So yer sittin there at the Gold Brique, watching the heavy glass pitchers of beer sweat, Credence on the Juke Box. Herman’s manning the bar and scolding us as we try to sneak tips on the bar. “That’s your money, young mister! Put away your change, you earned it, didn’t ya?”
Joyce chimes in from the corner stool and agrees with the old coot. They smile at each other, a shared secret long forgotten.
Helen snores softly in the back office, the door cracked open just enough so we can peek in and catch a glimpse of her weathered bra-enormous! –glowing blue in the flicker of a Dodgers game.
Maybe ya just got back from throwing back a tumbler of Jack at the Embassy Lounge next door, and when you look around all you see are people you know. Maybe there’s a steaming basket of broasted chicken cooling on the table in front of you.
Jesus, the chicken’s always too damn hot, man!–and you always wake up on Saturday morning after the Brique with the fine first layer of skin burned off your palate. You say fuck it, dunk one of the potato logs into your pitcher of draft Bud, and take that first bite, juggling the molten goodness between tongue and molar while mouthing-ho-ho-!
As the Box switches songs, (Lodi to Traveling Man, there’s a good one!) there is a sweet pause in the music. In that moment of your life, you hear only the sound of laughing and cussing; it is the sound of your friends talking to each other.
By God, was there nothing better than a Friday night at the Brique??
And yet, nothing made the picture complete as the sound of the ’42 flathead coming off Norwalk, one last rev before shutting her down on the sidewalk right out front of the Brique.
You could easily hold your breath in the short pause it took a man to dismount and walk into the bar pulling off his gloves, for these were the golden nights long before a helmet law.
And there he was –Fat Paul.
Paul Avila, mechanical madman, community jewel, all around bon vivant around town.
After the Brique shut off the sign and Helen threatened to call the goddamn cops on us for the fourth time, you considered yourself a lucky man if you were invited along for after hours at Paul’s. A short jaunt up Norwalk blvd and you found the wonderland of Fat Paul’s house.
Though there might be a disassembled trike transmisson on the kitchen table, and the very real threat of live ammunition in the cupboard, Paul’s house felt as warm and welcoming as Grandmas. Besides, where else could you play with a taser gun at 3 in the morning?
The years roll on, and somehow life becomes more complicated. But you still catch yourself looking down those familiar streets when you’re back in the old neighborhood, somehow hoping the Brique would suddenly be there again, Helen at the door and Fat Paul pulling in the driveway.
Paul passed away just before the Summer turned hazy, but it’s taken this season for all of us to absorb his passing and prepare to say a final farewell. Come join us Sunday at the Blue Dog to say GoodBye to a pal–Cheers!