Big Night

When I arrived at the Silver Spring Metro Station last night, I was going to go home… and then I realized it was Friday. I got on the circular intending to go to the movies, but I saw this restaurant that I’ve been meaning to try for ages since it’s in the same building as Vesta. I knew that I would make friends if I sat at the bar, so that’s what I did. After I took off my coat and got settled, I realized that the bartender was trying to sell a couple on Old Overholt, and I chimed in that I thought it was the best rye you could buy, with an amazing price point. The bartender gave me a grateful look and poured me a shot on him. I asked him for a PBR to go with it, and he said, “want to try a local beer?” I said, “sure,” and he brought me something that tasted exactly like PBR in a different can. I’m pretty sure it’s all Miller High Life with a different label. Lone Star, PBR, doesn’t matter. I don’t remember the name of it, but it was an excellent back. Then, every time he opened something expensive, he gave me a taste of it. I sat there for three hours, enjoying the man sitting next to me, head of the National Association of Black Journalists.

We got to talking, and he’d actually spent quite a bit of time in Houston, because Kirbyjon Caldwell (pastor of Windsor Village UMC) was one of his fraternity brothers, as well as Melanie Lawson’s dad (I forget his name) that’s pastor of Wheeler Ave. Baptist Church. He had connections to TSU, and I told him that he was right down the road from me when I lived in the dorms at UH. He told me to let him know when I was ready to go on to grad school at Howard, because he had connections there, too. He’s a bachelor, so he has dinner at this bar almost every night, so I know I’ll see him again. I asked him who his favorite black journalist was, and he gave me a name I should have written down. I don’t remember who said it, but it’s true that “the biggest lie we tell ourselves as writers is that we’ll remember it and don’t write things down.” He told me that this journalist was friends with Ta-Nehisi Coates, who has become my favorite black journalist, coming from the Washington City Paper and gone on to write several thought-provoking books. He was on the Diane Rehm show recently, and if you can catch that episode, you’ll fall in love with him, too.

After that, his friends came in, and I shot the shit with them, as well. I get along with old black men. We’re all funny together regardless of race or age, because I honestly believe I’m just an old man stuck in a relatively young woman’s body. 😛

The man sitting next to me (I think his name was Darryl) was thrilled that we knew people in common (or at least, I knew *of* them since Kirbyjon and my dad were in the same conference when my dad was a pastor and there are very few Houstonians who’ve never heard of Wheeler Ave. Baptist since Melanie is a famous news anchor). He introduced me to everyone in the bar, even the chef, and that was amazing because we talked about lamb chops and how he was going to finish them. When he said “espresso,” I was in.

As for my own dinner, I had chicken salad on top of cheddar Sriracha biscuits, and a deconstructed Boston Cream Pie for dessert. It was one of the best nights I’ve had in a long time, and I think I made an actual, let’s go out and do something friend with the bartender, who is also a stand-up comedian. I asked him who his guys were, and he said Louis C.K. and Steven Wright…. both excellent influences.

At the end of the night, I paid out and gave him a $20 tip, because that’s what you do when the bartender lets you explore his drinks for free. If someone gifts you $50 worth of tastings, leaving a regular tip is just mean. I’ve worked in restaurants long enough to know that much. And besides, I haven’t gone out to eat in months, hoarding money and ready to give up another night of eating a peanut butter sandwich and going to bed. It’s not something I’ll do again any time soon, but it was good to take a night off from complete isolation.

It doesn’t happen often that the bartender becomes your real friend, but because I’ve worked in the service industry for so long, we had a lot to talk about, and we were both passionate about high-end alcohol, because as I told him, I would rather have one perfect shot of something expensive than five shitty ones, and he agreed wholeheartedly. I was feeling stuffed up, and he noticed. He said, “so, can I make you a hot toddy, or would you like to try a beer laced with red chilies?” I opted for the beer, and it was so good that I ordered a pint. As he handed me my check, he told me that he’d rung up this outrageously expensive beer as a PBR can. See? That’s why you overtip the bartender. He didn’t have to be that nice, but he was.

After I paid out, I Ubered home and looked at Facebook. Kristie was watching The Godfather, so I put it on as well, and fell asleep during Michael’s homecoming. I cannot say enough how this one evening lifted my spirits, pun intended. It was a God moment, this wandering into a bar on an off-beaten path and genuinely meeting people I’d like to see again.

Especially someone that could make it possible for me to get into grad school a lot easier…. divinity school, in fact.

But when I looked around, I realized that divinity was already here.

Amen.

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