Dungeness, salmon and Alaskan summer ale

Charles Kramer, The Levison Group

Saturday, August 26, 2017. It is a day unlike all others. It will have happened by the time you read this. Yet, as of now it is just something that is “to be,” An un-retired prize fighter named Mayweather is about to fight an iconic mixed martial arts legend. Yet that is not what marks this day. It is not what separates it from others.

The contest will be a boxing match. McGregor, the MMA hero, has never boxed before. Not as an amateur, nor as a professional. Yet millions have signed up to watch. It is a time of pay per view. The ring war is an escape. A road away from the rhetoric and chaos that has become daily life. So, the people watch. The people bet on the man who has never done this before. The man who has never worn regulation boxing gloves. The odds makers shake their heads. They take the money.

This is a time of battle lines. It is a day of positions and controversy. The presidential candidate who was not a politician won the office. He set out to prove his pedigree. The refusal to play the political game is implemented. The results should have been foreseen. The inability of our nation to function without political machinations and spin is disheartening. Yet it is reality. We careen. Lawmakers don’t law-make. Controversies rage. Accusations. Investigations. They are of things undoubtedly done before. Yet without the poli-smoke they appear flames. The promised laws — controversial laws; expensive laws, society-changing laws — have stalled and died. There is no wall. The insurance reinvention persists unaltered. Rebellions within simmer, then erupt. Loyalists are fired. Loyalists resign. Will things become better? Will they be worse? Opinions ring out from the street. They are rants that stem from a certainty of position. They are views, not knowledge. Protestors protest. Champions champion. No one truly knows. Time will tell. Once again, much is afoot. So, what about the law? The Supreme Court finally has its ninth justice. In a startling change from team sport chaos, certain Republicans urge the Court to outlaw extreme election district re-drawing. They do it in a case challenging a republican win.

The nation’s capital is the focus. Both for Supreme Court decisions, and growing protest on other issues. In other cities protests also garner attention. Yet, once again, I am not there. I am not in the midst of the chaos or life change. I am miles away. I am in Alaska.

Juneau. It is the state capitol. Yet, it is a town. It is not a city. It is smaller than one would think. Its capitol building has no dome. What? No dome? Indeed!

It is a cold day, damp and raining. Alaska is a rain forest. It always rains. Only the cruise ship tourists are surprised by this.

I walk into a tavern. Not a restaurant. Not a diner. Not a bar. A tavern. It is across from the Hotel Alaska. It is old and nondescript. Although the name on the door is different, the locals call it Amerique’s Place. The name is vaguely familiar.

I feel comfortable here. It has the feel of a place that’s been known and loved for years. The juke box in the corner is old. Yet the relatively new Ben Morgan song “Age Is a State of Mind” plays clearly. The place is pleasantly full. It has the buzz of energy. It is warm. It is dry.

Yet somehow the dampness of the rain outside is felt within. Strange. It is like a comforting arm tossed around your shoulders. Not invited, but comforting. There are few windows. Light exists, but is obscured.

Although I do not notice him at first, he is the man in the corner. The man in the black shirt and khaki slacks. The man who is blind. He is African American. He is older. He sits quietly in the corner. Where else would he be?

The man fidgets with his glasses that he cannot see and that will not help. They were purchased at a shopping mall. They have replaced his once beloved twelve-dollar drugstore “cheaters.” I never ask why.

There is a girl across from him. Sitting alone. Her tattoos are slightly visible on her chest when she turns a certain way, causing her shirt to shift. Money well spent. She is speaking.

“The statues should come down,” she says.

A young man, in his twenties, was not the one to whom she spoke. He sits two tables away. Yet he responds.

“There is no law against them,” he rejoins. “Not all Southern generals are symbols of slavery,”

“Oh no?” asks an elderly woman from Nova Scotia. “What were they fighting for?”

“That’s not my point,” offers the girl with the tattoos. “The slave days, though despicable, are a part of our history. We are not Russia. We do not remove the uncomfortable portraits from our pictures. If we erase the past, we won’t learn from it.”

“Then why take them down?” asks the waitress.

“The South lost,” she replies. “What nation erects statues in honor of generals who sought to overthrow it but were defeated?”

The point rules the day. The discussion ends. Or perhaps people tired of debate and preferred their Alaska summer ale.

The elderly, blind man from the corner had paid no attention in any event. He is about to reach the century mark. He is most assuredly old. He cannot see with his eyes. Yet he most assuredly sees. And he can still play. Yes, my friend, he can definitely still play.

 There is a stool on a raised square that serves as a stage. It is for him. As the man rises to work his way to the stool, I notice him for the first time. I laugh out loud.

The old man hears my guffaw and pauses. He tilts his head slightly. He smiles. It is a smile that says he remembers. I stand and walk toward him. “Yes, I say. It is me.”

He nods. “If you were not you, who would we all be?” he responds.

We hug. We are not friends in the traditional sense. I do not know why our paths intersect. There is no reason as to when they do or why, when they do, it is always in a place of drink. It is always when the fiddler is playing and Rome is burning, yet is never near the flame.

The words the man utters to me confound those around us. They always do. I know not what they mean, but I heard him say them before. He uttered the same phrase to me a half decade ago in St Louis. He had said the words before that, one early morning in Vegas, and in an eerily similar bar in Key West, and on a grey and rainy day in Louisiana. In each instance, they were said.
Each time they were said by this same man. Each time, they were said to me. I remember. I remember it all.

We met first in that small drinking establishment in New Orleans. It was an anachronistic location. The perfect spot to inhabit on a day our nation changed. Years later, it was Key West, Florida. Fantasy Fest raged four days before Bush junior was reelected. It happened next in Las Vegas. It was the week the California court had ruled on same sex marriage. Then it was 2010, in St Louis, as “Obama Care” was about to be born.

August 26, 2017. Outside it is raining. There is no smell of toasted ravioli. Although there is seafood, it is Dungeness crab and salmon, chased by Alaska summer ale. Pour boys and oysters are not to be seen. There is no taste of conch fritter in the air.

In the “District” the politicians work, panic, and work again. Across our nation, statues of defeated generals are toppled. Here, the people wait for two men to square off on a canvas stage, surrounded by ropes and hopes.

The locals call this bar Amerique’s Place. It is a strange place to be when our nation is on the verge of chaos, on a day when we all hope for change. Yet, the old man is walking towards the stage, all eyes upon him. I sip my beer. He smiles and begins to play.


Under Analysis is a nationally syndicated column of the Levison Group, Charles Kramer is a principal of the St Louis, MO based law firm Riezman Berger PC. Comments or criticisms about this column may be sent directly to the Levison group at comments@levisongroup.com, or in care of this paper.
© Under Analysis distribution, LLC.