There is a hole in my neighborhood.
Where once there was something, now there is something missing.
The place we used to go is still there, but we no longer go.
There is a hole in my neighborhood.
There used to be a watering hole in my neighborhood, now there is just a hole.
One year ago this week, my neighborhood watering hole locked its door. That very door we could all count on to open (with a slight push, because it sticks) would always give way, as long as it was after 11am and before 2am.
There is comfort in knowing you could always find that door open. You could always drop in mid-day for a quiet pint, maybe your feet needed a rest, but more likely your mind did. You could always push on that door to escape the summer heat or shake off a winter freeze. You could take comfort in knowing that if you were feeling alone, on the other side of that door was always a friendly ear. Even on holidays, when they weren’t planning to be open, that door would still push open, because on holidays some neighbors might need it the most.
As Covid descended on Pittsburgh and caution closed all of our doors, my neighborhood bar locked up for the night and except for a couple of weeks in July, no one has pushed through that door since.
In Pennsylvania, bars are not allowed to be open, unless the serve food. The Korner Pub does not serve food, it serves beer. That is all. Not wine, no liquor, no small plates. Bottled, canned, tapped, they don’t discriminate, as long as it’s beer. Just beer.
There was a brief period in July were transmission rates were low and Pennsylvania allowed bars to open their doors, with rigid restrictions. This was short lived after a couple of bars in town opened fully, nuts to butts crowds packed in, and case rates spiked. By my approximation, 1 in 4 cases of Covid in America can be traced back to Lefty’s in the Strip District.
Knowing you can’t push open that front door, with that extra push, because it sticks, has left a hole in my neighborhood.
I have some close friends that drink regularly at the Korner Pub, my monthly book club meeting is held there, me and the wife try to never miss Monday Night Trivia, and Krazy for Swayze night is the highlight of the summer (don’t worry Amber, our anniversary is a close second). But it’s not about the events and it’s not just about the friends either, it’s about the neighborhood. Because since Covid, the lads have still come by the house for social distanced fire pit beers. And since Covid, the book club still meets in my backyard. And since Covid, the wife and I have sadly tried to recreate pub trivia. We can still drink beer and listen to music, but it’s not about that. It’s the casual acquaintances that are missing. Those people that I know, but I don’t know that well. It’s the people that live in the neighborhood that I see on the streets, those are the people that I miss.
A neighborhood has a fabric, an underlying, unseen web of relationships that tie people together. In some neighborhoods, where people bump into one another a lot, where residents interact on a regular basis and feel a sense of familiarity, that fabric is strong. In other neighborhoods, where face to face interactions are few and casual encounters are rare, that fabric is weak. Think of that neighborhood as a t-shirt from Dollar General. It has a low thread count and is easy to pull apart. A loose fabric is not durable. A good neighborhood is like a good pair of jeans, comfortable, rugged, hard to pull apart apart. Those jeans will last, they will support you.
What happens though when those jeans get a hole in the knee?
My neighborhood jeans have a hole in the knee. The fabric is weaker because of it, the community feels pulled apart. The people feel less supported, the neighborhood is a little less durable, more of us are likely to slip between the threads right now. The fabric needs patched, or the jeans will only deteriorate further.
Just as the watering hole is vital to all the animals of the jungle, so is the neighborhood pub to the neighborhood. People need a place to convene. As more internet based distractions keep us in our homes, the role of the local tavern is growing increasingly important in our society. These bars bring neighbors together, remind us of a shared humanity, and facilitate civility. They also keep more money in the community and give people a much needed “third place” in their life, apart from work and home. And now when everyone’s work is also their home, it is that much more necessary we have some place to go to be with one another.
I dropped in the Korner Pub the first week I moved to the neighborhood and probably haven’t missed a weekly visit until Covid. My watering hole has helped me know my neighborhood so much more. I’ve made incredible friends there, learned of new babies and failed marriages there. I have had some of the most interesting and hilarious conversations there. I have had some terribly difficult conversations there as well. My work provides me plenty of opportunity to be alone, but for my happiness and my sanity, I require a place to be together.
There is a hole in my neighborhood and it is shaped like The Korner Pub.