this side of the train tracks

Where I live the blocks are mixed; past a stop sign a road is flanked with the large-wrap-around-porch-rehabs with perfect landscaping owned by upper-middle-class townies and tenured professors and but a few jaunts east there will be the drab sagging collection of apartments, sublets, and duplexes inhabited by those blighted by Central Illinois’ financial woes and students who are too poor or too bored or too wrapped up in the collegiate experience to care. A gray day makes the vinyl siding look even more stained and moldy. Passing one intersection I happen to glance at a hand-written sign outside a mud-toned house with dead lawn and cracked cement porch, enscribed in a black pen so light it’s barely legible. The sign read:

AREN’T YOU GLAD

IT’S ALL OVER?

A few blocks down, a yard bears a stenciled sign reading: “Study Your Bible.”

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Cavanaugh’s

I’ve enjoyed a whiskey in so many places– I can usually map an area by the whiskeys I’ve consumed and whether or not a rocks pour counted extra. There are few times in life when a neat pour is acceptable.

Cavanaughs

Cavanaugh’s existed nestled in an alley and in the basement of the historic Monadnock Building, about two blocks from my old job. I preferred Elephant and Castle for lunch breaks, to down a couple and eat greasy fried pretzels before trudging in the snow back to my prison. But Monadnock was reserved for after 5, for days when I had twenty minutes to burn and no martinis to look forward to. A place wherein it is only acceptable to enter in a trench coat and rub one’s five o’clock shadow with chagrin before sipping. That warm wood bar so welcoming, that basement vibe so cozy. Too bad it was ruined by grating modern music and bar mistresses lacking the requisite cynicism.

There’s a sadness in those bare ice cubes, how out of place they are without the whiskey, how out of place I was sitting there. Yet I am comfortable alone at a bar. It is the most comfortable, to be quite honest. I had a slow burn romance with the wooden bar, with a place for my elbows and place for my whiskey to reside without shame, between cupped hands.

I pretend I’m an editor or a publisher on Printer’s Row, circa 1935.