Thomas M. McDade

Thomas M. McDade resides in Fredericksburg, VA,

He is a graduate of Fairfield University.

McDade is twice a U.S. Navy Veteran serving ashore at the Fleet Anti-Air Warfare Training Center, Dam Neck Virginia Beach, VA, and at sea aboard the USS Mullinnix (DD-944) and USS Miller (DE / FF-1091).

Flintz the Pilgrim

The last time Alan Flintz had seen Jim Landers was two years at his DRC Bar. Jim was a horseracing fan and named his place in honor of the Detroit Race Course after it folded. No one came after him screaming copyright infringement. Alan had worked for Jim on the USS Ramply, (DD-810). They were in the Supply Department. They drank at many bars in the U.S. and abroad. Jim took photos and had a notebook where he cataloged them. So no surprise Jim ended up in the booze business. An “Uncle Sam Wants You” postcard announced he’d come down with Lou Gehrig’s disease which fit another piece of his life. He was a fervent baseball fan. It seemed like a task for him to lift a beer mug. He’d lost weight and used a cane, he reported.  Alan kept in touch by phone for a while but stopped when Jim started slurring. Alan wasn’t much good dealing with sickness or death. When it struck him to once more get in touch, he learned that Jim had passed away so his trip was a delayed visit to his wake and more.

Alan parked in a K-Mart parking lot somewhere off I-90 in Albany. He slept in the backseat of his ‘74 Impala with his father, so to speak. His dad was in a cremation urn. The pilgrimage idea came to him after he’d lost yet another job. It would be more of an adventure without a license. He’d been driving a cab in Providence, RI. A dancer he took to the Club Exotica gave him two or three swigs of tequila as a tip. He drove into a bookstore window near Brown University. He was in a financial fix but decided now or never. He was lucky to have spent just 2 nights in jail. He couldn’t figure that out.

The first matter after waking was hitting K-Mart for some transmission fluid. The Imp was in bad shape that way. He bought some Spanish nuts and M&Ms for snacking. Alan found a breakfast spot called Rooster Runyon’s close by that surprised the hell out of him. Both soft-boiled and poached eggs were on the menu. His old man had loved the first kind so he ordered in tribute. His waitress’s green name tag read Shirley. She wore big sunflower earrings. She served the egg in a holder decorated with a faded marshmallow Easter chick. Her eye shadow was sky blue. She prepared the egg at the counter. She hit it just right with a butter knife and placed the egg top on the plate with Alan’s rye toast. He scooped it and slowly placed it in his mouth. There was no yolk to drip. He guessed you’d say the egg was done medium rare. The strong coffee hyped the urgency of his mission. He regretted once again that he’d never gone on a long trip with his dad, to a faraway racetrack like Santa Anita or an MLB venue, say Candlestick Park for starters. Back in his car, he closed his eyes and told his old man about the egg and the waitress who vaguely reminded him of a barmaid at the Blarney Stone in Providence. He left out how Shirley’s eyes never set on his gaunt mug that his ex blamed on alcohol abuse. His week-old splotchy beard didn’t help he reckoned.

In Buffalo, Alan stopped at a Pep Boys for more transmission fluid. He bought some STP hoping it would help the Imp’s MPG. He picked up some No-Doz at a drugstore. His back was killing him from the backseat slumber. No more of that. On the road again, he spotted a pretty young woman hitchhiking, the wind playing with her long brown hair. The Imp slowed down on its own. Although he was divorced, Alan figured his sputtering

vehicle couldn’t draw a female fly. She must have read his mind. She quickly reined in her thumb.

Alan recalled the photos of Detroit teams and individual players on the DRC Bar walls. Jim’s all-time favorite was Al Kaline. At age 20, he was the youngest player to win a batting crown. Behind the bar on a shelf above the liquor rack various trophies were on display. Jim sponsored a slew of successful teams through the years from Little League to senior softball, also a fast-pitch women’s team. There was a picture of the star pitcher on a mound wearing a skimpy bikini; also winner’s circle photos of the horses that won at the longest odds in Jim’s betting career, Royal Contract, and Noble Zeus. They were surrounded by others that also had stories for Jim to tell. We’d discussed our fathers and the similarities they shared. When Alan’s dad found himself in a wagering slump, he’d go with the number one post if it was 5-1. Jim’s father did the same but he used the 2 and often hooked it up with the 4 for an exacta or quinella. They both treasured “Charlie Hustle,” AKA Pete Rose, and who cared if he gambled, enshrine him in Cooperstown! Despite that footnote, Alan’s dad was a diehard Red Sox fan and Jim’s the Tigers of course. They’d both seen Babe Ruth play. They were stars with pool cues. Jim and Alan both had a game where they’d partnered with their dads and won high praise after banking a winning shot. At that time Jim’s father was in a nursing home. Alan’s old man wasn’t far away from that fate. They got lost in a vocal pipe-dream about the four of them getting together. They almost sang that hope. What a blast! What stories they’d tell. Yes, DRC Bar was a one-of-a-kind watering hole in Alan’s experience. He couldn’t place one as memorable in his drinking past. Maybe his dad could but he was getting crazy forgetful. The dads didn’t last another 2 months.

