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The Slice

The weather getting colder reminds me

I learned how taverns stay in business when I was about 14.

Not from first-hand experience, mind you. From a story my late father used to tell.

Back when the U.S. attitude about Russia was eloquently expressed by the roar of B-52 engines, my family lived on a now-closed military facility, Kincheloe Air Force Base. "The Kinch" was located on the sparsely populated Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Different people had different reactions to the UP. But once my family drove past a road sign that said "Kincheloe AFB." Beneath that, some local commentator had spray painted "Sucks."

"Got that right," muttered my older brother, who waited until we moved to Vermont before visiting us again.

So anyway, I started playing hockey in this kids league based in nearby Sault St. Marie. All our games and most of our practices were held at a modest arena called Pullar Stadium in the Soo.

But once we found ourselves having a practice at this natural ice rink in a desolate little township out in the country. The place had a roof, but it was extremely not heated.

The night we practiced there, it was Jack London cold. Modern parents would flinch about having their kids exposed to the elements that way. But many of my teammates came from families where the father worked on Great Lakes freighters. Those gentlemen tended to favor the "Sit down and shut up" school of child nurturing.

So my dad dropped me off and went in search of some place to get warm. He looked and looked.

He found a bar that struck him as bleak beyond measure, inhabited by forlorn characters with an utter lack of zest for life. My dad was not a guy who frequented bars. But he stayed and had a drink or two. Just to get warm.

After a bit, he drove back to the rink to see how things were proceeding. Practice was still going strong. So he went back to the bar.

Only now it didn't seem quite so dreary. And the patrons? They had somehow been transformed into hail fellows, well met. A couple more drinks and then back to the rink.

When a bit later my father returned to that little Brigadoon of a tavern, the place and its patrons gave off a warm, welcoming glow. Everyone was eager to hear about how hockey practice was proceeding. The fellowship and drinks flowed freely. Gee, but it was grand to have a cozy place to be on a night like this.

Outside it was still cold. Bitter cold.

Inside, my dad and his new best friends toasted one another and the night wore on.



The Slice

The online home for Paul Turner's musings and interactions with disciples of The Slice.