When I was about ten years old, I got a great pair of sport shoes for my birthday. They were blue, white and red suede, heavenly soft, and a tad too big (an unimportant couple of sizes, maybe). I ignored the last fact courageously. These shoes became a prolongation of my feet: I rode my bike in them, walked my dog, played tennis, went to school. Only at night my mother forced me to pull them off (they slept under my bed, nonetheless).
At some point my feet and the sneakers made a perfect match. Then my body (but not the mind!) started to grow weary of this relationship. I still have a neat size 38 now, but those days it was no consolation. My favorite shoes became too small for me (mind you, we are talking early nineties here, early post Soviet time and space, finding ANY pair of shoes was a challenge, not to mention the soul-mate pair). I bravely ignored reality (I still do it quite often), and the pain in my toes. But there was no way out of it: I had to let them go. I wiped off the tears, pampered my beloved sneakers over a boiling kettle one last time, and stored them for good.
Yesterday I lived an adult version of that story (minus the crying). I had to let go. You see, I had a hobby: I was tending a bar in a little theater in a little town. The job didn’t pay money-wise, but it paid in so many other ways, that money didn’t matter. Washing glasses by hand didn’t bother me much either (friends, artists, and musicians would sneak at the back to chat and gossip near the sink). We had beer and a few wines on the list, and we had people who loved the place. No one minded wax-covered tables, and windows, darkened by candlelight smoke. The Place Had Soul.
Of course, someone had to pay the rent, we made almost no profit. So, a rescue plan was designed, walls were painted, wax was scrubbed off, dishwashers installed, cocktail bottles arrayed, and a maitre d' was hired. Everything is very professional now, very business-like. Hearty laughter was duly replaced with orderly polite smiles (and occasional barks). But it’s not all bad, mind you. There is a great food, grand choice of wines, and if you come with a good company, you won’t be disappointed. It’s the lonely hearts who suffer from the improvement. Soul is not on the menu, not yet.
I am almost sure the place will grow a new old spirit, the paint will chip here and there, and new people will become old customers. Will I see it grow? I don’t think so. From a corner table, hiding behind well-measured glass of red wine once, maybe. I will miss the “other side”, being behind the bar. This magic imaginary line, that makes you invisible to some and indispensible to others. It’s been a good one and a half year and it’s time to move on.
Have a nice weekend everyone,