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They grant no quarter to the trend toward to upscale chain-o-pubs. They haven't changed in thirty to fifty years. They are the constant. Unchanging and unwilling to change. Find them, you will, in the darkened backdrop of All American Avenue's glittering lights. The tall, dark and handsome stranger avoids the rough hewn oak door and heads for the Fridays down the road...

Open that door with care, if ye dare venture forth. Usually the same collection of faces are gathered around the bar. This is the zone of pure, unadulterated regulars. They look suspiciously upon new faces. Who are you to come into this sanctuary from the outside world? Is the snow storm outside wearing you down and you need a glass of beer? Did your car break down? Are you lost?

"No, we don't have no pay phone! Hey! Bathrooms are for customers only!"

Deep breath.

The initial shock does pass, and curiosity takes hold. Their glazed over expressions tell you of lost hopes, wasted dreams and the great emptiness beyond. They sense you possess a glimmer of what is lost. You are a knight. A showman. They wait to see what you might do.

"Hey, he looks a bit like Mikey's boy. You know, his eldest. What was his name again, Georgie?"

You haven't come for the evaluation.
You aren't a witness for the persecution.
Take a seat.
Ask for a beer.
Don't be fancy.
Don't be cute.
Take whatever they have on tap.
They don't like fancy here.

Don't stare too long at the pickled eggs behind the bar... unless you want to eat one. Beware, they've been there some time. Depending on the bar they may date back to the McKinley Administration.

Don't talk politics or religion in here unless you are prepared to agree with the bartender. The waitress, if there is one on staff, is sixty and can tell you about her life as a cook in the Women's Army Corps during the war.

"I could peel hundred taters in an hour, ain't no word of a lie."

Drink your beer. Listen to the conversations. You've discovered a world that never existed to you before. This show has been going on, changing very little, for decades. Every year they discuss the promise of the local sports teams. Each season brings new debates about pitchers and pennants, quarterbacks and superbowls, point guards and goalies.

"Hey, buddy, what do you think? Do the Sox have a shot at it this year?"

Pick your responses to their questions carefully. Don't be smug. Offer courtesy and support, but be realistic. No one likes a smart guy trying to play up strangers for dupes. Offer an honest appraisal with an upside.

"I think if they get another couple of pitchers and they don't get hit with any injuries, they've got a shot."

See, you are starting to fit in. Come back a few times and you'll be warmly embraced. You'll become just like one of the regulars.

"Hey, I gotta get going guys. I have to stop at the hardware store on the way home and buy me a hammer."

If you're going to leave
Sooner is better than later
But if you want to stay
Staying means forever.

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