I watched a long-forgotten rerun of "Cheers" last night, and when I heard the lyrics of the theme song I thought of the Jazz Club. A bar in a small hotel in town, they had a jazz trio—piano, bass and drums—every Wednesday night. My friend Bobby and I went there the first time because he knew the bass player. I was working full-time then, and thought Wednesday was an odd choice for a night out, but I quickly changed my mind. It wasn't long before we showed up every Wednesday. We'd have a drink and dinner, and listen to the music, and then I'd go home around 10:00 while Bobby stayed on until the end of the last set.
Some of the patrons were transient (it was a hotel, remember), but the club had plenty of regulars: Mark and Sharon, the young couple who knew every fancy step to every sophisticated dance; Mary, the pretty, middle-aged lady who filled a table with her girlfriends each week; Leroy, the slick romantic who seduced Mary despite her friends' warnings. And then there was Ira.
Since my diet was even more limited than the limited menu, I always ordered the same salad for dinner. Betty, the waitress, always remembered. Thalia, the Greek bartender, understood whatever hand gesture I made over the heads of other customers. I became good friends with the trio and some of their family members, and the piano player was startled to discover that the beautiful young musician whose obituary he had cut out and saved years earlier was my daughter Gillian.
Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name,
and they're always glad you came
For a few years the jazz club gave me the feeling of community I have always sought in my life. But nothing stays the same, and so eventually the trio lost that gig, the jazz club became just another bar, and we stopped going. If I walked in tonight, I doubt I'd be recognized. But that's okay, because I suspect I no longer have the energy or inclination to make a 40-mile round trip every week to eat, drink, and be merry. I still seek community, though, and these days every other Wednesday evening is spent with a writing group. Everybody knows my name there too.