Friday, July 10, 2015

Farewell, Pond office! I am outta here

These are the last words I’ll ever write from The Pond. The stakes are high, so this had better be historic.

Here goes:

Four score and seven years ago, Dave Carfang’s grandfather brought forth this bar.

Wait, that sentence contains some factual errors. Let’s skip over some stuff and go back to just seven years ago.

The birth of our darling new baby daughter meant our charming little home on Fred Rogers Way was getting too crowded. We needed bigger digs.

But because we are human and naturally resistant to disruptive change, we didn’t want to move far.

We found a lovely house in the woods just a mile up the mountain. The house was more spacious, but lacked an obvious work space where I could have the isolation I find necessary to write.

Back then I was doing mostly magazine writing and conjuring book proposals. And I was teaching creative non-fiction at a Pittsburgh university where I often told students blogging was a waste of time.

It doesn’t pay so why would anyone do it?

I was getting promising reaction to several book projects and was confident about my professional prospects.

Val suggested I look into getting a small apartment. 

I talked to one bar-owner friend and he said he had a place for $250. It seemed steep. Really, I didn’t need much.

So I shared my predicament with another bar-owner friend — and feel free to speculate how different my career would be if I didn’t have so many friends who owned bars.

“Two-hundred fifty dollars? I’ve got a place upstairs I’ll give you for free!”

That was Dave and, not wanting to take advantage of him, I shrewdly counter-offered $150-a-month and that’s how what would become the happiest epoch of my professional experience began to evolve.

Understand, it’s a mighty slim sample. I’ve only had three full-time jobs my entire adult life and one of them was at the Pizza Hut.

In fact, I haven’t had a job since 1992.

So whether or not this is a job is up for debate, but doing what I do from above The Pond has been the very best (look closely in the picture above and you’ll see me waving from my window).

I’ve been so happy here, and I think that shows in the blog, a nearly 1,500-post compendium whose history and character are indelibly linked with this great neighborhood tavern and the friends who come here to eat, drink and work.

In 2008, things were tanking. Freelance writing was becoming very unsatisfying and often was dependent on unfair circumstances.

I started to blog because, gee, I needed to do something when I came to my “office.”

I use quote marks because this has never felt like an office. To me, it always felt like a little boy’s treehouse or fort.

I decorated the walls and ceilings with keepsakes no wife would abide in her home. It was a great place to put up all the art the kids gave me.

Everywhere I looked was a reminder of something I loved with all my heart.

Now, my heart is feeling empty because the walls are barren.

I’ve spent the last week tearing the place apart, ripping down the pictures, the drawings and kiddie keepsakes that were presented with so much ceremonial distinction.

The eviction notice says I have to be out by tomorrow. So be it.

Moving the contents of even a shabby little office, deciding what to keep and what to pitch, is a stressful undertaking.

See, in some ways, my office had become like my presidential library. I kept many old clips and magazines from over the years in the vain belief they’d someday matter to someone.

Of course, now I believe the only things that will matter to anyone are “Use All The Crayons!” and this blog.

So well-crafted essays from prestigious publications I’d preserved for decades have diminished in value.

I pitched nearly all of them.

What hurt the most?

Tossing a four-slot toaster-sized stack of 1,000 National Enquirer articles into the township recycling compactor.

It felt like setting fire to 10 of the most interesting years of my life.

But I tried to look at it through the eyes of my children who upon my eventual demise will be burdened with sorting through all the crap.

Would they really be interested in reading the 1998 story I wrote under the headline, “Your pizza toppings reveal what kind of lover you are!”

I hope the stories they’ll want to most fondly remember are the ones I tell.

I sold the refrigerator, the filing cabinet, the shelves, the bookcase, the toaster oven and gave old Joe the rocker where we once gave parental comforts to the precious little ones who will always matter most.

Most of the rest will go into basement storage where it will remain untouched until we years from now pitch it all during the next stressful move.

I have a new place about which I’ll write next week. It may be temporary, but it will be spartan.

All I really need is my laptop, my Bose wave radio, a table, a printer and my squeaky old chair.

Hell, I might have to advance the name of the blog to “Two Days To Amish.”

I’ve been touched by the warmth and concern of so many friends who are reacting like me being evicted from my office means I’ll somehow be homeless.

They’ve offered spare rooms, garage space, advice and good wishes.

The eviction is part of the closing formalities. Bar ownership will transfer, or so I hear, sometime in August.

We’re all anxious. No one likes change.

I say let’s embrace it with cheer.

Maybe things for all involved will flourish.

Maybe the new owners will make necessary changes that will stabilize this beloved landmark. Maybe Dave will find he has a whimsical talent for painting landscapes and bowls of fruit.

Maybe the bar’s next chapter will be like the finale of “Mad Men,” where at their most trying hour every character found satisfying alternatives that in many cases surpassed the status quo.

Everyone but Betty who — spoiler alert! — dies of brain cancer.

So let’s not be mad, men.

Let us go forth and greet these changes with confidence that things will be better.

Thank you, one and all, for making all these many years of Happy Hours truly happy hours.

And let us together highly resolve that this bar, under which was once my office, shall have a new birth of soulful conviviality, and that the good times and memories of the Pond, by the Pond, for the Pond, shall not perish from this little corner of Latrobe.

How’s that for historic?

Related . . .

No comments: