It was easy to find the bar because I had been there before. Back in the day, it had been the only location on the coast that showed surfing videos or live surfing footage all day, every day, irregardless of what other people wanted to see, or what else might potentially be on the television. It didn’t matter if it was Game Seven of the World Series, final two minutes of the Superbowl, the State of the Union, or anything else. All one would ever see on the big screens there was one righteous curl after another. I had never had a bad time there, but nothing memorable had ever happened either. I expected to go in, have a quick beer, shoot the breeze, and head out, probably all within an hour – or less.
Fifteen minutes after arriving at the bar’s location, I hadn’t found a parking spot on the coast highway. My circling, however, was giving me a great opportunity to curse repetitively. Eventually I found a spot, and headed past the throngs of people seated outside, and stumbled through the wooden doors into the bar, into a teeming, chaotic mass of people. I must have looked completely dumfounded. For some stupid reason, I had thought that the place would be pretty much empty. Since I felt completely out of my element, I did what anyone would do in a similar situation: I sidled up to the bar and tried to act normal. By the time I found a place on the bar, I had managed to get in the way of three people in the beer line, and one waitress clearing tables. It was obvious that I was blending in with the crowd like a person wearing black socks with shorts.
Just when I was about to start crying into the unknown beer I had ordered and be branded as the creepy bar outcast for that Thursday night, I felt the familiar tap on my shoulder, along with the distinctive words, “Hey cool guy, glad you could make it!” I smiled, relieved that I was not going to be the bar pariah, and glad that Lumonox had found me. From there, it was all downhill. He led me back to the endless wooden picnic table benches that I remembered, and introduced me to ten or so people that I had never met before and whose names I forgot in about five minutes. But, over the din of several hundred concurrent conversations going on, I started talking, and before I knew it, it was four hours later, and our group was closing down the bar.
It took me a couple of days for the whole experience to fully distill into my bones – maybe it was the wheat crust on the pizza or the good micro-brewed bear, but since it was such a good time, I came back the next week, and the week after that, and while not the week after that, I came back the week after that. Soon, I was blocking out the space on my calendar; and after that I was dragging along other friends of mine to come join the crowd. It was only after the summer volleyball season prior to bar time had ended that I really could fully grasp what was going on at the bar.
What was really going on was that Lumonox and B-rad had created was Cheers. It was Cheers, but with one exception. It was a thousand times better. The obvious reason that it was better was that it was real life, and neither I – or anyone else that was there on a weekly basis had to fantasize or critique about how we would act in a similar television show! What lay beyond the obvious is what made and makes it special. For starters, there was the constantly changing cast of characters. Sure, there were the regulars there every week – from Lumonox on down to Long Story-Short (“LSS”). But there were also the newcomers – people that other people brought, or other people that just were sucked into whatever heated discussion we were having that night. There was always someone new to meet, something new to discuss, or someone to catch up with.
The more I thought about it, it became clear to me that what they had created was an actual network. Not one of those ethereal, “I have hundreds of surreal friends” networks, and not one of those serious business networks. What it was a flesh and blood, from thin-air varied conglomeration of people passing through life and sharing the experience with others. It was something that could only exist at this moment and yet keep going forward indefinitely. It was something that would never succeed with any definite rules or regulations, but was full of inside jokes and laughter.
It made me think of two things I had read but never appreciated as a college student. It made me think of Alexis De Toqueville talking about how such interconnected groups was what made America unique over two hundred years ago. And it made me think of how Nietzsche described the act of creation and the created work as beautiful. But most of all, it made me feel incredibly lucky that I was a part of something alive and real. So despite my skepticism, and despite my hatred of Cheers, the reader knows where to find me every Thursday – pizza and beer. I’m the one at the end of the picnic table with the loud laugh and the outrageous stories. So, as Lumonox says, “Pizza Port – this Thursday!”. We’ll plan on seeing you there. And if not, I encourage you to find your own Pizza Port – because chances are, its already out there waiting for you.