Lately I’ve been diving more into meditation, and subsequently, I’ve been learning more about impermanence and the acceptance of constant change. These are not natural concepts to me. I like my shit organized and alphabetized and where I left it, thank ya. Unfortunately though, it’s life on life’s terms, isn’t it? Things change, and things come . . . and they go.
This, too, shall pass.
I used to roll my eyes in teenage angst when my Grandmother would mutter that. I know time moves on and nothing stays the same forever. Yeah, yeah, I know, I get it. . . I just don’t like it. When she’d say this, it was usually in response to some ridiculous drama I had shared with her regarding my school work, or someone I was dating. That old adage became her go-to because really, everything does pass. And sometimes, it passes like a fucking kidney stone.
The Gold Rush, by most standards, was a dump. At least it was in the good ole days. I hear they’d cleaned it up a bit and were even serving “artisanal” brews and well, don’t get me started on all that. They’ve gone tits up, and I thought I’d better say goodbye, at least in a literal sense. You see, the Gold Rush was my “third place” for decades. You’ve heard of this concept, I’m sure – your “third spot” if you will. In community, the third place is the social surrounding separate from the two usual social environments of home (“first place”) and the workplace (“second place”). For more normal folks this could be the gym, or perhaps a bookstore/coffee shop but for this gal, the Gold Rush was my comfort zone and playground.
Its familiar smell would accost me the moment my boots hit the metal stopgap from the street into the uneven landing of the Gold Rush – probably some sort of combination of stale beer, smoke, hairspray, and bean rolls. I spent many nights (and days) at the Rush, celebrating joyous times, and commiserating in the harder ones. From gathering for Sunday football to a raucous wedding party, the Gold Rush offered up something for everyone. Back in my day, one could say that the Rush had a (well-earned) reputation for being a bit hard scrabble, and sometimes known for violence. It was not a glamorous hang, but I bet you already guessed that. To my knowledge no one ever contracted Gonorrhea from a doorknob, but I never took any chances. One could do a little blow, after shooting a little Jack, and then head out into the smoky warm glow to join the guys for a game of pool and then find themselves dancing wildly to The Toadies’ Possum Kingdom at 2 o’clock in the morning. Hypothetically, of course.
It was heaven right here on Earth, I tell you.
From the working man, to the downtrodden, to the musicians and wanna-be musicians, and the college students, the Gold Rush never discriminated. It was there for you in the best of times, and in the darkest of times, like a good dive bar should be. It’s your corner bar, your neighborhood hang. From high school to college, the Rush was there and I spent many a night zig-zagging between there and the live music venue across the street. When I came back home from my spirited stint out west, it was there, awaiting my return. It welcomed me back yet again after my disaster tour of England, and from my surprise 40th birthday party to my Dad’s hilarious and heartfelt wake, life happened at the Rush.
Now one could argue that time moves on and things change and demographics and trends all factor into these things. Nothing lasts forever and I’m the one with the drinking problem and yet, I feel like it would be remiss not to remember the good times, because you know what? THERE WERE A SHIT TON OF THEM. The Gold Rush was more than a bar just like a church is more than a building. Hell, I bet some would argue that the Rush was their church. Everyone was welcome, but it wasn’t for everyone, as you might guess. Drink your beer and don’t be a dick was really the only house rule and really, isn’t that what it ultimately all boils down to? Do your thing and don’t be a dick.
Of course, there are always dicks, and I’ve seen my share of them removed from the Rush. Once through the plate glass front window. I’ve seen more impromptu concerts than I can count and played twice that many games of pool. I’ve witnessed a few marriage proposals, more than my share of barroom brawls, and more than a few epic Halloweens. I have spent Christmas Eve at the Rush more than once.
I realize that my years spent at the Rush did their part to bring me to The Great Liver Failure of 2015, but I dare say it was *almost* worth it. I’m not making light of alcoholism or my situation per se, but if my time at the Rush took a few years off my life it was worth every stinkin’ drink because of the life lessons and cherished memories that place shared with me. I look back with wistful nostalgia and bittersweet memories now, but I suppose that’s just how it goes. Maybe I’m romanticizing the past, but I don’t look back at those years as wasted, either figuratively or literally. I don’t grimace at all the money I spent or the ridiculously bad decisions I made, either. I refuse to look back ruefully or with regret. Times change and people move on. It truly is the end of an era, in more ways than one. Back then, there weren’t smart phones and certainly no one could call an Uber, or check-in on social media. We just hung out together, at the Rush. I’ll be honest, I’ve struggled with this silly post more than I’d have imagined. I figured it would write itself with all the anecdotes and flashbacks I have lolling about in my cranium that involve that damn bar, but, as life keeps showing me, what I think it’s about and WHAT IT IS REALLY ABOUT are two very different things.
I’m not saying that change is bad or that time should stop. I’m certainly not saying that smoking is a good thing, or that drinking to excess 5 nights out of 7 for a decade (or so) is healthy, or advised. BUT, I look back upon those countless nights where I gazed across a dimly lit barroom, heavy with smoke in the air, ringing with raucous laughter and blaring music, and gazed out at the haloed streetlights of Elliston Square into the blue-black night sky and felt like I belonged. What I miss most isn’t brick and mortar, it’s a feeling, a time period, a slice of my life I sometimes wish I could get back, if only for a weekend, perhaps.
Of course, I can’t go back – the Gold Rush is gone and besides, that gal is gone as well, and for that too, I am grateful. She was a pistol, but she was exhausting. I forgive her on my better days. Maybe I thought that if somehow the Gold Rush lasted forever, that a part of her would as well? That in some way if the Gold Rush ceases to exist those memories are rendered invalid? I don’t know. What I do know is that I loved that bar, and I’ll always remember it with a big cheesy grin on my face.
“Laaaaaaast call, ya’ll! You don’t have to go home, but you can’t say here“. I used to squint and grimace when I heard Buster shout this reliable classic as the house lights went up. And just like all the best bartenders in all the best dive bars, he was right.