Last Monday The Boulder Cafe was a place I go, but now it’s just another place I usta go, cuz it closed.
I usta go every Monday before the Laughing Goat open mic. I’d get a double Jack with a Coke-back and six hot wings on their incredible and lifesaving 3-til-close half-off all appetizers and drinks (even top shelf!) happy hour. It was always good for the notebook, the right conditions to make a fresh poem to read that night.
The routine started years ago after I gave a cab ride to a couple of the restaurant’s employees. Like most service industry passengers we instantly related with each other’s positions in life and it led to them giving me an extra twenty on a ten dollar fare. “Work was tough this week,” they said. “You know how it is.”
“Yeah, I do,” I said.
And when they invited me to stop by sometime I took them up on it. Not just to check out the happy hour they’d talked up, but also to complete The Circle of Tip and return the favor on that twenty.
I came in on the next Monday, the first day off after the hard work weekend, and longest possible time til the next hard work weekend, when I always felt most relaxed and comfortable with my money situation. The vibe was just right for me there, not out of my league like so many other places on Pearl Street, but not a dump full of psychos and college idiots either. I sat up on one of their wobbly wooden bar stools and no one bothered me as I wrote and got a good buzz (I mean $3 for the Jack!) and ate some fat meaty wings, covered in tasty sauce and wiped my face and fingers with their soft cloth napkin. “Ahh!” it made me go. “This is the deep breath I needed after choking on taxi fumes for the last six nights.”
So I went every week, Monday in the 6-7 hour like clockwork and it never let me down. The drinks were always stiff but cheap, the wings always hot with an over-proportionate number of drumsticks, the waitresses always cute, the Beatles always on the stereo, and in fall a national football game always on TV. It was the kind of place you might randomly start talking to the person next to you. The guy who’s been coming there for thirty years and knows the owner personally and tells me he grows the rhubarb for the strawberry rhubarb pie in his own garden. The women who works at the King Soopers deli and says I’ve been getting ripped off all these years buying the pre-packaged lunchmeat. The foxy older woman who took a liking to me and ended up buying us expensive wine all night before choosing to bring some homeless hippies home with her instead of me. The night one whole side of the bar randomly all came from the Cleveland area, and we compared our hopes for the Browns that season.
Every Monday until I got the new teaching job and had a class to teach on that day. And even then I’d go with my girlfriend on like a Thursday or Sunday and it would still be alright. We’d share the big basket of fries. There was never enough long ones and the bottom half would just be a bunch of little fry scraps you couldn’t easily dip in the sauces, but they were still salty and oily and tasted good in handfuls.
Then we heard the Cafe was gonna close. Rumors circled – maybe the landlord hiked up rent cuz it didn’t fit boulders new hip upscale image, maybe they were losing too much on that highway robbery happy hour deal, maybe the owner had just had enough with the working life and wanted to retire. Whatever the reason, the place was always busy, especially at the end. Everyone I knew who’d ever been there said they loved it. It was hard to see how if we lived in a pure restaurant democracy we could possibly let this place go out of business. But it happened nonetheless.
It almost makes me want to get mad at somebody. Boulder doesn’t seem to care what I want to stay here forever. The growing list, headlined by Penny Lane, Burnt Toast, and The Catacombs. Even things I shouldn’t care that much about like the Boulder Outlook Hotel, or America’s Best Value Inn, the army surplus store, the trailer park with all the trees on the Broadway and Violet, that one tiny grocery store on The Hill, and Ras Kasa’s Ethiopian restaurant which I never got to go. I want them to stay simply because they usta be here. Especially my own address, which was 80301 for so many years, but now has become the strange and ill ordered but way more affordable 80031 of Westminster.
The things that go from being to usta being. All these lost things so irreplaceable they seem like little lives, and the inevitable little changes which bring about their unstoppable little deaths. It makes me sad tonight about things like the sunset and how after the summer solstice there is slightly less light every day. The too often tragic quest to appreciate things enough. The Buddhists ask us to accept a life made of death after death until it’s your own. But all I’m imagining right now is the possibility of some kind of Restaurant Heaven, where I can go to the Spirit of Boulder Cafe and get my old favorite whiskey and wings deal at their new 3-til-eternity happy hour.