Enter my friends Bryan, Paul and Adam. These three guys were the friends who would accompany into this new chapter of my life. They were my wingmen. My traveling companions. My brothers in arms, if you will.
Bryan, Paul, Adam and I did everything I planned on that summer. We stayed out late, met women and went to parties. We also walked the downtown streets, ate hamburgers at 2 a.m. and made friends with everyone we met.
Most of all, though, we went to Kitty O'Shea's.
Kitty O'Shea's - or Kitty's, as we called it - is an Irish pub. It's not actually in Ireland, obviously, but it's under Irish ownership.
Everything but the taps and the toilets is made of wood. There are brass footrails and big mirrors behind the bars. The walls have these tin placards advertising Guinness beer. It's exactly what Americans think of when they picture an Irish pub.
The first time my friends and I stumbled into the place, it was a Tuesday night and nobody but the staff was there. We liked that. We liked having it to ourselves. We could talk as loud as we wanted. We could control the jukebox. We didn't have to fight for the bartender's attention or wait in line for the bathroom.
We liked it so much we came back the next Tuesday. And the next. And the next. And then sometimes we'd go on Fridays or Saturdays, too. We'd have birthday parties there. Bryan had his bachelor party there. I took girls there whenever I wanted to look cool, because the staff always knew me.
That probably makes me and my friends sound like heavy drinkers. I don't think that's true, though. I know some heavy drinkers - we're not them.
The attraction to going to Kitty's every Tuesday was the camaraderie. You know on Cheers, whenever Norm would walk in and and everybody would yell out “Norm!”? That was Kitty's. When we walked in, people called us by name.
Crazy things happened there. Weird people wandered in and out of the doors. Our life was a sitcom that summer, and Kitty's was the soundstage it took place on.
Kitty's has a really colorful staff. There's the owner, Barry, who never said much or remembered me no matter how often we'd talk. There was this sweet Irish lady (lass?), Zena, who was a manager and would talk endlessly about the differences between Ireland and America if you'd let her. There was Raphael, the small Native-American bouncer with tattoos on his neck and a really wild look in his eyes. There was Troy, the gentle giant. There was Curtis, the bartender with the big ideas and the hot girlfriend. There was a girl bartender, too. She was really cute, but I don't remember her name.
One of the bartenders was this guy named George. He used to be in the military and was stationed over in Iraq during the beginning of the second Gulf War. One night somebody pointed me out to him and told him I used to be a minister. The next night, he came up to me and asked me if I would officiate at his wedding. I told him I'd be happy to.
The resulting rehearsal dinner, wedding and reception were a blast - and I've never been made to feel more welcome by a group of people than I was by George, his fiance and their families.
My favorite Kitty's bartender of all was a guy named Mike. Mike has been at Kitty's for over seven years. My friends and I were introduced to him by this guy named Jota.
Mike is really laid-back. He wants to be an actor. He plays rugby. He really, really likes the ladies. I've spent hours sitting at Kitty's talking to Mike about life, the future, relationships and God. After I did George's wedding, Mike started calling me his “priest.” I certainly don't think it's a fitting title, but it was flattering.
After that one summer, our trips to Kitty's kind of slacked off a little. We still went, but not as much. Everybody got busy. My friend Bryan eventually moved to Virginia. My friends Adam and Paul work weird hours and have other commitments. In addition to that, a bunch of new drink specials started bringing in a lot of college kids. It got crowded. It didn't feel the same anymore.
Last Friday night, my girlfriend, Sara, and I decided to stop by Kitty's for a bit. It was really crowded since the local college is about to start its fall semester.
We were there for about an hour before I finally saw Mike. He was managing the bar that night and had to walk around a lot. After we said hello, he told me that it was his last night working at Kitty's. He'd gotten another job at a different bar. He seemed excited about it, so I was really happy for him.
Walking out of Kitty's that night, I felt like something was ending. I had first come to Kitty's in need. I was coming out of a rough time in my life and needed friends. I needed to have fun. I needed to belong somewhere.
Now, three years later, I'm at a different point in my life. I've got a girlfriend who's really incredible. I feel like the pain from my divorce has healed. My friends and I are still close, but that magical alignment of the universe that allowed us all to share a summer together, goofing off and causing trouble, has passed.
Mike quitting seemed like the final nail in the coffin. A chapter in my life had come to a close.
I know that's kind of obnoxious - making Mike, my friends and an entire bar into set pieces for my life. And I grant that those events probably have different meanings for Mike, Bryan, Paul and Adam. That's fine. It helps me, though, to find some kind of rhyme and reason to this sort of thing. To see patterns, to see beginnings and endings.
So there you go. One chapter's over. Time to start another one.
Patrick Drury can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Patrick recently published his first book, “PatchWorks Volume One,” a collection of his columns. To purchase the book, visit http://www.cafepress.com/patchworks.54813581