Sunday, November 8, 2009

hot pipes...

Do you have a favorite restaurant? Or bar?

You know, one of those places that just feels like you've come home?
Like Norm from Cheers?

I have one of those...

It's just a small little place, still decorated from the 1960's. Complete with wagon wheel light hanging above the horseshoe bar.

I've been going there for years. I know all the people that work there. And they all know my name. I don't ever have to 'order', as I'm a creature of habit and get the same thing every time I'm there. They even know how to time it. Put the order in when the first drink gets down to about there...

It's seamless. It's comfortable. It's a 'no brainer', if you will.
All I have to do is show up.

Last week my favorite little hole in the wall replaced some kitchen equipment and closed for several very long days. I kept forgetting. I would head there only to be disappointed that they were still closed for the remodeling. I would approach and see that they parking lot was near empty and silently 'hooray' that I wouldn't have to wait for a bar stool. And then I would see all the chair turned up on the tables and realize that indeed they were still...closed.
I can live without going there, but because I knew that I couldn't order my normal bowl of spicy garlic wings...I had an almost insatiable craving for those messy things.
And others just won't do. I've tried. They have to be Herb's wings.

They re-opened yesterday.
Just before the dinner rush.
And what a rush it was...

The place was packed. Most of us regulars were there clamouring for our favorite spots at the bar. Some had to linger in the background as their weren't enough seats. Or grab a table, God forbid. All the conversation happens at the bar.

Because of it's shape, it's not unheard of to have the entire bar involved in some conversation or another. It can range from every topic imaginable. Newbies there probably feel a little irritated with people talking over them while they eat, but this is a Herb's tradition. And one that won't die easy. If you don't like socializing, sit at a table. Don't take up precious bar space.

There is a great mix of people who are regulars at Herbs Tavern. The walls show all of the history of the place. Old photos and memorabilia adorn most available space. Not the generic kind like at a TGIFridays, but personal stuff of people that have been there through the years.

One of my favorite people to saddle up by is Clarence "Clancy" Shaffer. He's in his 100th year of life. On September 19th, 2010, he'll be the grand age of 100. I asked him whether he's excited that he'll get a nod from the President when he turns 100.

"Bah. I've already met 10 of them. United States Presidents, that is."

I bet he has. I love Clancy. He's got some fascinating stories. I want to write them all down.
He won a silver medal for boxing in the 1921 Olympics. He raced in the Whitbread Challenge and just recently sold his sloop that used to belong to JP Morgan. Clancy's a big game hunter and has ventured far into untamed regions that we only view on NatGeo or read about in magazines. He's an inventor that has credited to him manufacturing the A frame rafter used to support most homes.

There are a gazillion more things that Clancy has done. It's always fascinating. His wife Gertrude died a few years back. They were married for over 70 years. She was 94 when she passed.

Clancy orders the same drink every time he's in.
Vodka and tang. With 12 Sweet & Low's. In a tall glass. He orders two each visit. No more. No less.

I've come to believe that it's all the preservatives in those little pink packages that may just be responsible for his longevity. They are preserving him, 1 gram at a time.

He's always in a suit coat and tie. He tells me he owns 92. I believe him. I don't think I've seen him in the same one twice.

If Clancy's there, expect an hour long conversation. And then he'll pat your hand, kiss your check and drive the 2 miles back home in his big Buick. On parting he always says, " I hope to see you again."

I hope I see him too. I suppose at 99, seeing anyone at least one more time is definitely a bonus.

Sometimes newbies will question the presence of this older man at the bar drinking his peculiar concoction. Most are enamoured. Clancy's like a rite of passage into whether you're new or a regular.
But there are a few that just seem to have no respect for their elders. There were a young couple in last week sitting at the bar and snickering amongst themselves at Clancy's expense. It angered me.

When Clancy left to use the restroom, I asked them, "Do you know who that is?"

"Noooo. Just some smelly old dude." giggled the bimbo.

"Uh. Yeah. No. That was Clancy Shaffer. He's 99. And has done more in his lifetime than you ever will do in yours. Have some respect."

They left shortly after. They don't deserve a space at the bar. Our bar. My bar. They weren't part of the regular clientele. You have to earn that.

There is a drawback for being a regular. People know you. There is a camaraderie amongst those familiar faces. It's very easy when they are all there to get over served...

People are always buying rounds for each other. Last night I had 2 shot glasses denoting a free drink, overturned in front of me almost the entire evening. Maybe it's because everyone was there. Lance and Heather, Pam and Dave, George, Kurt...everyone. Add to that that Dean and Lisa got married, the evening turned out to more festive than usual.

