A Simple Plan

sitting at a barI really miss sitting at a bar.

I don’t mean sitting in a pub, I mean sitting at a bar. In the Czech Republic’s pubs patrons do not sit at the bar, they sit at tables. The bar is where beers and drinks are poured, split tabs are paid, and bartenders and waiters smoke and gripe about customers.

Tonight, at the Jug Handle (best wings in South Jersey!), we are sitting at the bar.

My friend Jen and I are on the left leg of the U-shaped bar end, so that we are looking across at two women, and flanked by a good-looking couple and two massive meatheads on the bottom of the U. The couple next to us is engaged in quiet conversation and eating wings, the meatheads are drinking Bud Lights with Jack Daniels backs, and the two women across from us give us smiles. Football is on television.

Life is perfect.

Most of the people I know advocate living in Europe. Or at least, they advocate me living in Europe for one reason or another. In the case of my parents, this advocacy is called Resignation to Reality and its exists at the end of a tattered rainbow of attempts to get my ass to move back.

Many think I have a much better life in Europe than they do in the US. And they are – as is the case with most “grass is greener” notions – both right and wrong. In the Czech Republic’s favor, it’s generally more socially liberal and open, there are very few guns, and there is cheap beer. In the US’s favor is better healthcare (if you can afford it), a “can do” culture, and good steaks.

Many people erroneously believe I am free of the uber-stupidity of people such as Donald Trump and Rush Limbaugh. But I can assure you that they are universally suffered hemorrhoids.

None of this in any way factors into the thinking of my friend Jen. Since the day I moved abroad eleven years ago, Jen has advocated a simple policy focused on me moving back to Philadelphia immediately, marrying her, and then impregnating her. I am not paraphrasing or exaggerating, mixed with some vulgarities and a rhetorical question, these are often her exact words:

“Asshole! Move back, marry me, and impregnate me! What’s so great about Europe anyway?”

Jen is not crazy; Jen is essentially a female version of me. Loud, unfiltered, abrasive at times, funny. More than me, she is an artist with the one-liner, a wit maestro who is where you want to be thirty seconds faster than you. We bartended together in Pittsburgh and put on a one-two punch of wit and humor for the bar patrons. We have been good friends since then.

It’s sometime after the third shot of Rumpleminz that Jen starts in on getting me to move back, marry, and impregnate her. She does so at a volume which garners surprised glances from our bar companions. What starts as glances soon turns into interested gazes. Interested gazes soon turns to participation since Jen is not afraid to include people in her discussions.

“Don’t you think he should come back and give me babies?” she asks the woman to our right.

The women’s eyes pop open as though Jen has asked to see pictures of her uterus. In the distraction, I run to the bathroom. When I come back a moment later, Jen has included everyone in her plot. Well, the women. One of the girls across from us ask why I won’t come home and lend my sperm to the plan. The woman to our right outlines a disturbingly organized and well-thought out argument to get me back on US soil permanently.

The men are on my side. The man with the woman on the right is slowly shaking his head and saying aloud, “I don’t know…living in Prague sounds pretty cool.” She glares at him.

“Oh, maybe you’d like to join him?”

I tell him he has a free invitation.

The two meatheads listen with interest in between shots of Jack and  sips of Bud Light. When Jen goes to the bathroom one of them says after a long period of consideration, “I used to love Rumpleminz.”

I decide to view this comment as a show of unity. The argument continues in our U neighborhood, amid a bar buzzing with televised sports and a hundred conversations.

After another shot of Rumpleminz, I slip into a pepperminty vision in which these people are playing out the perennial argument over European or American habitation. The women are building a broad argument for moving back to the US, based on family comes first, work isn’t everything, and you won’t always be able to have kids.

The men are building a more narrow argument based on the idea that living in Europe sounds “pretty awesome” and besides, they have great beer and we have Trump. Even the two bartenders (one man and one woman) get into the mix and their discussion trails off as they tend to other bar patrons.

In the end, our livers win. We have exceeded our bodily limits and it’s time to call Uber for a ride home. Our driver, Noreen, picks us up and Jen quickly lay out her plans for my return. She asks her thoughts on it in general. After a moment, Noreen says:

“I don’t know. We have Trump.”

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