The snow is falling, but not yet sticking, as I walk the two doors over to The Quarters, our neighborhood bar, for lunch. Long ago the place was a bowling alley, but only the oldest of old timers remember that day, the place has been a bar for as long as most can remember, Nottingham's Pub, The Winner's Circle, then The Quarters.
When I came here as a 29 year old copper it was The Winner's Circle, and it was good for a fight almost every weekend, the bouncers adept at stomping people with their steel-toed boots. I never had to shoot anyone during my cop years, but I came really, really close one night on the front step of the Winner's Circle.
Though it can still get a little rough from time to time, The Quarters is a lot calmer these days. The place shows its age though, the roof leaks, like mine, and, like mine, once it's patched the water finds another way in, so the ceiling is painted black to cover the years of water and tobacco stains. An old frosted glass window, partially hidden by the addition of a foyer years ago, still proclaims the place as being Nottingham's Pub. For some reason it also depicts an arrow passing through an apple.
Today as I walk in the place is nearly empty except for the usual bunch of midday regulars in their usual places, most of them close to the large fire in the deep, stone fireplace...Greg the night shift convenience store clerk, a couple of construction guys who seem to use the bar as an office, an old man, bent like a question mark, stares at something a thousand yards past the rows of bottles lined up across the bar from him. Irish Tom has loaded the juke box with the likes of The Pogues, The Dubliners, and The Wolftones and a Republican protest number is playing as I settle at the far end of the bar and order a draft amber and the roast beef sandwich. I open my book and begin reading, wishing I was closer to the fire, the copper-clad bar glows with a warmth it does not possess, but the beer is good and the sandwich, an open-faced mess of beef, thick brown gravy, mash, and Texas toast is hearty and hot, perfect for this winter's day in the middle of autumn.