Caught Out in the Rain

So I went to the bus station to pick up my young friend Victoria who was travelling from Nashville back to Louisville. It was about  8:00  in the evening on a cool spring night. It wasn’t quite dark yet.

Since we were downtown we thought it would be a good idea to have drinks at the 21C Hotel bar.

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I drove the six blocks or so to the the hotel and parked out on the street. 21C was a favorite of ours. We really weren’t dressed for the place but in Louisville that didn’t really matter.

We entered through the restaurant and made our way to the bar and sat on a couch on the rear wall.

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“Just like being in our own living room,” I remarked.

“Yeah, but better because of the people watching,” she said.

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I ordered a Jack and soda and she had a Rum Coco. Something she had started drinking since she came back from Cuba a couple of months ago.

We had our drinks and some nice conversation about her latest trip to Missouri. She went there with her mother and grandmother to visit her uncle who was doing eleven years in the federal penitentiary in Springfield.

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We looked the menu over but we didn’t see anything we wanted to eat so we decide  to go the the Tavern in old Louisville to round out the night and get a late night snack.

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We finished our drinks and walked out through the bar to the restaurant exit out onto  the street. To our surprise it had started raining. It was really coming down and it was a cold rain. We ran the two blocks to car and got soaked. Once we were safely ensconced inside I was huffing and puffing from the exertion.

Victoria ventured, “I’ve never seen you run before.” And she let out a little laugh. 

“Well it is is pretty unusual,” I said. “It doesn’t happen very often.” And I laughed too.

I caught my breath and drove to the Tavern where we had more drinks and shared an order of wings.

On the way there I was put in mind of a song I like by Beth Hart: Caught Out in the Rain.

Here it is. Hope you enjoy it.

TONY’S WAY

Philadelphia Story

Tonys way

There are a million stories in the semi-clad metropolis and this is one.

Philadelphia is a city of neighborhoods, and in each neighborhood there is a distinctive culture or ethnicity.  Each neighborhood has gradually become more mixed and diversified. In South Philly you have the Italians, in Fishtown the Irish. West Philly and North Philly are predominantly black. In Center City you see the greatest diversity, but it too has its own characteristics. In Kensington, where Tony’s Way is located, it is mainly Spanish, as in Puerto Rican. Tony’s Way is a little Puerto Rican bar nestled below the elevated Blue Line in Kensington.

I lived in several different neighborhoods in Philadelphia. For a while I lived in Fishtown in a little house across from the Palmer Cemetery.  Fishtown is a neighborhood that adjoins Kensington.  I  would sometimes walk over to the Blue Line to take it into town. On the way back home when I arrived at my stop and descended the steps from the “El” I would find Tony’s Way beckoning to me in the darkness. So one night I hustled there inside.

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I stepped inside of the brightly lit cantina and immediately was blasted with the sound of Latin music blaring on the jukebox and uproarious laughter.  The joint was juking and very colorfully decorated with tinsel and streamers and signs of various descriptions. Very festive. The bar was in the center with seating all around. Behind the bar were a pair of barmaids in cut off jeans and tank tops.

I stepped up the the bar and ordered a shot of tequila and a Corona. That was what everybody else was drinking. I had a couple of rounds then stepped back into the night and walked home.

Since Tony’s Way was right on my way as I walked back and fourth from the El, I started to become a regular. I would go over in the afternoons sometimes and on the weekends. One day I was in there having a beer and a shot when Tony walks over to me and introduces himself.

He gave me a broad smile and stretched out his hand which I took. He had a strong grip.

“I’m Tony,” he said. “This is my place. Welcome. If you ever find you have a problem here, you see that large fellow sitting over there in the corner? That’s Ricardo. He’s my cousin. And do you see that other fellow standing over there? That’s Edwardo. He’s my other cousin. You just call one of them over and he will help you.”

He smiled again and patted me on the back and strolled off to greet the other customers. That was how it was at Tony’s Way.

One Friday night I walked over for a little entertainment and to see if there might be some Puerto Rican girls just dying to meet me.

There was line to get in.  So I queued up and waited my turn to be let in. As I was waiting I noticed there were a couple of bouncers at the front door. They were frisking people, as in patting them down for weapons, before they were allowed in. Now this wasn’t too unusual for Philadelphia so I didn’t think too much of it at first. When It came my turn they just waved me in.

So I entered the establishment and walked around the bar to the other side so I could keep an eve on the door.  I ordered my usual: A shot of Jose Cuervo and a bottle of Corona with a lime wedge.

