drinker or partier. But I’m enjoying your tale - now quit goofing off and write more!!

I had a Place. It’s gone now. I miss it very, very much, and we’ve not been able to find a new one. :frowning:

** 2. )Meet the Sully’s, Rats in the Bar, A few more introductions.**


My father took me to The Place just after my twelfth birthday so I could try out the pool cue I got as a present. I’ve always liked to play pool. My grandparents had a table, and I learned to play a good game early in my life.

The first time I went to The Place was on a Saturday afternoon. Daytime at the Place is completely different than night time. You rarely see a night time regular hanging around The Place when it’s daylight. We’re like vampires, sliding in from the darkness to feed on the atmosphere and slipping away when dawn comes.

The Place was empty that Saturday, and my father and I played pool for four or five hours. Ben was working that day, and gave me a few tips on shooting pool. I had fun, spending a rare day with my dad doing something I loved. The Place was in my blood after that first day, and it became our routine to have a good breakfast and spend a few hours playing pool every Saturday. I got to know Ben and Jerry during this time, and in the manner of all kids, counted them among my good friends.

I introduced some high school friends to The Place on my 18th birthday, because it was my party and my party was damn sure going to be spent shooting pool. I met four friends at The Place that night. Three were brothers, Curly, Buzz, and Mickey Sully. Their parents are Irish immigrants, and the Sullys figured that an Irish pool hall was as good a place as any to shoot some stick. Curly was (and is) the relatively responsible one of the group. He stands at 5’11”, has black hair and the occasional goatee. Buzz is his twin brother, though they look nothing alike. Buzz is about the same height, but his hair is blond brown. Buzz has a talent for drugs and apathy and a much greater talent for art. One of his finest paintings hangs in my house to this day. It depicts a man sleeping in a chair, melting away while dreams walk around his room. Mickey was the younger brother, a black haired, wild kid with a taste for drink even before he was 18 and a chip on his shoulder the size of Texas.

The fourth member of our party was Tolly, a black kid who went to a rival high school. We met Tolly at a soccer game between our high school and his. Tolly played for the other team, and we became friends after spending an evening changing insults after the game. There would have been a fight, because Mickey can’t keep his mouth shut at the best of times, much less during an argument. The fight was avoided by Curly, who respected Tolly’s game, and thus we became friends instead of enemies.

All three of the Sullys played soccer, as did their father, who played professionally for several years. All three have great talent. Mickey lost a full scholarship to college after a night of drinking and fighting. Buzz turned one down, opting instead for some time to paint. Curly took his scholarship and went to college, earning a Masters in environmental engineering.

After a night of playing pool and drinking beer (Ben and Jerry would serve me with a wink and a smile) The Place quickly became our hang out. Other friends began to appear at The Place, encouraged there by us, and kept there by the atmosphere.

Early 1991

It’s Mickey’s birthday. I’m trying to concentrate on my game but it’s not happening, I’m shooting like a first time player. I’m on a tab of acid for the second time in my life; the table is swimming, the balls are shifting shape, and I can’t see my way clear to any kind of shot. The Bar Rats are hanging around our table because we’re drinking free pitchers, have a boatload of weed, and aren’t being shy with either.

The Bar Rats spend their nights at The Place looking for a free drink, a little weed, and someone to love, if only for an instant. I’m flirting in my best tripping way with Debbie, a blond girl with a perfect body and little else to recommend her. She is 4 years my senior and has seen better times and better people than me. It’s only 10, but she’s so drunk she can hardly stand and thinks that every word that falls from my lips is funny. Mickey and Tolly are trying to see who can get Laina, a Mulatto girl with green eyes and soft skin to go out back first. Tolly is winning, much to Mickey’s surprise, but to no one else’s. Buzz has attached himself to Elise (“That’s Ah-leese, dear.”) who is 19 and cute, long black hair dancing eyes and Curly has both Jenna and Marie. Jenna and Marie are sisters, and look very nearly the same, dirty blond and athletic, they’d seen the Sullys play soccer in high school and were infatuated with the one of the three who was going on to play in college.

It’s nearly midnight, and I’m peaking on the acid, watching The Place start to pick up and get noisy. Debbie is nattering in my ear like a bee and the only way I can think of to shut her up is to take her out back and get her even higher. We retire to the porch, where Ben sits with a joint in hand talking to a few of the regulars. I load my pipe and pass it around, I’d licked into some very good stuff and soon everyone is buzzing and high and having fun.

Debbie disappears with one of Ben’s friends and everyone slowly heads back inside; it’s getting late. I sit on the back porch seeing trails in the stars and feeling the edgy bite of the end of a good acid trip. I’m joined by Marie. She’s drunk and stoned and beautiful. She makes all of the moves, and we have sex on the ground down the road a bit, then lay there for a while talking.

When we finally get up and go back to the bar Mickey is on the back porch bleeding from his nose. The contest over Laina became more serious, and Tolly punched Mickey in the nose after Mickey took a swing at him. I leave the two of them there and go inside, where the tables are empty except for one, and the bar is cleaning up for closing.

Next: A few nights, a few people, a few fights

I hope that was fast enough for you Fairy Chat Mom. The biggest problem with something like this is picking which memories to write about and which to leave, then putting it all in some kind of coherent form.

Well, I want it all, now, but I’ll be patient and enjoy what comes when it comes.