It was like being at a reunion with everyone that you want to see.
A good time was had by all.

Perhaps too much of good time. If that is possible.

I drank 7 bottles of water from the time I went to hit my bed to present. I guess I'm trying to flush all that excess from my system.

"Hot pipes", some people call it.
And that's what I have this morning.

I stopped drinking soda awhile back, but I crave bubbles today. What I wouldn't give right now for a Diet Coke. I just may have to break my 'No soda" rule.

And junk food. A Big Mac would be awesome. And some fries.

Yeah. That's what I'm going to do.

I'm going to go to McDonald's and get me a Big Mac meal. Consume 120% of my daily allowance of caloric and sodium intake in one. big. meal.

And then...I'm going to nap.
It's 9am and I'm already scheduling in a nap.

Life is pretty damn good.

It's a glorious day. It's looks to be one of the last great weekends of the year before the nasty weather is headed our way. The remainder of the week is going to be 30's a wet. So I will get my 'sorry over served ass' up and out to play in the leaves today. I must.

But right now, I'm planning my junk food bliss.
As if all those wings last night weren't enough.
The leaves can wait just a few more hours. Or days.
I've got to rid myself of these 'Hot Pipes'.
But it sure was fun getting them...

Addendum 2:20pm: I've had my BigMac (delicious) and my fries. But decided instead of the Diet Coke to go for the Iced Mocha. I mean, why not?
I've also managed a short nap AND taken the dogs for a long walk AND played in the leaves with then down at the beach.
Life IS good.
And I'm not talking about the T-shirts.


  1. The idea of a 'local pub' is very prevalent in the UK. But as I am not much of a drinker, my favourite place is a bistro called 'High Road House'. It's about 15 minutes from my house and I have never had a bad experience there.
    The food changes through the day from cooked breakfasts and french pastires over the paper, to lovey arming soups salads and light meals for lunch.
    Supper in the evenings is divine! They have an extensive wine list and the chocolate profiteroles are seriously worth selling the soul of your first born for.
    I love that I can take my macbook and paper and take ages to sup 3 coffees and there are only smiles from the staff. Plus free wi-fi. HELLO.

  2. Sounds like my kinda place! I actually bartended at an establishment like this for quite awhile. I spent many a Christmas Eve with some very lonely people. It made me feel better to know they at least had somewhere to go. And good for you for sticking up for your friend! He sounds like the type of guy I'd gravitate toward!! Happy 'Mac'ing!! :-)

  3. Sounds like you had a great time!

    Hang in there today! Get outside ... even if only for a few minutes. The fresh air will do you some good!

  4. Clancy is intriguing. I hope you do write some of his stories.

  5. I would love to hear some of Clancy's stories. But I can wait until your pipes cool down ;)

  6. Such a fun read. I love Clancy and the bar. I'm a Texan but both my folks are from Ohio, and my grandpa in Lima lived to be 89 despite drinking record amounts of Budweiser and chewing tobacco and dumping ketchup on every single thing he ate. I think I could earn my spot to belly up to your bar, if I ever make it to Cleveland.

  7. Good Morning Nancy!
    Try a big glass of orange juice. It always helped me when I enjoyed the crowd a little much!

    Yes tell us more stories bout Clancy! He sounds awesome!

  8. You MUST write a book about Clancy, so much history in that man!

  9. What I wouldn't give for a seat at the bar between you and Clancy! (Along with some of those wings and a beer.) Awesome post! Cheers!

  10. It's amazing to me that you actually have a bar like this to hang out in. Those are supposed to be reserved for fiction.

  11. you go get that burger! gobble some extra fries for me...

    clancy sounds super cool. cant wait to hear more about this dig and the people.

  12. ohmygosh, i LOVE this post. we just moved and i'm in search of a place like this. not necessarily a bar; a breakfast spot or diner will do just fine -- but the same type of community atmosphere as you're talking about. AWESOME.

    by the way, my great grandmother turns 108 this year...


  13. Thanks for bringing us with you! Sounds like a great place!

  14. ahh I just had a big mac today after MONTHS of not having macdonalds, it was so good!

  15. Hee!! I'm still chuckling about the sweet and low with a side of Tang and vodka! I've never been to a bar that stocks Tang. I think it's great that Herb is sensitive to the needs of his regulars ; ).

  16. Your favourite drop-in sounds fantastic, you're very lucky to have it and your place at the bar. We've nothing to compare in Cambridge. As for Clancy, I wish he blogged!

  17. Oh what I wouldn't do for a trip to a great bar or a big plate of those delicious looking wings! Terrific post, that Clancy sounds like one cool dude to hang out with!