I got to noticing the way the bouncers were frisking the patrons. A guy would step up to the door and they would  frisk him and then they would wave him on in. A couple of girls would step up up and they would get waved through. A guy come in gets frisked. The girls get waved through.

As I’m watching this it slowly begins to dawn on me, hey! Wait a minute, I didn’t get frisked. What’s up with that? They must not have thought I was dangerous enough to frisk.  Now in Philly, it’s not enough to look tough. You got to look dangerous too. So this was beginning to bother me a bit and I was feeling a little slighted if not insulted.

I turned to my fellow barfly sitting next to me and relayed my tale of woe to him. He said, relax, they probably just know you.

Ohhhhh! Yeah! I never thought of that! Well, I felt a whole lot better then and enjoyed the rest of the evening.

I moved away from Philly a short while after that incident. First to Trenton then back home to Kentucky. It’s been about 10 years since I had been to Tony’s Way, but I always had fond memories.

Recently I had the opportunity to travel back to Philadelphia on business, and while there I wanted to visit some of my old neighborhoods and stomping grounds

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The first thing I noticed was the sign was down So I was’t sure if it was still Tony’s Way or not. I stepped into the bar from the bright sunlight and waited a few moments for my eyes to adjust to the light. I sat down on a bar stool and ordered a shot and a beer. I looked around and things looked pretty much the same. It was early afternoon so not too many people were in there. My eyes came to rest on a familiar character who was sitting across the bar from me reading a newspaper.

I  finished my drink and walked around the bar and approached the man reading the paper.

“You’re Tony aren’t you? I don’t know if you remember me or not but a few years ago when I lived in Philly I used to come in here. You were always very nice to me. I’m in town for a short visit and I just wanted to come by and say hello.”

“Yeah, I remember you,” he said. “Your hair was a little longer then. What happened to you?”

“I moved away.”

“Where did you move to?”

“To Kentucky.”

“To Kentucky?” He started laughing, Why’d you move to Kentucky?”

I explained I had family there and that was my home state, but he couldn’t get over the fact that I moved to Kentucky.

“Hey Angelina!. Come over here.” He waved the barmaid over. “This guy used to come here all the time, but he moved to Kentucky.”

“Kentucky?!!!”  Then she started to laugh.

She moved away from us and took another customer’s order who had just sat at the bar. And she told them what Tony had said and they laughed.  Then the people sitting next to them started laughing and shouted,  “Kentucky!” when they laughed. And pretty soon the whole establishment was laughing and shouting Kentucky! And no one was laughing more than Tony and me. But after a few minutes the laughter eventually died down, but it did not die down entirely for a long time for always at this table or that  a new area of laughter would begin.

I drank free that day.  Of course I suffered the next day from a hangover.  But it was definitely the best day of my trip.

Tony’s Way

Tonys way

Tony’s Way is a little Puerto Rican bar nestled below the El in the Frankfort section of Philadelphia. I used to like to stop by here on my my home from an excursion into Center City. It was a great place to have a shot of tequila and a Corona. Shot and a beer. Shot and a beer!

One afternoon I was there and Tony came over to greet me. He smiled broadly and extended his hand and gave me a firm and friendly hand shake. “Welcome to Tony’s Way! If ever anyone gives you any trouble here you see that large gentleman over there in the corner? That’s Ricardo. He’s my cousin. Just call him over and he will take care of it. You see that other dude over there in the other corner? That Eduardo. He’s my other cousin. He can help you too. Enjoy!” Then he walked away to talk to the other customers.

One night I stopped by to see if there were any Puerto Rican girls there that were dying to meet me. As I approached the place I saw that there was a short line to get in. There were two attendants at the door greeting the customers. I noticed they were frisking the guys and letting the girls go on in. When it came my turn they just waved me in. I proceeded to the other side of the horseshoe bar so I could keep an eye on the door. I ordered my usual shot and a beer and watched as the bouncers continued to frisk the guys and pass on the girls. Then it slowly began to dawn on me that, hey! They didn’t frisk me! How come? The only thing I could come up with was that they didn’t consider me dangerous. Now in north Philly that could be hazardous to your health. So I sort of was conflicted about the whole thing and took it as kind of an insult. I asked my drinking companion to my left what he thought about it and he said, “Well, maybe they know you.” “Oh!” I said. I hadn’t thought about that!” So I felt a lot better about it after that and I finished my drink in peace.

Another time I took a Puerto Rican friend of mine there who was visiting from New York. Thought she would like it. Wrong! She was one of those high class New Yoricans and she didn’t really like those little neighborhood dive bars like I did. But she didn’t like J Lo either. Go figure! What are you going to do?!