Friday, April 15, 2011

Barography: Stones

In addition to Mono-Lagering, where I'm going to and talking about fairly random bars, I think I'd like to examine my past and talk about the various bars that have played important parts in my life, either as a drinker or just in general. I'm not sure what to call it . . ."Mono-Lagering" might be punny enough for an entire blog. Barography? Barstory? Let me know what you think.

Anyway, the first bar wherein I was ever a regular was a place called Stones. Now, I've done some research on the internets and have found no trace of the place. I know it closed down years ago, so I guess that's understandable. I really hoped to at least see some old pictures. My memories are somewhat vague, and, for once, not because of booze ingested in the bar. See, I was a regular at this joint from the age of three or so.

Stones was in Ironton, Ohio, which, in retrospect, is just an awful place in general. But in Boyd County, where we lived, it was a dry county. One bridge hop later and you were surrounded by bars and restaurants. Stones was my family's favorite place. I've heard both my mother and father wax nostalgic about their fried chicken. I don't think I ever had it myself; I was suspicious of any chicken fried by not-my-Gran.

I was a picky eater as a child. The usual white kid diet: hamburgers, hot dogs, spaghetti, steak. I remember liking their steak medium rare. The food I really remember is their popcorn shrimp. It was the first time I had it and I loved it. I can see that red plastic basket with the wax paper like it was an hour ago. My parents love to remind me how picky an eater I was as I get them to try new cuisines or talk about my cooking. I've paid them back for every "cultural experience" they put me through growing up.

There are a few other things about the place that I can distinctly remember. They had those jukebox access terminals at every booth. I played "Jump" by Van Halen every time, often followed by an Oak Ridge Boys song. Those things were great.

I remember reading comics there. It was down the street from my first comic shop, which had at least a dozen names while I went there. In particular I remember one unfortunate night when mom asked to see what I was reading. She couldn't have picked a worse time. In it a female character brutally attacked and raped a male character. No dirty bits shown, but it was clear what happened. Well, from then on, Mom had to pre-read every book I got.

My folks were very strict about what I saw or read as a kid. My friends have noticed there is a severe gap in my knowledge of 80s horror and comedy films. No R movies for little Joey. What's funny is what a change occurred when I graduated. These people that I was so used to censoring and denying became very open. I recall my mother saying that going to college I was going to want to "experiment," and that nothing was wrong with that in moderation. I protested and blushed. No way was I going to start drinking!

Yeah, that's right, I didn't drink yet. The parties where drinking happened in high school were social nightmares for me; I simply didn't go to them. My friends and I would smoke some, but mostly we'd just play music and make each other laugh. So I protested and balked, but little did I know in a few months I'd be downing drinks in my first New York bar. But that's a story for another time.

But mostly what I remember about Stones are the people; or, rather, my experiences with them. There was the owner, Benny. He was a white haired man that looked something like a cross between Colonel Sanders and Barney Miller. Friendly and jovial, he was there every night, often bartending. He always remembered my name.

There were two waitresses I knew, too. One was older and was often giving me stuff her grown kids no longer wanted: toys, coloring books, etc. I got some neat stuff. There was another, whose name I cannot recall, but she was my first bar/service industry crush. She had long brown hair and pretty eyes, and she gave me Reese's Cups after every meal. That formula still works for me to this day, by the way.

More than this, I remember how welcome I felt. I was an only child with parents older than my peers'. This was a place that was familiar, comfortable, and fun. I remember warmth and family and goodness. To this day, that's what I feel in any good bar. In a city where apartments come and go, and definitely feel temporary, a great bar can be more homey than any of them. That's probably why I go to bars when I'm down: not to drown my sorrows so much as to bask in the perfect feel of home.


  1. I remember that joint.....think it changed names before closing up shop

  2. It became CR Thomas', I know. Benny ended up running the Depot for a while.

  3. Oh yeah thats right....was thinkin thats what "depot" used to be...decent ital joint now resides in old cr's building

  4. I'll have to check that out next time I'm in town.