As the holiday quickly approaches, I’m reminded of a time, a time long, long ago, when I lived in Dallas. This particular time was a part of my early years as a writer at TracyLocke. It was there that I would meet my future life partner, Hooker (also known as Hook). We met at work and solidified our friendship at our favorite dive bar, Ships.
During our first holiday together we volunteered at a retirement community off NW Highway. We’d go in on Saturday morning for our “Crafts with Old People” gig before heading over to the assisted living section where we really got things going with markers and puzzles.
The ladies who were part of our crafts group would eagerly await our arrival. We had a great time creating door hangers, posters and ornaments during our subsequent visits. The ladies were a delight and loved giving me a hard time. So much so, I started to question if Hook was coming in the day before to give the ladies ammo for my harassment. Regardless, they were delightful.
My Grandmother and Nana had past away years ago and while I miss them dearly, I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for old people. There’s something that happens when I’m around them that makes me want to adopt them and bring them home. Sure I don’t want to change their diapers or watch them eat, but I do want to listen to their stories and always welcome their sarcasm.
After craft time, we would head over to the assisted living building and spend time with anyone who wanted to join us. There was a corniopia of old people sitting around, staring off into the distance, a vacancy in their eyes that broke my heart and unsettled me.
We’d usually get a group of 3 or 5 interested folks for puzzle and drawing time. Most of the time the puzzles never got completed and the drawings always looked like kindergarten doodles.
There was one guy in particular who got my attention. A veteran of WWII, he’d take my hand and drag me to his room, shuffling his feet along the cold concrete laminate tiles slowly moving his wheel chair so he could show me his medals and badges. Never knowing my Grandfathers, I took to him immediately and always found it heartbreaking to say good-bye. For some reason I’d start asking myself, “What would he do the rest of the day? Would he talk to anyone or better yet, would anyone talk to him? Would anyone ask him how he was or listen to his stories? It got to be more and more difficult as the Saturdays passed.
After we’d finish our time with the group, Hook and I got in the habit of going to a movie before heading over to Ships for a proper cocktail. Well, the Saturday before Christmas, it was the 23th or maybe even the 24th, regardless, we went to the ATM to get some cash before the movie only to discover we had $2.57 between us. Yep, that’s right $2.57. There was only one thing to do – go pick up a bottle of Crystal Palace vodka and ditch the movies and head to Ships.
You see, at Ships you can bring your own booze and only pay for the “set up,” which included a dog bowl of ice and some cranberry juice in Howard Johnson highball glasses. So we grabbed our bottle of Crystal Palace and headed to Ships.
Once there we nestled up to the bar and ordered our “set-up” while pulling our plastic bottle of vodka out of it’s brown bag. The toothless waitress, who looked like an extra from a David Lynch film, got us all set up. As we began to make our first drink and raise a glass to our poverty, the Michael Bolton cover of “When a Man Loves a Woman” began to penetrate the air. Hook and I looked at each other and with a clink of our glasses knew this was going to be the best Christmas ever.
Happy holidays everyone. Be naughty. Be nice. Be sure to enjoy the little things.