Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Calhoun's, late 80's

If y'all don't know by now, I'm a middle-aged lady who fancies herself as having a colorful past. Well, the part I can REMEMBER is pretty colorful, anyhow.
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For some reason I want to talk today about a part of that past life, in which I worked at a place called Calhoun's. Next to a gig at Jess's Quick Lunch, it was the best place to work downtown. I was making ends meet while doing a T.A. in the biology department and being paid $500 a month for the honor.
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Yep, The Tiff did the cocktail waitress/bartender/waitron thing, slinging 2-dollar pitchers on Mexican night and hanging out with the DJ on Reggae night and occasionally bartending on Friday Happy Hour (the FIRST female bartender Calhoun's ever had, thanyewverymuchforasking), and having, mostly, a blast.
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It was a sweet, sweet gig, because Thursday through Saturday we had live music, for which some of the best bands in the area got booked to play; we got to drink for free (one drink before the shift, one during, and a veritable free-for-all after closing); the place was PACKED with young singles out for a good time; the tips were superb because the bar was frequented by other food-service workers (the dudes from Pargo's KNEW how to tip!); and if a really great song was being played nobody cared if the waitstaff took a time out to cut a rug or two.
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I learned how to load up a bar tray in one hand while carrying bills for change with the same hand, keeping the other hand free for serving and making change and fending off ass-grabs from drunk townies and frat boyz. I learned to love reggae and blues and ska, and tripped out with TR3 from time to time. I danced like a fiend with my good friend Grant (who, sadly, lost his life to AIDS several years later) when the good tunes came on, goofed around with my buddy Bloggerwannabe (who was the bookie, wait, no, the bookKEEPER for the place) and thought life would always, always, be just this good, surrounded by free spirits and free booze and half-price food.
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And then, in the Spring of 1988, the owners decided to close Calhoun's.
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The weeping and gnashing of teeth could be heard far and wide, I tell you.
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Oh yes, the owners had OTHER plans, which involved opening up a B&B with a full-service fine dining establishment on the ground floor, and oh yes, it was pretty and refined and most of the Calhoun's staff was hired back on as staff in the new place, and it was all about getting ahead in life for them, and that was all fine and dandy, but I mourned Calhoun's.
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Gone would be the smell of smoke and stale beer, the loud music, the dusting of the mostly-dead philodendron that draped almost all the way around the bar walls, the view out to the courthouse clock, the baskets of chips and pretzels, the archeology students who ate dinner off the free Friday buffet, the mix of music and people and drink and youth. All gone.
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We had a "Goodbye Calhoun's"party the weekend after it closed. Fifty or more people who either worked there or who had worked there showed up at a state park to get their groove on one last time. Some of us would come back together at the B&B, but none of us would ever have that place back. It was all gone.
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Many many years later I went back to the college town to see the women with whom I had lived for a couple of years during college. I was thrilled to see that Calhoun's had reopened, and was determined to make a visit to the shrine of a part of my youth. I was excited to see that the logo was the same, and eagerly anticipated showing my husband the spot wherein so many memories were made.
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But, it was gone.
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My darkly green brass and glass cozy warm Calhoun's had been ripped out, and in its place was installed a shiny bright version of a small-town brewery and ale-house, with slippery floors and bright lights and muzak and imitation old-time stuff on the walls. Upstairs, where all the action used to happen, was a tiny loft bar, big enough only for a dozen or so people, so different from where two hundred or more used to dance and sweat and drink and smoke and celebrate being alive.
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All gone, not even shadows left of what used to be.
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This past weekend I found the tee-shirt that was given out at that long-ago going-away party. It's a little ripped, and a little faded, but I'm thinking of framing it anyhow. It's all I really have left, and I want it to last forever.
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Or is that silly?
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Note to young bloggers and readers out there who didn't have the luck to be of age during the 80's. Sorry about that. You missed a hella good time.

11 comments:

mr. schprock said...

It is NOT silly. It is symbolic of a fondly-remembered part of your past.

Of course, I wouldn't go putting it up in the living room over the mantel.

tiff said...

Mr S - Crap - I'll have to re-think the whole decorating scheme. :>

Beth said...

I grew up during the 80's and must agree. It was quite the time to grow up and I have the scars to prove it. =)

Deb said...

That's not silly at all! It sounds like it was a fun place to work. You have a great memory of it. You might as well preserve the tee shirt and keep the memories alive. deb

tiff said...

beth - the hair! the clothes! the drugs! the music! it's a wonder I made it through, really. :>

deb - i just wish I had pictures!

kenju said...

No, no. no! It is not silly! The places we spend our young lives and have the most fun ought to be preserved forever! Frame that shirt and enjoy the memories everytime you look at it.

Wordnerd said...

Not silly at all! Frame it. I'm sure it tells more stories than some pictures do! Thanks for sharing -- you brought us there.

rennratt said...

Frame it - and hang it where you darn well please. I worked in a house bar back in college, and miss it to this day. If I still had the shirt, I would frame it. MY 'Calhouns' was called Cap't Te'ase. It sold after I graduated - and has since closed.

tiff said...

kenju, WN, Renn - I shall frame it, and perhaps take a photo to post on this hyar blog.

Renn - the name of your bar is hysterical.

rennratt said...

I REALLY wanted to work at the redneck joint up the holler. It was called...

The Chat 'n' Chew.

I kid you not.

Years later, I worked at...

The FILLING STATION!

tiff said...

renn - see? More stories for your blog!