Finding the Muse

The bar seemed infinitely dark when I first walked in from the bright California sunshine.

I had one and a half hours between soccer games in the last stretch of this weekend long tournament of six games total and carpool juggling. The boys were getting rides to and from the soccer games and I was on the other side of weekend beach traffic, closer to the next field than home.

I sought a place to enjoy a Bloody Mary and home potatoes. A had my book Winter Count by Barry Lopez, an article or two to edit or write. Up and down El Camino Real the restaurants were packed with lines out the door. Roxana suggested the Red Fox Lounge, so I pushed open the heavy lounge doors into the cave.

My choices: sit at the bar next to last night’s drunks still going strong, hoot’n and holler’n playing virtual bowling or sit outside with the people egging on the skinny hippie with a sarong draped over his sun burnt head playing Blowin in the Wind on his guitar. I chose to stay inside.

The bartender, dressed for the country club with his rayon collared shirt covered in palm trees and his dress slacks, made me a spicy Bloody Mary and I got me some spuds with green onions and splashed on the Cholulu hot sauce. Frank Sinatra crooned “When the World Was Young.”

“The talk is quite gay, the company fine,
There’s laughter and lights, and glamour and wine.”

I’m thinking of my grandpa now. He would have liked this place.

The bartender asks me about my book, which I’m holding up to catch the light coming in from the window. It’s a collection of sparse, rich short stories:  the first about a man who restores leather bound books in a French Chateau on the border of North Dakota and Montana. Beautiful.

The older couple at the end of the bar talks about the cars they once owned and how free sex was never free – you always had to earn it.  A local girl comes in guffawing about how she must look when she pays her bill at the restaurant next door with fifty $1 bills, but since she doesn’t have fake tits, they know she’s no stripper. A guy covered with tattoos complains about the singing hippie which earns him a sharp retort from the bartender.

I’m tempted to order another drink, but I know I shouldn’t, so I dab at the salt around the rim and wait for the vodka tinged ice to melt.

Before I know it, it’s time to go to the next soccer game and, a little reluctantly, I leave this merry group of muses.

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