(August 19, 2019)
two bud-‘tizers down
at George’s – now, the chew-stuff
cow, fries, onion rings!*
*(Begun in 1956, George’s #1 on U.S. Highways 17-92 – French Avenue – is an institution of rocky repute, a dive bar other dive bars eschew in this proud listing of last-places you’ll see me’s. I’ve been hiding here since dang-near forever, especially since Phil Skates took over Harry’s from his dad downtown and that venerable institution with a “free” highly salted popcorn machine’s rendition of the old free lunch section of the long mahogany bartop designed to keep-you-drinkin’ went bye-bye long before The Alley Blues Bar decided this was a fine place to stop. Fine place, but not a good hideout bar, okay. George’s used to be across the street from a pair of fruit processing and shipping plants and regular as a broken clock it would get robbed by the front door – but the robbers never would go past the cash register where “take-out” with appropriately sized brown paper skinny bags for beer and wider ones for hootch, where hootch and beer and smokes were sold. Why did the usually caught-soon robbers not come ’round the swinging door and rob the dark, dank bar? Simple: the robbers were out-gunned even if there were only two or three tired old men in once-pristine tee shirts and oil-stained dungarees. The state farmer’s market (Florida’s first such state farmer’s market) just up the road from the two orange packers’ places boasted perhaps almost as many firearms readily available as, say, any three streets anywhere in town…if you went only two or three houses down each street, that is. Rarely did the robbers get much from their trouble. But they just knew better than to go pester those tired old men with their shots and beers. Besides some of the robbers probably worked for some of those tired old men stuffing trucks heading half-the-country away. I went there because I knew some of those tired old men, and played Sunday afternoon no-pads tackle football with some of the robbers’ younger brothers or older sons, and mostly because no one my age ever went there. I had another dive bar in East Mims I went to a good bit when I worked a newspaper in Titusville. Got taken there by a tired old man who spent seven years in Raiford (state penitentiary) for murder who was a grove worker – and later owned his own 40-acre grove – and a couple of high school administrators and suchlike, but mostly a buncha tired old men who liked to talk sports, their sons and daughters and mostly just sat watching the sweat bead on their beer glasses. When my little brother Storm stopped in The Oasis in East Mims, he was the only white face in the place. The less than small and coal black with pearls for teeth bartender asked: “what chew wan’ whiteboy?” Storm said she said: “I’m lookin’ for my brother” in Sanford’s best Black dialect. Storm said he teased in reply. “Oh, yeah, White: now just who’s Your Brother.” Storm said: “J Richards.” Then he laughed as he told me: “That woman moved like a ballet dancer, touched my outside elbow and guided me to a booth she claimed “This’un’s J’s, and magically a pitcher of cold-as-a-stripper’s-heart beer slopping just ever-so-slightly appeaerd…but no glasses. “Share if you want, but J doan drink from no glass.
“And,” she breathed, “You do take your wings hot?
“Now,” she went on without missing a beat, “One of you youngsters outside eaves-dropping like, go by Wilber Marshall’s mom’s and see if J’s there or over to the Calhouns’ places ’cause he may have gontasee Kenny or Doug.* Hurry now!” They hurried.
Storm later told me a Titusville High Vice Principal called his son to come over with his mom driving so he could drive Storm’s Karman Ghia crosstown to the almost all-wite part of West Mims (called, not surprisingly, just Mims) while Curley Edmonson drove Storm to their place near the Holder Park Little League fields so he wouldn’t have to drive back to Sanford stone cold unsober.
And you ask me why I go to place like that. Or George’s #1?)