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Tuesday, Dec. 07, 2004
Gosh that was weird.

My aforementioned internet service “provider” just didn’t service me well at all this weekend. I went through 69 layers of hell to reconfigure this nice new machine, changing all sorts of connections and actions and stuff. Then I call the “provider”, convinced that it was them screwing with me, yet again.

OF: (After a mere 15 levels of hell proving that yes, I am exactly who I say I am) “Say there, I’ve had rather a difficult time accessing you nice folks this weekend. What’s up?” (translation: “You rugs. Get me online this very instant.”)

Mutant from C*x Cable Guy: “Hmmm. I’m seeing you have a signal.

OF: “Yeppers.”

C*x: “Odd. Got Norton installed? The Internet version?”

OF: “Indeedy.”

C*x: “Try disabling it for a second and then log on.”

OF: (Two clicks and some scribbling) “Well shit sticks. Thar she blows.”

C*x: “Glad I could help, see you later” (or something just about that fast).

Which, of course, leaves me wondering just how Norton is going to help with any internet problems when I gotta disable it to get that darn thing working in the first place. Probably why he got off the line so fast, too.

But it’s the first time those sorry lumps ever got anything right on the first try, I can tell you that. A rare day.

I’m taking a day off (talk about rare days) because we are so close to being completely out of busy work at the City by the Bay that there just isn’t any need. Our final role call is to go to the Benefactors house and repair a couple of minor things, but looks like that will be tomorrow. In case you missed the whole setup, and where we have been working for the past 30 months or so, you can try this link. The City Look for the marina and restaurant links, most anything there has been touched by our calloused hands.

The Benefactor wishes a summit, a sit down of sorts tomorrow. I have no idea what that means, except that he owes us money. Money we very desperately need. And I think he’ll be paying, he has to date, that hasn’t been an issue (the amount which we expected versus what we’ve achieved, on the other hand, is very much an issue). I’m likely to have an attitude. But so what? Better yet, so what else is new?

On Friday, Ally and I did what we nearly always do. Eat a cheap dinner out and then go to the Watering Hole for a nightcap. Who says chivalry and romance are dead, anyway?

But we’re sitting there with our mutual favorite bartender in the whole world, our girl Cori. Our married with two kids girl who’s been senior ‘tender for quite a while. And there’s a random group of adults there, sipping their beverages and listening absently to a Cori tale or two. She’s been there for so long, and been so much the pro at what she does that she can kinda lull you into that most fascinating aspect of bar life - relaxation with friends.

So I’m half listening and half following the sports report on the TV and I catch the last half of what she’s been rambling about to Ally. “ . . . . and the week after that we’re moving!”

I swivel slightly in the stool. “Moving eh? That’s nice, need a bigger house after the baby and all. Where to?”

“Maryland, Outfoxed“, she said softly. “We’re moving to Maryland.”

I don’t know what hit the bar first, or harder, my beer or my jaw.

“Maryland? What on earth for? I thought you were getting on famously here! How, when, and why?”

And she started explaining her husbands new job, and how they’d already bought the house and the kids were all excited and they even had the new phone number for godsake! She rambled on and Ally was cooing and excited for her and all, but I was numbing out.

Just who was going to take me out to the gay bar on a Sunday morning now? Who was going to challenge me to mother-hen the new waitress for her when she was not there. Who was going to rush up to me and ask if I wouldn’t mind being a bouncer for a couple hours? Who was I going to run ice for, fetch the odd case of beer from the cooler when she was rushed, or have as a shoulder when things got really bleak in the world and the bar happened to be open?

Cori , and I know my wife reads this occasionally so I’m not making up stories out of school here, is probably the girl I would have married if I’d been ten years younger and not moved down here to the nigh South. She was raised very closed to where I was, knows most of my old haunts, is personable and funny and works her ass off. She is also gorgeous, but that has little to do with anything of course. Even my wife has resigned herself to the fact that this is very likely the wife that would have been, circumstances notwithstanding. And she is remarkably cool about it. Cori and I get along more like brother and sister and I’m not quite so dull as to think anything other than respectful thoughts of her. And the same can be said of her.

But the gay bar story is true.

I wandered into the Joint on a Sunday morning a few years ago with no other purpose in mind that to make my football pick for the week, grab a quick beer and amble on home. Turned out they were having a staff meeting, all the ‘tenders and waitresses were there at the bar and the Greek was in fine form, scolding them about everything from toilet cleaning to chasing drunks and they were just about half listening to him. Somebody snagged my beer and, being the lone customer, I shut up and listened too.

And ever after, Cori would let me in on the next “staff meetings” time since “You’re in here so much we all consider you a staff member anyway” and that was that.

But that first one. Hoo. The ‘tenders were planning a pub crawl and needed a driver. Somehow that one quick beer turned into two and they were buying. And then Cori called up Ally to explain.

Cori: “Ally listen. We need a driver and your man is here with the SUV. Want us to come pick you up or what?”

Ally: “Uh. No. Just don’t let him get naked or anything. You are going, right? I mean, it’s not just him and that bunch of bimbos, is it?”

Cori: “Oh absolutely. I’m babysitting, he’s just driving. Luv ya honey, bye.”

As it turned out, Cori was not babysitting, was probably not even keeping an eye on the wild women in the backseat of the Expedition. They darned sure needed it, but it was Cori who dived into the passenger seat and turned a wicked smiling eye to me, and I was just a little afraid.

