[Editor's Note: We all know local music and dive bars go hand-in-hand. So in the interest of merging the two together on Heard Mentality, we bring you our newest nightlife column Dive, Dive, My Darling. Read as our bold web editor Taylor "Hellcat" Hamby stumbles into the dive bar scene every week to find crazy stories, meet random weirdos and guzzle good booze.]
We go to dive bars for many reasons: cheap drinks, a relatively secluded atmosphere, close proximity, the regulars. I went to the Blarney Stone in Fountain Valley expecting one or more of these perks, but I didn't know I would be given a life lesson in gratitude.
Looking around, one would be slow to guess this is a place where profound things happen. Sassy sayings are affixed to all parts of the bar, ranging from a mooning Leprechaun cautioning, "Forget the Blarney Stone" to "Sorry I missed church, I was busy practicing witchcraft and becoming a lesbian." The bar itself is a beautiful, smooth piece of ragged-looking wood. The jukebox spews funk and classic rock, and the place sells Tums for $1.50. One pool table, full bar, cash only.
Good-natured bartender John quit drinking five months ago and now enjoys early-morning fishing from the pier. He was thinking of going there with a customer after his shift ended at 2 a.m.
I went to the Blarney Stone not only to work, but also to drown my self-loathing sorrows with a longtime, close friend who was also having a shit day. He was overworked and underpaid, and he found out a very close friend was diagnosed with cancer. The two of us commiserated over our bad days and dropped tears in our beers, hoping to feel better.
After about an hour, a man with a black sideways cap approached us. He pointed at my drinking partner, Wes, and said, "You look exactly like my son." There was no resemblance between these two men, but he continued fawning over Wes, unable to believe how much this boy looked like his son.
He commented that the two of us made a beautiful couple. "Well, we tried for three years," I said.
He looked at us quizzically. "Only one thing lasts forever," he said. "And that is love. And I can see you love this girl."
We were not expecting to rehash the dead and buried parts of our relationship that had ended nearly a year ago. We were expecting to pity both of our working lives in a few draft beers, a shot of whiskey or two, and crash out asleep. But Caesar had other plans.
"You know, I met my wife when I was 14 years old. We are still married to this day," he said. "The doctors told me I won't make it to 35. To make it, you have to say . . ." He then held up his middle finger. "That is what my wife and I say to the world, and that's what I say to my disease."
He went on, explaining he has a small son he will never see grow up. Over several beers and engaged questions from us, he shared with us stories of almost dying of starvation and thirst when he was a child crossing the border, his mother and father dying of disease before he was a toddler, and his grandmother's last breaths spent calling his name. At that point, all three of us were in tears, Wes and I feeling stupid we were upset over such trivial things earlier and touched by this sweet man with a positive outlook.
John mostly let us do our sad, sappy thing in the corner. The crowd was dwindling as it approached midnight, so I don't think we scared the herd too much. In between tears, I couldn't help but laugh at how unexpected this life lesson in gratitude was. I've seen and done some pretty ugly things in bars, but some nights remind you even dank neighborhood pubs foster beauty.
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Other Nicknames: The Blarney Stoned
Favorite Piece of Flair: The skeleton with googly eyes and a Titanic captain's hat.
The Blarney Stone, 11761 Edinger Ave., Fountain Valley, (714) 775-9987.