  18. Hubby and I had our version of Cheers (but with food) for a few years....They'd see our car pull into the lot and as we walked in there would be a margarita, no salt, waiting on the bar. That was for him; I was never so predictable. The place changed hands, and for another couple of years most of the waitresses still knew us. By now they're all gone, the menu and decor have gone upscale, and it's not home anymore. Sigh.

  19. How awesome to have a place like that! Clancy sounds like a hoot. You can probably attribute the vodka to his longevity. My hsuband's great uncle will be 106 this spring. He is the oldest living Delegate and oldest living Mason. We attribute his longevity to his daily drinks of Wild Turkey. Maybe we should all have those kind of daily habits!

  20. I always fantasize about stepping in and defending helpless centenarians when young punks are flexing their youth. I'm like the reverse Catcher in the Rye.
    Thanks for the follower of note! I'll try and keep it clean for your reputation's sake ;)

  21. the next time i'm up in cleveland, I really must visit this place....and while I still have time, meet this "Clancy" fella...he sounds amazing!

    and I'm glad you said something to that bimbo, i don't know how some people go though life with such an amazing ability to be disrespectful...but these are the same people who don't appreciate life in general....nothing means anything to them....if it's broke, buy idea of the importance of history and no appreciation for nostalgia.

    I say bah to bimbos!


  22. Dang, just moments after up-dating my blog, I click on yours, and now all I can think of are those hot pipes.

    Mr. Shaffer sounds like a character worth sitting at your favorite spot for hours devouring his stories and hot pipes. Great post!

  23. Firstly, I love your writing--the bar, clancy, the big mac attack, everything! Secondly, THANK YOU for the reminder as in reading about your wings I just realized that a friend put her leftover ones in my trunk last night and THEY ARE STILL IN THERE! Time to get them out before they create a biohazard.

  24. Great Post. Classy act defending Clancy. Idiots. Sounds like you have some great friends there, that is so nice. Have a great day!

  25. Clancy sounds like an amazing man! Someone that I would lend my ear to for a few hours. He must have some amazing stories! I am glad to hear you put those little girls in their place!

  26. You win. This is my favorite post I have read today. I loved every bit of it. I could picture the camaraderie of the bar and see Clancy. What a sweet and intriguing character. I am envious of you and your special place. It sounds so wonderful. Too bad about the hot pipes, but from the sounds of last night it was worth every bit. Really wonderful writing Nancy!!

  27. Loved this post...I was right there with you. I have a favourite place to go, which is actually my hubby's workplace (I love that my little one focusses on him and I don't have to clean up either). We are usually in the same booth and can't help glowering at any tourist taking up our spot...don't they KNOW you don't sit there at this time? LOL I also love Clancy...I've never met him but know I would probably end up just asking him endless questions....isn't it great when you find someone who is like a good book? Finally....totally with you on the junk food bliss...sometimes you've just gotta let yourself a bit of decadence. What an awesome day to share, thank you :)

  28. I love the story about Clancy. My grandmother will be 97 this month. I remember she put sweet n low in everything- even had that bottle of the Sweet n Low liquid on the kitchen counter at all times. Maybe that stuff does make you live longer?
    Thanks for sharing,

  29. Cheers! Am not particularly social myself. But it sounds awesome! Hot pipes...hmmm...sounds uncomfortable!!

  30. I would love to sit with Clancy and pick his brain for an hour or two! He sounds like a fascinating man. A good for you for telling those to young idiots to have some respect for a gentlman of such accomplishment!!!!! Seniors Rule!

    Debbie (

  31. Sounds like an AWESOME way to spend a day.

    And say Hi to Clancy for me. I have a few patients like him. I love having them come in, more just to chat with them than anything else.

  32. That sounds like such a neat place - a small neighborhood bar where, yeah, everybody knows your name. :)

    Clancy should meet my father-in-law, who will turn 99 in February. He has a lot of stories, too. We could learn a lot from these old people. Good for you for telling that young girl off! Respect, INDEED!

    Sounds like you had a wonderful time. You made me laugh with your indulgences the next day. Everyone is entitled to a little bit of indulgences. :)

  33. Wow - what an awesome place! I've never had a place where I could be deemed a "regular." Sounds like an awesome time to be had by all! Hope you enjoyed your McD's.

  34. Oh, Nancy...what wonderful post!

    I could actually feel myself there. And Clancy sounds like my kinda person to want to hang out with. Like you, I enjoy being around people who have LIVED; sharing rich life-stories. And holy cow!...almost 100?? Sounds like George Burns!

    Thanks for sharing your Herb's wings!

    Thoroughly enjoyed!

