I’m sitting at the bar in Buddakhan restaurant at 713 Vine St. downtown. It’s late Thursday afternoon, and I’m having my usual vodka and tonic. I’m starting to feel more relaxed, less grumpy.
Maybe the surroundings have something to do with my improving mood. I like the eclectic approach at the Buddakhan — the Buddha statues, the Asian decor and the old record album covers adorning the walls.
Looking at the old album covers — Steve Miller, Joe Cocker, The Grateful Dead and John Lennon — makes me think of my years on this earth and the fact I’m getting older. With the help of therapy, looking back at my life and reflecting is alright with me again.
I’m thinking my bad mood earlier had something to do with Jack. That’s the name I’m giving him here.
Walking up Seventh Street, I saw him standing outside of Madonna’s smoking a cigarette. My intent was to have some drinks there, but when I saw Jack I kept on walking.
I consider him a conservative jerk. Jack thinks Democrats, especially Barack Obama, want to destroy our country. I find this attitude amazing.
Really, Jack? Do you think Obama could mess up this country worse than President Bush?
Jack always has a frown on his face and seems constantly bitter. He sits at the bar and talks about his conservative politics loudly while drinking beer. He likes to tell tasteless Ted Kennedy Chappaquiddick jokes. He gets on my nerves.
Trying to get my mind off Jack, I look at Dan, owner of Buddakhan. He’s tending bar, filling in until Amber arrives to cover Mandy’s shift.
Mandy is sick. Dan tells me she could barely talk on the phone.
She’s a sweet thing, tiny and blonde with big beautiful eyes. Her sister Jessica also works at Buddakhan on Friday nights. I don’t know which one is older, Mandy or Jessica, but they look like twins. Both are great bartenders.
Dan brings me another vodka and tonic. You can’t beat the happy hour prices here. My drink is large and cheap. Best of all, I can taste the vodka. There’s no such thing as a weak drink here.
Before I got here, I stepped into Sully’s Saloon at Seventh and Race streets for a quick one. Buddakhan doesn’t open until 5 p.m., and because of Jack’s presence at Madonna’s I had time to kill.
Sully’s isn’t a bad place at all, but it didn’t improve my mood. Maybe it’s just me, but the employees there need to smile more.
Also, at least in my head, I consider Sully’s a “corporate” bar. I think this way because of all the guys in suits I see drinking.
I ordered my vodka and tonic from a tall, long-haired blonde girl wearing large gold earrings. She never smiled once.
Now I’m sitting at Buddakhan feeling hungry. I’ve visited quite a few times, but I’ve never eaten here. They’re known for their Thai menu but also offer regular bar food, which might be better for me because I’m drinking.
Amber arrives with a ready smile for her customers. I order another vodka and tonic and decide not to get regular bar food but something Asian, opting for the Crab Rangoon.
I step outside for a quick cigarette. Looking to my right over to Seventh Street, I see Madonna’s and think of Jack, the conservative jerk.
I wonder how old he is. I’m guessing older than me. I can’t help but wonder if he ever looks back on his life in trying to figure out things like I’m doing now. Maybe I should tell him reflection can sometimes be a good thing.
When I walk back into Buddakhan, my food is waiting for me. The Crab Rangoon is so delicious it’s difficult not to eat it quickly. I’m trying to pace myself, taking sips of my drink between bites.
With my stomach full and glass empty, I decide to go home. I settle up my bill. Dan wishes me a good night. Amber blows me a kiss goodbye.
Walking to my bus stop, I pass Madonna’s and see Jack once again standing there smoking a cigarette.
Feeling charitable, mostly because of those strong drinks I’ve had at Buddakhan, I smile at him and wish him a good evening.
He nods his head at me while taking a puff on his smoke. When he doesn’t smile back, I think of Sully’s and the unsmiling bartender.
Jack, if you’re reading, here are a few suggestions:
Think more and talk less. Reflect on where you’ve been and where you’re going.
While sorting out this muck, quit going to Madonna’s. Please stay out of Buddakhan.
Take your frown, bitterness, baggage and bar spending money somewhere else. Maybe a place where you won’t be the only one in the room not smiling.
CONTACT LARRY GROSS: [email protected]