Monday, January 21, 2013
My Magic Bar
The highways were all mine from 11PM to 2AM. The sunroof was open and the music played as I drove past Hartford lit up then Springfield and finally Albany. All those city lights. I couldn’t help wondering about the young people having a Magic Bar Night beneath them. It got me thinking about my Magic Bar. For everyone there's that one place you always went to in college or just beyond. The place where all the drama happened, all the great nights had. And now, when you hear a certain song on the radio, it brings you back to that time and place.
This bar was your place for a period of time. Then that period ended and you were done. Maybe it’s closed down now. But for you it was the best bar in the world. It was your Magic Bar. You owned it. You loved it.
There were a lot of great places for me. Oasis and the Lamppost in the beginning. McGeary’s after Alive at Five. The Plaza Grill. Even the Mad River every so often. I had a Madison Ave run way-way back, when my friend was a bouncer at Michael’s. I had some incredible times at Bogie’s. At the tail end of my bar time, Lion Heart was a great place to get it going. And of course of course: the Big House first floor. But the Magic one for me was the Bayou Café.
I did ALL my college in the Albany area. Not going away to school is the biggest regret of my life. So, in regards to the Magic Bar conversation, I don’t have quite the same exclusivity that my wife (for instance) had with a place like Dapp’s and Siena friends. But I felt like I could walk on water at the Bayou Café. Every time we went there I had a blast. On Friday nights when the crowd was coming in, all my boys with me, a smile a mile wide on my face. I just knew it was ALWAYS going to be a great night. If we went on Saturdays, it was a cover band and girls as far as the eye could see. The Bayou was great times in a bottle, just walk in. I knew the workers, loved the regulars, and felt 100% alive when we were there.
Everyone has a Magic Bar.
The Bayou Café was mine.
Then one day the Magic ended. It was Halloween about six years ago. I went in there, dressed up and excited. And POW, BAM, it was over. The Bayou no longer belonged to me and my friends. We were too old, too slow, too long in one spot. With no forewarning the next generation of Bayou-goers just swept in and took it, and the Magic was no more. I never went back. It was over.
Present Day: My penultimate move on the three-hour drive from Foxwoods was a brief detour through Downtown Albany to check on my once-Magic Bar. Downtown Albany looked depressing at 2AM. The Bayou was dead and the street was quiet. Maybe that’s how it looked to someone driving by way back when I was inside. In my memory Pearl Street, circa 2005ish, was brimming with life.
Fifteen minutes later I pulled to a park in my garage, exhausted from an endless Saturday. I opened the door and went inside, where I was met by three crazy dogs, happy to see me. Behind them, my wife waited. And to myself I thought: I drove all night to get to you. (Seems I think certain thoughts in Cyndi Lauper lyrics.) I was home safe, nowhere else I’d rather be. Now that’s Magic.
Bayou Café Website: http://www.bayoucafe.com/albany/index.html
Cyndi Lauper Video: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2xiw_cindy-lauper-i-drove-all-night_news#.UP23ckko7IU