I find myself walking up and down Court Street on a Tuesday evening, looking for a place to sit for a couple of drinks. I could go to any number of diners, shops, or hipster restaurants, but I want something between a dive and a sit-down bar & restaurant.
I choose The Crystal. Its facade is neither repulsive nor wholly appealing. A healthy mix of male and female students sit over drinks at the counter. I find the five TVs over the bar a little excessive when there are only six of us in the building, but some it seems they can’t get enough of sports talk. The shelves behind the bar are lined with a rainbow of flavored vodka and cheap liquor.
I notice a small selection of taps. Alongside the standard American lagers, the Alaskan Amber Ale stands out. I order a glass and the bartender asks for $2.00. “$2.00 for what?” I ask. “That’s how much it costs,” she replies.
Hold on. That’s roughly what this stuff goes for bottled. I’m conditioned to paying six times that at bars in Singapore, and I do most of my drinking at home in my rural town that serves only Bud and Miller on tap. Despite the minor inconvenience of having to pay cash at The Crystal, I decide I’ll find myself here more than once after an evening class.
I take my first sip of beer from a frosty pint glass. The rim is chipped but rounded. I put the glass down so it can warm a bit and be drinkable for enjoyment. Some hip-hop song comes on and repeats, “Know I hit you with that dropkick, Marty Jannetty.” I wonder if any of these kids a decade younger than me know what the hell the guy is singing about. And then I’m suddenly swung into a mix of 2000s alt-rock and emo. The atmosphere is a little uneven.
Rylee, the bartender, thinks so too. She’s left her post at the bar, trying to get the right music going. Frustrated, she settles with Hoobastank’s “The Reason.” At the same time I think, “For god’s sake, why won’t that song die,” a customer expresses the same sentiment to the bartender. We get back on the musical merry-go-round.
As an enormous eight-bladed fan lethargically drifts over top of the bar to keep an already cool night just a bit cooler, I notice that Rylee knows all of her patrons. It seems that this place is the kind people return to for cheap drinks and easy conversation. It has no pretension. So even though I sit in a shirt and tie among a line of twenty-somethings in hoodies and jeans, I find myself comfortable and looking forward to the next time I can drop by to unwind after a long day of high school teaching and college classwork.