  35. My favourite place to eat has changed over the years. Moving around will do that for you. Right now it's this little organic coffee shop close to my new office. Hidden away on a main road, I've gone past it so many times and not even realised it was there. Now I know better. :)

  36. Wow, I felt like I was sitting there with you! I want to go there; it sounds so great. I think I need to get out more.

  37. Ah ha! Sounds like the museum my mom works in. Yes, I said museum. The Alabama Veterans Museum. Sponsored, started, and run by veterans and lemme tell you...we have more than our fair share of Clancy's. And each and every one of them totally rock. Good for you for having such a treasure trove of goodness in easy reach.

  38. That sounds like a wonderful evening followed by a perfect day. Glad you had a good weekend! Do share more stories of Clancy in the future.

  39. What an entertaining post! Loved it!

  40. I love that pipes...
    Great post, great story.

  41. Can't say much more than has already been said--so I won't! Great post--the type that makes me go back and reread. Again. Have a lovely day!

  42. "Sas" has mentioned one of my local eateries! High Road House is wonderful!

    But my "local" is right on the river, two minutes away from my doorstep and I love it. It has combined the traditional "boozer" with a kitchen that is really quite impressive, and the landlady is one of those typical British Eastenders type folk, who'll put her arm around you whilst taking your order. It's simply wonderful and there is nothing better than a glass of something dry and white by the river on those chilly autumn evenings!


  43. I was afraid you were going to say that everything had changed once Herb's was renovated. I'm happy to hear it's still yours and Clancy's place, and not Bimbo's. That kind of reno happens way too often!

  44. "Junk food bliss"...well, that just says it all! And I wish a had a bar like that in my neighborhood.

  45. Damn you, Nancy, I LOVE this post, and all your other posts. (I don't, of course, mean to damn you, damn me, I'm just being emotional.) (No, not PMS.)

    I think I enjoyed this post as much as you've enjoyed those garlic wings... actually, I think this may have become one of my favourite places to come and have a "snack". It would definitely have all the attributes: good food for the brain, a homey atmosphere, regulars, even discussions...)

    Also, I LOVE how you describe Carlos' blog above! Chortle-chortle.

  46. Well... i am going to answer your first question. I like this little restaurant: Log Cabin and I also like Olive Garden. Their breadsticks are... AMAZING! (in a singsong voice!) ha ha! CHeCk Me OuT aT: Thanks ya'll! HA HA!

  47. Lovely post as always, Nancy! Clancy sounds like a dear....I hope he's sitting at that bar drinking his Tang for years to come!
    Love it!

  48. Sounds like my kinda place! I actually bartended at an establishment like this for quite awhile. I spent many a Christmas Eve with some very lonely people. It made me feel better to know they at least had somewhere to go. And good for you for sticking up for your friend! Work From Home

  49. Hey Nancy, this is definately one of your best posts. I've been out of the blogosphere for a bit, but it sure looks like I came back just in time. I really enjoyed this piece.

    Clancy sounds like a real sweetie. I would love to be able to sit down with him and listen to his life stories.

    Great post...kudos!!

  50. It is a true shame that both places like this and men like Clancy are becoming a rarity in this world. Terrific post indeed. As for those two young punks, seems to me that's exactly why they make those "We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone" signs. Now you have made me hungry though, those wings sound like the ticket for sure!

  51. Just wanted to send a big ol thanks for your support re my husband thinking i'm a hater. really appreciate that! And it is that time of month ... even tho i'm an extremely old broad I still get a frickin' period every month like a 14 year old. ugh!

  52. hey girl. You have been tagged and awarded. Check my blog

  53. I miss having a local, I've moved around too much the past decade to join such a place, and the bars here in the city just aren't personable enough. I do have two lunch places where they know me by name, but it's just not the same as nice hangout like my old pub back in the UK...

  54. He sounds great! We have a local coffee shop where they know us and what we'll order for lunch. No wonderful characters there, though... I would love your Clancy, too!

  55. I just wanted to let you know, I linked you in my post today.

  56. Unfortunately the place I go where they know my name is the grocery store. Not sure if that's good or not.


  57. Oh how I love you gave a shout out to Cheers. Laguna Beach has many of those 'mom and paw' places and I love walking in to them yelling "norm!" at me.

    Ok, not really, but still.... =)

  58. Thank you for writing such a neat post about Clancy (and about your favorite "hole in the wall")! Great writing!

  59. I'm late to the party - as usual. So, I'm sure there isn't much I could say that hasn't already been said yet.

    This was a great read and I enjoyed it from start to finish. thanks for sharing!


Do it. Do it NOW!