Alan thought his heart was in danger of exploding when he finally reached the DRC Bar. He’d overdone the No-Doz. It was 3 P.M. He parked a couple of blocks away near a Jiffy-Lube. He retrieved an overnight bag on the passenger side floor and took out his dad’s blue blazer that he wore to wakes, weddings and funerals and replaced it with the urn. No necktie was necessary. His dad never wore one, a nod to Boston’s Ted Williams who insisted on a liberated collar. Alan got the rest of his gear from the trunk, took a few deep breaths and he was on his way. There was no “Under New Management” or DRC Bar sign. There was no indication it was a bar except for a Stroh’s Beer neon. Alan figured Jim’s sons took over when he died as was his hope. Were they doing a poor job? Alan remembered using the men’s room during his way back daylight visit. He’d noticed a window with peeling paint open a notch and the lock missing; an entry possibility? Ah, Steve McQueen escaping through one in The Cincinnati Kid. Could he turn that table? He got a couple of splinters urging it up but no alarm sounded. He was able to reach in and place the bag on the toilet tank. He smacked his head a couple of times climbing in and slightly ripped his father’s blazer. He switched on his searchlight, walked to the bar, and removed two framed pictures from the bag. Each had held a sports page clipping of big wins by two of his dad’s favorite horses, Dance Team and Occupy. Also a photo from Sports Illustrated of Ted Williams shaking hands with some bigwig who looked vaguely like Alan’s dad. He easily found room among Jim’s collection. He hung them using his tack hammer and hoped his additions would figure in DRC Bar lore and mystery for a long, long time. There was a step ladder against the wall outside the men’s room door and beside it a new aluminum window! He’d made it just in time. He set up the wobbly ladder in the back of the bar before filling a shot glass with Chivas Regal, his dad’s favorite splurge choice. He lifted it in a silent salute and slugged it down. “Miss you,” he said, voice cracking. He had two more, one for Jim. “Fair winds and following seas” he whispered and another for Jim’s dad. There was no reaction like with the Providence tequila. He climbed the ladder hugging the urn. He’d had “Blarney Stone Battlers” and crossed baseball bats engraved. It was a tight fit but he got it settled. He was a tad lightheaded climbing down. After inserting two quarters in the pool table coin slots, he racked the balls. He imagined he was playing against the roofer and painter in that unforgettable Hitching Post Grille game with his dad as his partner. He gave Jim and his dads’ triumph some thoughts too. Alan ran the table. He picked up the cue ball and placed it on top of the drained shot glass. There was a smudge of chalk the same shade as egg expert Shirley’s eye shadow.

He was out of the DRC Bar in a flash and back at the Imp in the same. He surveyed the star-studded, half-mooned sky before opening the trunk to empty and refill his overnight bag that he gently poised on the passenger seat. He drove five or six miles then parked at a highway rest stop. The No-Doz had worn off. The booze was a sedative. He was afraid to conk out but he had no choice. He should get farther away.  His eyes only knew shut. He slept for three hours.

The Great American Mall in Bloomington, MN was over 700 miles away. Alan figured he had enough cash to make it there with a good dose of luck. He’d probably end up selling the Imp to a junkyard for Greyhound fare to get back to Rhode Island. He chuckled to himself about his K-Mart snooze in the back seat with his dad’s ashes. This time he was in the front with his mom’s remains. He reached over and removed the urn. He’d had “Emerald Mall Walking Champ” engraved with a tulip beneath. He traced the letters like a man summoning a genie. He positioned the urn in the overnight bag between his mom’s Reebok’s that she’d purchased two weeks before she stepped to the other side.


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