OF: “So just where are we going?”

6 Girls in Unison: “The Gay Bar! We’re going to the Gay Bar! It‘s Cori‘s idea!”

There was indeed a gay bar not too far away, the farthest link in the pub crawl, and there was more hysteria in the back seat that at any time since the dog got sick on a road trip with the kids.

I was nursing a beer at the gay bar, but Cori and the girls were well on the way to a state of hilarity seldom equaled in my memory. Shots, well drinks, exotics, you name it. Food? “Ooooh, they’ve got lunch! Lunch at the Gay Bar! Look, they’ve got the Big Girl Plate! That’s for me, the Big Girl!” and on it went. There was girl dirty-dancing and Big Girl plates and another round or six of Red-Headed Sluts. There were several girl calls to Ally, the sort that started with “Ally baby! Come out with us and play! We need fresh meat! Outfoxed? Oh he’s around here somewhere. . . .”

Fortunately, the fact that this was a gay bar didn’t necessarily mean that the proprietors weren’t without mercy to the decidedly non-gay chauffer of big spending girls-about-town, and they kindly let me turn on the TV and watch football in relative peace. Relative, if you could drown out the shrieking from the dance floor and the clamor for more liquor.

The most curious thing was watching Cori. Se drank just as thoroughly as all the rest but I swear, she never once looked or acted inebriated. Not even a little. And I commented to her on this, and she looked at me brightly and said “Well hell, you know. You were raised up North. Guess we’re just made of a little bit tougher stuff than these chickitas here.” I had to admit it seemed likely. And she was a very experienced bartender.

Couple of hours rolled by, and the rollicking road show started over. “To the Skanky Country Bar! Country Bar, let’s go!”

Which, I was not ungrateful to see, happened to be right across the street. But it’s a busy street, don’t you know, and we did have a really nice big SUV.

I was standing in the country bar nursing another one, and Cori was right there next to me. Now the Country Bar was Skanky indeed, there were several tables full of obvious women regulars there, and if you like your wimmen’s trashy, well this was just the place for you. Open flannel shirts and Levi’s, teeth optional. And the rest of my group of ‘tenders were already whooping it up in the back.

“Cori,” I whispered. “Is this like a lesbian country bar? I mean, there’s nothing but country looking women in here. You sure this is a straight place?”

And just about the time I said that, I felt this strong pinch directly on my bulbous derriere. I whipped around to Cori. “Hey, what’re you doing pinching me on the ass?”

“I didn’t do it sugar. But I think blondie over there did.”

She pointed, laughing, to an over-developed blond standing approximately 16 inches from my face, who guffawed and asked Cori, “Sorry honey. I didn’t mean to grab your hubby quite that hard, but it’s that butt. Couldn’t resist, you know?”

“Oh he’s not my husband,” Cori giggled. And the blond raised her eyebrows, smirked just a bit, and staggered forward a half-step. Toward my defenseless ass.

Cori got serious in just over a millisecond. “But if he was, I’d have laid your blond ass out all over this floor for grabbing my husbands butt. Believe it, sweetie. I can kick your ass all over this hick bar.” She had a look in her eye, she did. And Cori does have some serious looking forearms, for one so well constructed. Weight lifting forearms. I’ve seen her in action at the Hole, and I don’t think I’d want to mess with her.

The blond pulled up, huffed a minute, and retreated in a fog of Jack Daniels.

Cori sighed and signaled for another beer. “Jeez. It’s always the same in here. These wimmen are looking for anything with a pulse.”

“Well gosh, thanks,” I said. “My ego needed that.”

“Oh no,” she said, “Not you. “You just look like the type that wouldn’t belt a lady if she was drunk and grabbing your ass. I kinda like that. What if I’d have pinched ya, huh? What would you do then, buster, hmmm?” And she turned on those big brown eyes from standard driving to highway beam.

I took a swig of Coors Lite. “Probably would have let you, and wished that I really was ten years younger. Then I would have told Ally and you and her would have laughed like a couple of hyenas about it for years, oh not-so-wife of mine.”

She smiled that Cori smile. “Right. That’s why I love ya, sport. Cheers.”

A pair of bottles clinked, and all was right with the world.

So now she’s leaving. My buddy, one of the few women I’ve ever felt like was a friend in the way guys can be friends.

She eventually came around the bar last Friday, since I was sitting there in a funk, stewing about this, and it was pretty damn obvious that I was. Another ending, another change in a ceaseless year of endings and change. She came around fast, and had me in a bear hug almost before I knew it.

“I’ll miss you pal,” she said. “I’ll miss you a lot. It’s not that far, you and Ally can come up and see us. Come on, don’t sit there and pout about it.” Her hug was tight, and her voice was breaking just a little.

“Dammit Cori, don’t you make me cry. I’ll make you pinch my ass or something.” I looked at her, and we both knew, that wives are wives, drinking buddies are, well, drunks usually.

But the top bartender? The one you fall a little in love with but you fetch a pail of ice for her, just to cover it all up? The one who gets you to drive to the Gay Bar? The stand up girl who’s got my back, if not my ass?

They’re forever. God, I’ll miss her too.

It‘s easier to find the Guestbook right here. And I don’t do this because I’m lonely and need the compassion of your thoughts. Seriously. Heh.

Thanks for reading.

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