Corner Bar

the cavern cafe - nogales, sonora, mexicoI am heading home for the Christmas holidays and making my mental list of things to glut upon. There’s the holiday food, of course, the peanut butter, the cheese steaks, the meatball sandwiches, and free tap water at restaurants.

But when I come home, I crave something that’s specific to that trip. Each time I come back to the U.S it’s different. Last summer it was grocery stores and baseball on TV. Two Christmases ago it was driving and good pizza. Two summers ago it was the Atlantic Ocean and funnel cake.

This Christmas it’s my corner bar: The Langhorne. The Langhorne is about seventy feet from my parent’s front door, an aspect which surely adds to its attractiveness. It sits right there on the corner of Maple and Bellevue where a black sign tells me it’s been there since 1764. There are neon beer signs in the windows, Open Sunday signs, and a Bud Light banner. It’s been a corner bar for 250 years.

I fantasize about walking through its creaky screen door this week. There are rough wooden walls and Budweiser promoted Nascar posters. The Christmas lights have been hung in a pattern suggesting its inclusion in a drinking game. There are three televisions. One will be, and always is, showing a sport: baseball, football, gymnastics, curling. I don’t know what the others will be showing, since they rotate among several programming formats. Depending on the time of day and situation it could be Friends, Wheel of Fortune, or the news. Any major Philadelphia sports team trumps any of those.

When I get there I am going to do something I never get to do in the Czech Republic – I will belly up to the bar and sit on a stool. Bars in the Czech Republic are where waiters pour beer; people sit at the tables.

The Langhorne’s bar will be sticky from some rail whiskey or Yukon Jack. I’ll order a Miller High Life and maybe a Rumpleminz. And then I’m going to look at the person next to me and talk about sports. Any sport. Any sport but soccer. And I will slowly begin to feel like a character in a Tom Waits song.

There are five bartenders and they all know me. They’ll be excited and chat with me about life overseas, buy me a shot. Even if it’s a bartender I don’t know, they’ll chat with me after cracking my beer and ask what I’m doing these days. They’ll hand me a menu and I will not order something until enough beers blur the line between sensible and risky behavior. Do I really want to spend the next day on the toilet? My dad argues in favor of the Langhorne’s food. My brother, sisters, and I suggest that my dad’s love of it exists in its proximity to our house.

There are games and machines I can’t wait to use. We will throw darts at the electric board. There is the Megatouch machine which beckons my brother and I until we finally cave after about six Millers. We’ll play Photo Hunt, and the crossword game that get more difficult with each sip of beer and each shot. There’s the jukebox which wins our money persistently because it automatically plays either a shit country tune or a shit R&B tune after fifteen minutes of torpor. And for that reason $10 a night goes to fending off this offensive ear noise with classic rock.

I’m even looking forward to seeing the one customer of the Langhorne who I loathe to an irrational degree. Surely, he’ll be there with his stupid face and his stupid baseball hat and his stupid seashore T-shirt and I will loathe him as he chucks darts and acts like the fattest carp in a tire tread puddle. I can deal with him and diarrhea twice a year.

Don’t get me wrong, the Czechs know how to put on a pub. There is funk (but Moe, the funk!), stale air, and the stereotypical drunks at tables. Oh, and the golden liquid that pours out of the taps is ambrosia. But you can’t sit at the bar in Czech pubs, and it’s very unusual for customers to engage each other in conversation. There is not really a bartender, and the waiters drop off your beer and then disappear. There are usually no bar games, no jukebox, and there is no suspense: the food gives you diarrhea.

At the end of the night, when I’ve had enough, I’ll buy an ill-advised six-pack and walk across the street to open a beer and plop into bed. This activity will take all of four minutes.

Perhaps the old man’s onto something; maybe the draw of the Langhorne is that it’s so close to home.

  1. #1 by greg galeone on December 19, 2013 - 3:49 pm

    damo-miller had the right idea when they called it the “high life”. not too shabby. good post and looking forward to Saturday-dad.

  2. #2 by Chris on December 20, 2013 - 5:35 am

    Great blog. A couple things… I know EXACTLY who you’re talking about. Although… I’m surprised it wasn’t another patron.. a sleezier one. Also, There are 4 TVs (not including the one in the dining area). Finally… The bar is over 300 years old. We’ll be there in just a couple dozen hours.

  3. #3 by Jeremy Nicholson on December 20, 2013 - 8:51 am

    Great post. Making me nostalgic for Uncle Jimmys in Pittsburgh, but it’s the kind of thing where I know I’ll never want to go there ever again. All the regulars and bartenders I knew are gone, as well as Jimmy himself. Just not the same.

  4. #4 by Gabrielle on December 20, 2013 - 3:07 pm

    George Washington stayed there during the revolution and it was a makeshift hospital for the hessian soldiers wounded at the battle of Trenton. Also, it’s a place where Piccaris and Galeones gather in the loudest and most humorous commotion this side of the Mississippi. Can’t wait to drink with you guys.

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