I love playing tour guide, and I got my chance to do it for Bridget and Joe. They’re from Minneapolis, and they’re friends of my friends and fellow programmers Justin, Ry4an and Luke. Bridget had e-mailed me earlier, asking about places to go and things to see, and I sent her a list featuring things that are — and more importantly, aren’t — in the guide books. Bridget suggested that they give me a ring when they were in town and catch up for drinks. I suggested that we catch up at one of my favourite pubs, Smokeless Joe.
As its name implies, Smokeless Joe is a smoke-free bar. Here in Accordion City, such a thing is still extremely rare as we haven’t yet phased in restaurant/bar anti-smoking laws. As it name also implies, it is owned by a guy name Joe. Joe is sometimes called “New Joe” as he’s neither the original owner nor the founder of the pub; that honour goes to “Old Joe”, who still stops by for the occasional drink. Both Old Joe and New Joe greet customers at the door and talk to everyone who comes in. That same friendliness also shown by the bartenders, who introduce themsleves to you and jot down your name so that they can address you directly (“Another stout, Joey?” “Why, yes please, Pete.”). They certainly know their beers, which is important for a place that for which even respected microbrews like Amsterdam and Creemore are considered too run-of-the-mill.
(They also make a mean clam chowder and serve it in a king-size bowl.)
After I’d had a couple of drinks that Bridget kindly bought for me, someone sitting beside me turned to me and asked that question:
“Can you really play that thing?”
I asked her if she’d like to hear a number and then cleared it with Joe.
“Hey, Joe, can I –“
“I’m already turning off the stereo. Go for it.”
What a guy. I decided to start with You Shook Me All Night Long, which always gets good sing-along action and gets the audience clapping. I asked Joe if there was something that he wanted to hear, to which he yelled back “Britney Spears!” Very odd, considering he’s a big blues aficionado, but what the hey. Baby One More Time it was. I finished with Born to Be Wild, bowed to the crowd and return to my barstool to find Pete pouring me a bottle of Belgian cherry beer.
“Compliments,” he said, dropping his voice to stage whisper, “of someone who wished to remain anonymous.”
“Okay, Pete,” I said, pulling my stool closer to the bar. I wasn’t going to find out who it was; at Joe’s, bartender-drinker confidentiality is even more sacred than that between a doctor and patient. “You can at least tell me if it was a girl, can’t you? You can do that for a brutha?”
“Okay, it was. But that’s all I’m saying.”
“Can’t mack tonight, anyway. I’m out with friends.”
“Well, thank you, who ever you are,” I said, raising the glass to no one in particular.
I love this instrument.