The summer after I graduated college, I had a good time. My roommate basically lived at her boyfriend’s; I was single, 20, and in love with New York City. And most importantly, I didn’t have a serious job. Well, actually, most importantly I had friends without important jobs who were available to start happy hour early.
The only reason we were able to while away the extended summer hours of daylight was because a bartender at our bar loved having us there. That meant we’d buy our first drink, and all the rest for the night were free. (I did my best to even the score by getting older men to buy some for me, as well.) And we’re not talking about beer; my friend and I were drinking his special Cosmo recipe. Serious stuff. Knock-you-down-the-stairs-but-you-don’t-bruise stuff.
He was always happy to see us, even when my age and drinking took on a darker hue. At 20, I was a fun, boisterous drunk. At 23, I was getting surly and my bad choices were hot on my heels. By 25, I didn’t go to the bar anymore. But for that first summer, I had a place where I could hang out every night and meet new people or bring in dates and then walk them to the subway and make a beeline back to the bar to dish them. Hell, when I went to visit family for a week I got a call from the bartender asking if I was OK.
He died this week, apparently. This isn’t one of those stories where I bemoan losing touch with him and talk about how short life is; life can be long, and life is filled with people who drift away after meaning something important. So I’m sad, but I don’t regret our abrupt, abbreviated conversation last spring, the last time I saw him. I’m a different person than I was at 20. But I can still recognize the importance of the people and things that were important to me then.