Dick and Bob
There are two bars which I used to frequent in my college days: Dick’s Den and Bob’s Bar. Each of these was just a bar, with no food service and few other attractions save for alcohol. I recently had the joy of introducing these places to Carina.
Tom and I lived just a few blocks south of Dick’s Den, so we’d often ambulate up there for a pitcher of Michael Shea’s. Dick’s is a dimly lit, cozy establishment. A decrepit pinball machine is nestled into a nook by the bathrooms, and a pair of ancient pool tables have surfaces nearly as warped as the cue sticks on the wall. The wooden tables are knotted and scarred from years of use, with countless names and dates delineating the bar’s long history. Dick’s Den is rarely busy, but it’s almost never vacant. There’s a steady stream of patrons, some of whom appear to have been visiting the place regularly for many years.
As an interesting aside, I lived in lovely Lima, OH for nine months after I graduated college. I accepted a job there, and moved to that small town. To my surprise there was a BW3 in Lima! Since there was little else to do when I wasn’t working, I spent rather a lot of time at the bar at BW3, and I got to know Scott, one of the bartenders. When I moved back to Columbus later that year, I was delighted to find Scott tending bar at Dick’s Den!
On the walls of Dick’s Den are many photographs, and an occassional tally sheet. The tally sheets – and the photos – commemorate the annual Norwhich Marathon, hosted by Dick’s Den. This is one of the more colorful elements about Dick’s Den, and few people who haven’t been there ever believe me when I tell them about it. Here’s how the Norwich Marathon works: Drink two shots and two beers, run 9 miles round-trip to the liquor store to purchase a fifth of Irish Whiskey, drink a pitcher of beer. I’ve never witnessed a Norwhich Marathon in person, a shortcoming which I continually promise myself I shall remedy. The winning times posted around the bar are pretty impressive, if you ask me. This year’s winner completed the whole thing in an hour and twenty minutes! (Considering that I couldn’t run nine miles at all, let alone after two shots and two beers, I think 80 minutes is pretty damned fast!)
Bob’s Bar was, in many ways, similar to Dick’s Den, except that it was often far less busy. And it had no marathon. Bob’s Bar was a long, narrow joint – basically a wide corridor, in which one side was the bar. At the back were two pool tables, at least as warped as those in Dick’s Den. Bob’s had a surprisingly good jukebox, though. The lighting was considerably brighter in Bob’s, but that didn’t help much because there wasn’t anything worth seeing: the walls were light brown, not quite the color of faux wood panelling. I don’t recall any posters or other decorations on the walls.
Behind the bar was usually a fellow named Roy, a friendly rolly-polly man. When you sat at the bar, Roy would – every time – ask if you’d like a glass of their finest draft beer. “What’ve you got?” we’d ask. Roy would smile broadly and say “We have Stroh’s, Stroh’s, and Stroh’s!” as he grasped one of the three identical taps. I don’t think Bob’s Bar had any imports in bottles. We drank a lot of Stroh’s.
Bob’s Bar was always a great place for a few of us to spend an evening, because it was so often empty that we felt like we were in someone’s basement hanging out. It was a considerably more comfortable environment than Dick’s Den. And there was a Tee Jay’s across the street, where we could all get Barnyard Busters if we got the munchies.
While the twins spent the night at Carina’s parents’ house recently, I took Carina to each of these bars. Dick’s Den hasn’t changed much, save for the removal of beer on tap. I was a little surprised by this. Dick’s still had an ancient pinball machine, and two pool tables in the back. I didn’t get up to examine whether they were the same ones from years before. The bar tables were still the same knotted wood.
Bob’s Bar, though, has undergone a radical transformation. They, too, have removed beer on tap; but they’ve replaced it with an incredible array of import and microbrews. The bar is now brightly lit by neon signs and mirrors. There’s at least one television behind the bar. Roy is gone. The bartender on duty was certainly personable enough, though. Carina really liked Bob’s Bar, and expressed a strong desire to go back. I’m still in shock over the switch from “quiet place in which to drink some beer with friends” to “hip place at which one holds part of their bachelor party” (for indeed, there was a bachelor party there warming up for later festivities). I must admit, though, that the new Bob’s Bar has a great deal of appeal, and I wouldn’t mind getting used to the new look.