In the Tavern. At the Grocery Store.

Fritsch Pic

Meet Rochelle Fritsch, another fellow writer out to alter the course.  Rochelle’s writing always makes me chuckle, ponder, and ultimately helps me put things in perspective.  She’s also a fellow cheesehead, hailing over yonder in Milwaukee, so that’s an added plus.  I read this post and it made me think that we’re all a little like the character Bobby in the story, and lucky if we meet up with a kind soul like Rochelle.  Click here to check out her bio (and her very, very funny blog).  Thanks for altering the course, Rochelle!

Nestled in the crosshairs of a firehouse, a Greyhound Bus station and a buttoned-down corporate neighborhood sits Jim’s Time Out. A little house-ish looking tavern with a seating capacity of twenty five – or at least that’s what the smoke-tinged placard hanging above the bar says.

The neon sign beckons bus drifters and grifters, laborers, odd men out and corporate types alike. A veil of cigarette aroma engulfs anyone approaching the gnarly wooden door decorated by a used-to-be-bronze handle. Touch it, and the juke box’s cadence of “From a Jack to a Queen” or the chorus of people singing along with a chorus of that David Allen Coe song is enough to make your hand quiver.

Walk in, and you’ll find yourself in a dive bar, tavern, gin-joint – whatever you want to call it – where corporate types shake dice with the Greyhound riders, and middle managers debate politics with veterans without homes.

The place is a zoo of people; and yes: once upon a time, I was among them. Between games of bar dice, darts and shots, I experienced people just being people, regardless of title, police record or social strata.

They told stories that revealed everyone once was a child treasured by their momma and full of promise and potential. Some of the best were told by people like the toothless journeyman carpenter (he finally saw a dentist and got a bridge), the cabbie who had been a pro footballer in another life (he had a beautiful basso singing voice)…and Bobby.

Forever in a baseball cap, slightly-built with an elfish sort of face, Bobby was soft-spoken and had sad blue eyes. Beautiful blue eyes, I always secretly thought. When everyone else was schnockered beyond intelligible conversation, I could count on Bobby to tell me about his day on the job at the local newspaper.

Sometimes he’d reminisce about the way life used to be in his hometown. His family. When he was a kid, treasured and full of potential. Not an adult who was often disregarded and relegated to dark corner bars.

Sometime later, I heard that the bottle was getting the best of Bobby, and he moved back to the safe place that was his hometown.  His story ended at that point…at least for me it did.  I never heard what happened to Bobby.

In the years that followed, Jim’s Time Out faded from my memory. Maybe it’s because I was obsessed with being June Cleaver and Mary Tyler Moore all rolled into one. Maybe it’s because I’m a fundraiser and I got used to rubbing shoulders with CEO’s and bluebloods – well pretty much anyone with money or connections to it. Maybe it’s because I wanted to bury the barfly days.

Whatever the reason, the lesson of Jim’s Time Out got lost, and I forgot about Bobby. After all, I was busy wife-ing, mom-ing, and working – even being a “talking head” on a local news station.

So one day, as my daughter and I were shopping, a man who looked like he ought to be a Jim’s Time Out Greyhound Drifter Grifter Guy approached me because he recognized me from TV.

He went on at length to tell me about his dream of being discovered as the New Neil Diamond.

[“Oh boy, this could get weird. Not here…” I thought].

His wife arrived and he excitedly introduced her to me and they both told me about him being snubbed by a local personality (who’s a bona fide personality, not a hack like me).

[“Please don’t sing to me. Please don’t sing to me…Please…” I thought]

That’s when he asked if he could sing to me.  And suddenly, I remembered Bobby. The slightly-built, blue-eyed, baseball-capped Bobby from Jim’s Time Out.

I remembered his stories. I remembered that he just wanted to be heard. I remembered the time when I understood and knew – truly knew – that everyone, no matter their current wrapping, was somebody’s baby once.

I looked into the New Neil Diamond’s eyes; he took my hands in his and he sang.

To me.

In the middle of the grocery store.

In front of God and everybody.

And actually, he was pretty good. I thanked him and truly meant it. You see, he had done far more than serenade me right then. He brought me back to a place and a time in my life when it was clear that CEO’s, carpenters, cabbies, grifters and drifters…and even me, were just people.

Just people who were – and are — trying to reach the potential that our mommas saw in us all those years ago.

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