A lot of people don’t understand why I go to the Harp as often as I do.
One common reaction is absolute confusion. "Why are you going to there again? There are so many more things to do in southern California. You can surf, ride, ski, snowboard, jog, spend time with family, catch a game. Why go to the same bar yet again?" Yeah right, all those other options sound very appealing.
Another common reaction is vague or explicit disgust. "Do you have a drinking problem? Are you a bit of a lush?" Which you might consider to be downright rude. And you'd be right.
They simply do not understand what it is like to be a regular at a local pub. It’s more than just drinking, it’s more than just having a pint with the boys, it’s more than yourself, much much more.
To be a regular at a local pub is to be part of a family. There is no definitions on who we, the family members, are. We are old, we are young. We are married with families, we’re divorced, we’ve been single for years, we’ve been dating for years. We work in computers, construction, universities, science labs, the shopping mall. We’re Republicans, Democrats, No Party Affiliation. We are atheists, Christians, Jewish, simply Spiritual. We are meat eaters and vegetarians. We love and we hate but we are family.
To be a regular at a local pub, you would have to understand that it’s more than just a pub; it’s a public living room. We have the chairs we prefer. We know where things are. You could not be a regular without knowing each bartenders name, where they keep the extra paper towels, what shelf the champagne is on, what band is playing on Thursday night, who went home with who last Sunday. To be a regular is to listen and care that the bartender lost her dog in a fire and know that if you get too drunk that night she will drive you home after her shift. To be a regular is clearing up glasses and wiping down tables if the bartenders are too busy. It’s being able to order two chicken strips and ¾ of a pint of lager when it’s not on the menu. It’s having a tab that you forget to pay that day without anyone worrying that you aren’t good for it.
Some think of regulars at local pubs to be alcoholics and drunks. To be fair, some of us are. However, most of us are not. A regular will still come to local pub when they are on the wagon. That isn’t to say that regulars don’t get drunk, we certainly do. But that isn’t the reason why we are there; it’s an occupational hazard of the lifestyle. Regulars will stop in for one on their way to somewhere else, or they’ll spend the afternoon. Drinking isn’t what defines a regular. A regular becomes a regular to be a part of that pub family.
Being part of this pub family means that we are intertwined in each other’s lives just like any other sort of family. We’ve met each other’s children, we’ve helped each other move, we visit each other in the hospital. We rejoice in each other’s successes, and tease each other’s failures as only a family would do. We gossip, we support, we laugh, and we cry.
When we lose a member of this family it affects us all. If we are lucky, we lose members of our family because they move away. If we are lucky, we lose them to the birth of a new child. If we are lucky, we lose them to a change in their life that states that they don’t need us anymore. A lost pub family member is never truly lost this way; there is always a chance we will see them again. Sometimes, however, we lose a family member in the worst way possible.
Paul Holden, a.k.a. Vitamin Paul, a.k.a. Bababooie left the pub family this past Thursday afternoon. He was a character in the best and worst way of the word. He made us laugh, he made us crazy, he annoyed us. We knew Paul like only a pub family could. He had two beautiful children. His first ex-wife once hit him over the head with a cast iron frying pan. He believed in aliens and the British S.A.S.. He could consult us all for hours about the perfect pillow top mattress to buy only to go out and get an air mattress instead. If you were a woman, he’d hit on you. If you were that same woman, you’d laugh at his efforts, decline, but still buy him a beer. He had a tattoo of the Rolling Stones tongue on his butt which he wouldn’t mind showing you. He was 44 and still lived life like he was in his 20’s. Paul died doing what he loved. He loved the ocean and he loved body surfing. He had moved down to the peninsula this past spring and went out surfing every day. The ocean took our brother and our friend. It’s hard to grasp that he’s gone. He will not, could not, ever be forgotten.
I miss you Paulie.
If any of you knew Paul, please leave a Paul story in the comments.