Stones in the Road

I'll be meeting my son for lunch next week, and my daughter wants me to see her new place on Sunday. They never seem interested in leaving Cincinnati. I always am. But while I've threatened to leave many times, so far I've stayed right here. I've moved a

Jan 28, 2009 at 2:06 pm

Staring at my drink, I suddenly look up at the bar television. The Rolling Stones are on. It looks like some recent footage from a concert in China.

Mick Jagger is dancing around on that stage like a young dude. Looking at his sleeveless shirt, I can see the veins in his arms. I can also see his navel.

The camera pans to the audience. Young Chinese women are going wild.

I’m sitting at a bar downtown on a Friday afternoon. It’s 14 degrees outside.

Waiting for the bus to arrive, I had on my long, heavy winter coat and a shorter, thinner coat underneath. The second coat belongs to my adult son.

Earlier in the day, I got a call from him. Pending a home inspection, he’s close to buying a three-bedroom house in Clifton.

Even earlier in the day, my adult daughter paid me a visit. She’s just moved to a bigger and better apartment on the West Side.

Sitting at the bar, with my two winter coats on the barstool to my left, I think of my kids and all the places I’ve lived.

I remember those houses with my wife and kids and then places I’ve lived since my divorce. I remember apartments when my son came to live with me and now places I’ve lived since being on my own again.

Throughout, except for some months in Springfield, Ohio, my adult life has been lived in the Cincinnati area.

I remember wanting bigger and better living spaces too, just like my kids, but now that I’m getting older I’m thinking smaller. I wonder if this has something to do with aging.

An acquaintance walks into the bar, forcing me to move my winter coats from the vacant barstool. He knows I’m a writer. He always has story ideas that aren’t any good.

As he drinks his cocktail and talks endlessly about made-up stuff he thinks is true, my eyes go back to the Rolling Stones on the bar television. I watch Keith Richards smoke a cigarette while playing his guitar.

I look at his crazy hair and the lines engraved in his face. He looks like he’s been rode hard and put away wet. Those Chinese women love him.

The acquaintance finishes his cocktail, then excuses himself to go to the restroom. I order another drink from the cute, young bartender.

I think about flirting with her but, realizing I’m probably about twice her age, I quickly dismiss the thought.

She brings my drink, and I order some bar food. It occurs to me to order another drink for the guy who went to the toilet, but that would encourage him to stay.

While on my second drink, I think of my kids again. I’ll be meeting my son for lunch next week, and my daughter wants me to see her new place on Sunday.

They never seem interested in leaving Cincinnati. I always am.

When my brother was ill, I stayed in Seattle with him. I love that city. I also love Portland, Ore., and Portland, Maine. I’ve given serious thought to moving to Boston. I always have a good time in Chicago.

While I’ve threatened to leave many times, so far I’ve stayed right here. I’ve moved around a lot, but I always stay local. My road doesn’t really go anywhere else.

The food arrives. I eat my chicken-like nuggets while continuing to watch the Stones on the bar tube. Mick now has his shirt off.

The bar business slows down a bit, and the cute bartender is watching Mick dance around on stage. I ask if she’s a Jagger fan.

Her face lights up. She says she loves the Rolling Stones and thinks Mick Jagger is “hot.”

I almost laugh but don’t. While eating my chicken-like nuggets, I think to myself that if she thinks a 65-year-old Mike Jagger is hot then maybe this 54-year-old writer should flirt with her.

While finishing my drink, my kids come back into focus. I wonder if I stay in Cincinnati because of them. Do I still feel a responsibility to stay put despite the fact they’re all grown up? I wonder what I’d do if they decided to move.

With the nuggets and drinks gone, I ask for my check. When the bartender brings it to me, she thinks out loud, wondering what happened to the guy sitting next to me. He went to the restroom and never came back.

I realize it’s happened before with this guy at other bars. He sits next to me, orders a drink — sometimes two — goes to the restroom and doesn’t return.

I don’t usually pay for his stolen drinks, but I do on this late Friday afternoon. I’m thinking I can now write about this asshole somehow in a column.

I hand the bartender some cash. The Rolling Stones are still on the television set. Mick’s still dancing around. The Chinese women are still digging it.

With a grin on my face, I wonder if the Stones will be performing 20 years from now. I wonder if they’ll enter the stage using walkers.

I look outside. The sun’s gone down. It still looks to be bitter cold.

Forgetting about the Stones, those Chinese women, my kids and why the hell I’m still in Cincinnati, I put on my two winter coats and take the road back home.

CONTACT LARRY GROSS: [email protected]