4362, Bachin’ it in Old Town
February 20, 2015
I was in Old Town Louisville tonight. It’s a simple act – walking downtown. Yet it’s become such a huge part of our life fabric, and something I would never have guessed would become deeply associated with our Colorado life rhythm.
Francine is Back East at her parents’ following the Feb 4 hip replacement surgery her dad underwent. He is getting older and Fran went back as much to give her mother a break as helping him recover, which mostly involves making him something to eat and listening to him tell you that the doctor has never seen anyone as young looking as him or who heals as fast as he does and he scheduled this surgery so he could get the mower running and put the snow blade on it before the driveway got too deep to plow and he had the best strawberries but nobody made him a damn pie and those Ravens better make a trade that strengthens their defense and… Francine and I drove to the airport early on Thursday morning, and she landed in B’more, stopped at Whole Foods in Mt Washington, went to Grauls Grocery, walked down the farmhouse lane in search of the soul portrait that someone had made for me 30+ years ago, (which is long gone, I’m afraid), and then headed to her parents’ house. She texted that night, a little rattled. When we talked earlier today, she seemed to have settled in.
I had a long day today. Then I came back here and worked on the phone for an hour or so. After the last few final emails and a game or two of Solitaire, I shut things down, stood up, and stretched.
Originally, I was going to make dinner here, but now I was hungry and I’d been alone much of the day.
Outside, the sky was overcast. The clouds had been gathering since morning in preparation for what the weather reporters called an “Upslope” snowstorm. There would be 7”-15” accumulation beginning Friday night through Sunday afternoon, maybe starting as rain. Wearing my black beret, hands stuffed in the pockets of my down coat, I walked the familiar grid to Main Street.
Lots of places were busy, but most everyone inside was in pairs and groups. I sat by myself at the bar in a Mexican restaurant, and had a margarita and some chips. I was on the far right end near the cocktail fruit and napkins, and even though a couple of women made eye contact with me, the guy immediately to my left was trolling fervently, and I was never able to start a conversation with anyone.
Up at the ‘Loo, I sat down at the bar and ordered a Lone Star and some jalapeño poppers. I immediately struck up a conversation with a guy on my right. He was a good conversationalist, and we shared observations on business and family. He was waiting for his wife who was doing errands, and when she finally arrived, he gave her his seat. She was from New Jersey and she and I hit it off instantly. The three of us laughed about our kids (they had three, with the youngest still at home and attending first year college), reminisced about the Atlantic beaches and their importance to my wife Francine and to her, and about how we ate seafood before seeing our parents on a return visit (priorities, priorities). It was a nice conversation, and it really made the night.
The poppers were gone and I couldn’t finish the last inch of Texas lubricant. The bar area was getting louder and crowding up near the bar, so I motioned for my tab, offered him my seat, and we all shook hands and said goodnight.
Out on the sidewalk, our little town was bustling. Families strolled with their children while a group of four women stood nearby, debating where they should eat. They were in their thirties, made up, pretty, and laughing as a few of them smoked extravagantly. Across the street, a Suburban was idling in the northbound travel lane while three women piled out in front of The Empire. The driver was a middle aged woman with dark hair, and she saw me smiling and blew me a kiss. I blew one back. She pulled away after the doors slammed shut, but not before making a surreptitious gesture for me to stay where I was.
A few seconds later, I was heading south on Main, turning left on Pine, and crossing the street to Sweet Cow. The place was jumping, and it was at least 15 minutes before I had my Super Delicious Vanilla and Mint Chocolate Chip in a flat-bottomed cone. I made my way through the hyper-sugared kids as they laughed, chattered, and revolved on the bar stools, down the little ramp, threaded through the beach, and arrived at the street corner.
A train blew its horn and crossed Pine heading north – 3 orange electric diesel locomotives leading the way. I watched for a few seconds, deciding in the end that I didn’t feel like counting the cars. As I watched, a faint tickle hit my nose, and I stared up at the street light to see the gentlest fine flakes of snow just starting to settle downward.
By the time I reached Main, the snow was easily discernable and the sidewalk was starting to dampen.
When I turned west on Walnut, the lights of Main receded, and I could feel the snow on my face but not see it until I neared the pole light at the corner of Jefferson and Main, at 701 Walnut. It was very hushed going north on Jefferson. The sky was low and soft, the paper wrapper that had been around the base of my ice cream cone was crushed in my left pocket, and when I turned the last corner, I sent out a silent prayer of thanks to the driver of the Suburban who briefly flirted with me.
I hope you have a great evening with your friends, that you have someone to love, and that later tonight, you arrive home safely to that person who awaits you.
I thought about calling Francine, but it was past 9:30pm here. It would be late there and plus, she should be free to experience her present without me interrupting too much or too often. I pictured her thinking about her past in that crazy house and alternately wondering what the future held for her parents. I hoped that she would also give herself the gift of being utterly in the present moment to feel that disorienting now-ness that can be so elusive.
Like standing on a sidewalk along Main Street on a random Colorado Friday night in February.