As I mentioned a couple of days ago, this blog helped a nebbish, socially awkward dork like myself look intriguing and cool to a woman way out of my league. Four years ago, I was lucky enough to get married to her. In honor of that great day, here's the post I wrote on my old blog way back in June of 2006 that caught her eye. It describes the kind of bachelor lifestyle I once enjoyed before discovering something much better.
Before getting into my praise of two of my favorite Lincoln, Nebraska institutions, I'd like to relate some news. The folks in Chicago hired someone else, which means I will be in Grand Rapids next year. I am a bit bummed out about losing a chance to fullfill my dream of an academic job in Chi-town, but at least I won't be too far away from the gang in the 'paign.
Yesterday, after eight grueling hours of grading (this is something I normally do with the stereo on, or while inhaling coffee at Aroma to make it bearable) I joined my friends James, Amy, and the Professor at O'Rourke's for the Professor's regular happy hour, called "Secret Seneca." Yes, he is a classics professor who has a Christian name, but in our crowd he is merely known as "The Professor," a jovial sixty-ish guy with an impish grin, snowy beard, lots of wit, and the youthful attitude of a man divorced late in life. He, like James, can pack away the beer like no one else I know, and keeping up with them last night on an empty stomach after walking several blocks in the hot sun almost put me down on O'Rourke's grimy floor.
Like good friends and good women, a good bar is hard to find. Like a good friend, a good bar is waiting for you when you come back to it, and it picks you up when you're down. O'Rourke's lies in the heart of Lincoln's still beating downtown (it is also the de facto campustown, and the city has restrictive zoning laws, which have kept it going) and is patronized by an odd mix of unalloyed alcoholics, slumming intellectuals, Lincoln's hipster elite, and assorted working folks. It has a really high ceiling that gives the place a certain open-ness that other bars lack, and a good selection of beers while still having PBR and High Life for $1.75 a pint ($1.25 during happy hour.) A chalkboard hangs on the men's bathroom wall that anyone can write on, today I saw many a lament about the 'Huskers' loss in the College World Series qualifiers. Despite my infrequent time in Lincoln, I must have made some impression, because bartenders today and yesterday both told me, "You look familiar," and my only explanation was that when I am in Lincoln, a high percentage of my time is spent at that particular institution.
Related to this, sign of a good bar or restaurant is low staff turnover, and tonight there was a young woman tending bar that I've seen over the last coupla years serving up suds for the drunks. She is a strikingly beautiful blonde with a enigmatic mouth and arresting eyes, but hers is the quiet, subtle, and ultimately superior beauty of the unassuming prairie woman. (Keep in mind, my thoughts on her beauty are only in a purely aesthetic sense, like admiring a work of art or natural wonder.) After she told me I looked familiar (not in any come on kind of way, but out of curiousity) I asked if she was from Hastings, she revealed her hometown to be Hartington, a small town north of Lincoln. At that moment I felt validated, I knew that something so sublime could not have been created in the suburbs or the city.
Enough of that. Yesterday, after getting good and soused at the bar (James kept pouring the pitcher into my glass after I was already wobbly), we headed to our fave Friday night eatery, The Tam o' Shanter, which we've always just called "The Tam." Its low red lighting, shag carpet, and leather upholstery gloriously show off The Tam's status as one of the few remaing steakhouse lounges left. The lounge has become a dying breed, just like telephone booths, the wishbone offense, and competent Democratic politicians. Instead of the steak I had the fish fry special, and wasn't disappointed despite my recent feasting on the real deal in Maine. If you ever go to Lincoln, you must eat there.