Scenes From a Bar
Inn Situ, known among the local patrons as “The Cave” because of the archaeological theme it bore and the perpetually dark interior had been serving beer and spirits, some said both liquid and ethereal, for nearly a hundred years. The place had been built in 1915 by Joe’s grandfather, Joseph Bechter, an amateur archaeologist, spelunker and prospector all across the American Southwest. Bechter had left St. Louis in 1903 and wandered the foothills and mountains of Colorado for ten years before migrating to the Oak Creek area of Arizona, finally settling in the hills outside of Sedona in 1913.
The next year, Bechter met and fell in love with a Native American girl who worked at the general store. Her father was not as happy about the marriage as the two young people were, but eventually, grudgingly accepted it. He even began accompanying his son-in-law on caving and prospecting excursions. As far as anyone knew, Bechter never found the mother lode he was searching for, although rumor and speculation were rife that he found something; how else could he have afforded to build the place with its accoutrements, on the land that it sat on in the first place, the reasoning went.
Not that the establishment or the decor were lavish. The walls were originally just planks nailed over a wooden framework. It was cold and drafty in the winter and hot and muggy in the summer with streaks of daylight showing through the joints. Joe’s father had finished off the interior with some insulation, mostly to rebuff the wind, and plastered the walls. The plaster had been ripped off the walls and replaced with gypsum wallboard sometime, Joe couldn’t remember exactly when, about twenty years ago. It had been Joe’s place for the last eighteen years since his dad died. That was a story in and of itself!
High up on the walls, shelves were lined with pottery and sculptures from all over the world. Each bore an engraved, brass name plate. REPLICA the plates all read, followed by a description of what the piece was, where it had been found and sometimes a brief history. Nobody knew for sure why Bechter had taken the time to have the nameplates made and why he had gone to the trouble to have them all labeled as “REPLICA” in the first place. Maybe to serve as a reminder to himself that he had never found anything, some folks said.
The stonework floor, primarily still the original sandstone, boasted a gray patina from settling dust and countless foot traffic over the years. The original tan color was only visible from recent scratches, or the occasional chipped or broken stepping stone. There were no mortar joints; the stonemasons that had laid the floor had finished and fitted the individual stones on site eliminating the need to cement them together.
Apart from the bar area itself, the interior was not well illuminated. Stale smoke from cigarettes and cigars perpetually hovered around the ceiling, circling and clinging to the inadequate light bulbs suspended high overhead and lending a surreal appearance to the deeper recesses of the establishment. Trying to see from the bar to the back was like peering through gauze curtains, or gossamer silk spider webs. Or, according to those more inclined to flights of imagination, spiritual manifestations of deceased but not necessarily departed patrons.
A small, raised stage had been added a few years ago for mediocre three and four piece bands both local and those making the trip up the hill from Phoenix to perform on most Friday and Saturday nights and a small area cleared of tables and chairs to create the semblance of a dance floor. The bands all played a variety of classic rock, country, and old blues. Often, it was difficult to determine the difference, but the regulars never seemed to mind.
Other than the archaeological remnants and the amazing workmanship of the floor—and of course the stories—the place was not now, nor had it ever been anything but a typical hole in the wall, neighborhood bar. The furnishings had morphed slightly over the years, most notably the addition of a pool table and a Wurlitzer jukebox, new at one time, but now decidedly vintage. The 45’s it housed had all been donated by patrons of the place dozens of years ago. Most of them were horribly scratched from over playing, but that didn’t prevent some of the current patrons from singing along to the distorted, mangled tunes whenever someone dropped a fistful of nickels in the slot. Joe had briefly considered having it updated, but the regulars had raised such a ruckus over the idea he gave up on it.
Sometimes, it seemed to Joe, the customers were the most resistant to change, almost as if they were the owners and he only a manager. As a result, change of any sort was generally slow in coming to Inn Situ.
Time, on the other hand, was unpredictable. There were days you could pop in for a quick drink and somehow lose track of several hours. Other days, you could sit and sip through several drinks and still make it home in time for dinner. If you let your mind wander while sitting at the bar, it was not uncommon to find yourself thinking about moments in history, great or small, or dreaming about what the future might hold. There were stories for that, too, if one hung around long enough. Some said it was because Sedona was once sacred ground. Others said it was because Sedona sat right square atop a temporal vortex, or at the junction point of ley lines or any of a dozen other explanations. The locals described it as time slipping and appeared to think it was normal. Normal for here, anyway.
The regulars all had their own reasons for frequenting the place. Some came for the companionship, some came just to drink. Some came to get away, while others wanted only to mingle. Some drank to forget, and for others, the booze helped them remember, or so they said. But they all had their stories to tell.
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