Sunday, September 26, 2004

There's a bar on 15th Street in Philly called McGlinchey's. It's a pretty big room, popular with the older punk rockers on the weekends, with notoriously cheap prices. The place is dank and dark, and even when it's full you can't help but runkle your nose at the persistent aroma of stale spilled beer, brown cigarette smoke, and body odor. When I moved to Philly in 1999, you could get a pint of black and tan (Yuengling lager mixed with Yuengling porter) at McGlinchey's for a buck sixty. I dropped by this past friday night to meet a friend, I hadn't been there in years. I got a pint of Yards for $2.90: I don't know what they're pouring black and tans for these days, but a Yards typically costs $4-5 a pint. I grinned. Still the cheapest joint in town.

I was introduced to McGlinchey's a few weeks after I arrived in the city, and began riding out almost every night to suck down a few beers. I didn't know anyone here at the time, and sought solace at the bar: it may be a roomful of strangers, but it beats sitting at home in front of the TV. The bartenders never talked to me, other than to ask me what I was drinking, and I didn't make any attempt to talk to them or the other patrons for that matter.

One Tuesday in early March, I braved bitter winds on my bike, arriving at McGlinchey's around 10:00. The bar was nearly empty. At 28, I was the youngest guy in the place by a good twenty years. I pulled up a stool at the west end of the bar and motioned for a black and tan. I sipped slowly from the mug, glancing around the murk at my neighbors. Every single man and woman had a mug in front of them, a pack of smokes and an ashtray sitting nearby, and a smoldering coffin nail dangling from their lips. Nobody looked at anybody else, eyes as glazed as donuts. Those two guys had just gotten off the late shift. That guy was avoiding going home to his wife. That woman had no one to go home to. Everybody smoked quietly and drank beer. Some old blues music was playing quietly on the jukebox, the slow mournful stuff, the John Lee Hooker stuff. I drank my beer and let my eyes frost over.


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