Willie and I have been playing pool over there every Thursday for the last twenty years . Bill joined us , at some point ; and then Daniel . Victor has been the bartender all of that time . Victor knows how to pour a Guinness . Willie claims to have taught him how . Maybe he did .
Tim , the owner , is always there , sometimes practicing his golf putt in the back , or wandering around shaking hands and smiling . Tim , by the way , pours a lousy Guinness. You have to let the frothy dark liquid settle , and then fill the glass a little more ; and , then , do that again . Victor can pour it to the rim . But not Tim .
As it happens, Tim has two silent partners who have had enough . They’re the ones who insisted on selling . The church what bought the place , it seems , is now located on the new Metro tracks and , therefore, needs to get out .Time marches on .
No more Guinnesses or games of cutthroat or 8-ball . No more masse shots . We’ve been brushing flakes of ceiling plaster from the table for years ; but there will be no more wondering when the whole roof will come down . It’s all coming to another end .
The building was built as a J.C. Penny store in the 1920s . It’s a huge space . But , it’s is bad shape . Crumbling . I can’t picture a church in there . Maybe the whole thing will be torn down and rebuilt . If only a a few cosmetic repairs are done before the congregation takes over —– Good luck ! It’ll truly be in God’s hands at that point .
And sometimes ……..
I once drew a cartoon of a conference table ; various faces around the table ; a mouse walking away from the table . Above the mouse was a dialog balloon : ” Well , Dan , you’re out of here .”
I was experimenting with drawing cartoons at the time . The faces around the table were all of the faces that I could draw . I’m not sure about the mouse ; not sure it made any sense . Maybe Freud or one of those guys could figure it out . Drawn on a piece of cardboard cut from a box , I put it up high on the wall in the teacher’s conference room at the grammar school where I was teaching at the time . My idea was to , possibly , stimulate some interest in cartooning . Maybe some of my colleagues and I could get the kids interested and we could develop a school-wide project . Could be fun .
I hadn’t mentioned my plan to anyone . Somehow I imagined that curiosity would slowly develop . Where’d that cartoon come from ? What’s it all about ? There’d be buzz around it . Then , at some appropriate point ,when enough interest had developed , I’d spring my plan .
But , inexplicably , my cartoon drawn on the piece of cardboard vanished from the wall . I asked the school secretary about it . She was the person who spent her days near the room where the cartoon had been . No , she knew nothing about the disappearance .
The next day the principal sent me a ” See me ” note . So , I showed up to her office after school .
” Close the door , ” she said . I heard the ominous tone of her voice and wondered . Something serious . ” Sit down ,” she said , with a cold stare , and pointed to a chair . I did . There was only one choice of chair . There was no bright light shining down on it ; but there could have been , by the look of how it was placed . She slowly sat down behind her heavy desk . Suddenly I was the nail waiting for the hammer . But , why ? I felt like the mouse noticing just a moment too late the trap springing shut .
There were then a few choreographed moments of silence as the principal stood . From behind her back she suddenly took my cartoon and raised it above her head . Her voice had risen in volume : ” What is this ? ” she demanded . She held the cardboard high in both hands .
How should one react ? I didn’t have any idea . I suspected that had I unwittingly taken that bait a swinging metal arm would have swiftly snapped my neck .
” A cartoon ,” I said . What else would one say ? It was a cartoon .
” I know some of the people but I don’t know everyone , ” she said . Had she hissed those words out from between clenched teeth ? I think so . She was trying to control her rage .
All that I could think to say , in my astonishment , was , calmly as I could : ” Who are they ?”
” There’s me !”, she said , pointing to one of the faces . ” And there’s Reynold .” Reynold was the vice-principal of the school .
” They’re nobody ,” I said , as soothingly as I could . ” They’re just faces .” Unless you count the mouse , I thought , which had my name written all over it ; but I kept quiet about that .
” And I’m not sure of some of the others , ” she said .
If she were a cartoon , I suppose smoke would have been coming out of her ears at that point . I sat there wondering how best not to provoke any more paranoia . Should I tell her about my idea for a school project ? I guess I did . Maybe I didn’t . I don’t remember . I remember the feeling I had at that moment , though . It was like talking to a patient in a mental ward , trying to sound calm and reassuring in the face of a breakdown . Trying to sound like : It’ll be alright . It’ll be alright . Just take a deep breath .
I still have that cartoon cardboard somewhere in my garage , I think . I gave up my plans for a cartooning project at school , though .