“You wanna walk downtown for a drink?”
I don’t normally head to bars with other men, but since my Dad asked, I said yes.
I was in my hometown by myself at the house I grew up in and downtown was a mile away – an easy walk. I wasn’t prepared for the night chill in the air, but the walk and cocktail I’m sure would warm me up.
There are several nice drinking establishments nestled in the downtown area, which takes up two city blocks in total. Our first stop was a what used to be a lawyers office, and while the name hasn’t changed, it’s a bar now. We walked around to a side entrance and found it was closed for a private party. My Dad wanted to jump in anyway – here I was, a teenager again, dying of embarrassment – trying to get him to not go inside. As this was unfolding, two girls and a guy walked in: the girls were in heavy make up, tiny poofy skirts and cropped shirts; the guy was in what could only be described as a speed-do and go-go boots. Our jaws dropped. This was not my hometown. Who were these people?
I grew up in a county that was redder than red: we were all white, conservative, and Christian. I’m sure a few liberals lived in town, but they were closeted. Whenever someone moved into the neighborhood that wasn’t white, conservative, and Christian, they were shunned. In the mid-1990’s, there was a proposal to build a country music venue that would host bands, dancing, a bar, and could be rented out for events. My hometown went ballistic in stopping this. This business would bring in non-white, non-conservative, non-Christian people and they would be consuming alcohol – we’d basically become the south side of Chicago with drunk driving accidents every few minutes, according to the Letters to the Editor in the local paper. We ran the developer out of town.
This was running through my mind as my dad suggested we head a different spot. The last time I was there, it was a bait shop, as it sits right on the river. And now? It was a club.
The bar was outdoors in the back of a restaurant, great for these COVID times. A DJ booth was set up, blasting the latest hiphop hits – not the radio edit versions – complete with multi-colored stage lighting going every which way. The bass was turned up so loud I could feel it in my chest. My dad turned down his hearing aids. A decent amount of people were there for an Indian Summer Saturday night; I expected to run into someone I went to high school with, but I did not recognize anyone. I had been gone too long.
My dad got a beer and I got a Long Island Iced Tea, as we shouted our order to the bartender. We took our drinks and sat in some Adirondack chairs on the far side of all this. I took in the scene: all middle class looking white folk, just as it had always been. A few MAGA hats dotted the landscape. Road signs depicting roads and places I could tell you stories about where strewn up around the fences. The large overhang by the bar with its Italian string lights gave a cozy vibe, contrasting with the DJ booth’s bright lights. The fenced in yard had tables and chairs set about. Everyone had coupled up, no one was dancing.
Clubbing with my father wasn’t on my bingo card.
“What do you think?” asked my Dad with a nonsensical smile on his face. (Although in the accent of his adopted hometown, it came out more like “Wha-dya th’nk?”)
“I did not expect all this,” I replied with another sip of my Long Island. Finally, I was starting to warm up. I was still a bit befuddled that my hometown had a semi-legit club. While my dad can throw down when he chooses, this was not his scene. We finished our drinks and he was ready to head home.
If you would have told me in high school that I would walk home buzzed from a club with my dad in my hometown in 25 years, I’d have said you were out of your ever-loving mind.
I’m looking forward to doing this again next time I’m in town.