Thursday, December 9, 2010
In a piss-hole town birthed by a railroad that later changed its mind, lies a hell hole of a tavern-no, tavern's too genial a word-a bar called The Depot but The Trainwreck suits it better.
Just head South to exit 142 and walk one mile north along the tracks. It's accessible by car but you'd get lost anyway and the only parking is in the police station across the street which has housed most of the locals who tried when they had licences.
What it was, was the train depot when there was a train til the train got lost and Elmer Hatcher got an idea and scratched together a few hundred bucks and an old beer sign so he'd have an excuse to not be home.
If there was a front door on the joint, a boxcar hitcher could just jump from one open casket to another, without losing the pallor of death, but the front door was nailed closed as if two exits might be too confusing for the patrons.
You wont find much of a crowd, nor much of a bartender who is also the cook when she ain't working at the factory. With arms the size of my thighs and a gut that could trampoline you straight to Venus, where they apparently get their TV signal from, she also keeps order by scowl and reputation.
The first thing you notice when you lower your ass onto a barstool, is that you really lower your ass! Elmer's cousin Bernie built the bar in his garage and the damn fool built it too high. Bernie swore it was regulation height and even accused the behemoth of a bar-maid of sawing off the stools legs some to make people feel smaller.But seeing as they have ten barstools and no two a match, much like my Aunt Mabel's kitchen set she scrounged from Goodwill, it has to be the bar, a jumble of warped plywood and rusty bent nails.
If you stand, your elbows barely reach and your chin-anybody's chin- sits about level with the bar and some of the local women bring pillows.
You can order scotch or wine but you'll get beer in a warm can cuz the cooler is just an old closet and canned beer is all they got. I once asked the gal what they have on tap and she just squinted mean like and said, "Huh?" as if I had asked her the theory or relativity.
Everyone smokes cuz she smokes and no one knows if it's legal but with one door and no windows the smoke hangs like a blue plague from Moses' staff.
They heat the place with a wood stove and the temperature depends on how many empty cases are available.
The menu offers a choice of three burgers, a fish sandwich, and french fries, all made on the griddle blackened with grease and who knows what, oozing a fatty substance that drips to the floor where cockroaches scuttle merrily across a mystery meat patty that looked like it’d been there awhile. I watched the cook step on it several times and wondered if she'd pick it up, if she could, but finally she just kicked it under the freezer.
There are two bathrooms just off the bar but it's hard to tell which is which as each has a toilet and a sink but no doors which is just as well as there's no lights either. You can look away when someone goes but you can't help but hear it when the bristly dude two sizes too small for his jeans stands pissing in a toilet as if voyeurism was the provided entertainment.
If you make your way outside for oxygen or to see if it's still day, you'll most likely see an old Cadillac that in better days had seen many a drug deal, limpin in on one hubcap and a dragging muffler. That would be Martha, Elmer's niece who hauls her not right brother around in the backseat as she goes to the truckstop to peddle hamburgers and fish sandwiches to truckers who don't know any better. She got too big for the seat so they ripped it out and put a small beat up recliner in its place. Billy keeps the burgers warm in the backseat under some old towels.
After the cook/bartender/bouncer/factory worker brought out the orders that had been called in on an old CB radio, the Caddie would lumber in reverse, then creak forward on bedspring shocks towards the unsuspecting truckers.
On a good day, say a Friday, The Trainwreck might take in forty or fifty dollars and another ten in the jukebox from those that forgot it doesn't work.
It's not Ruby Tuesdays or even the VFW, but it's cheap and the place has character.
Just no Trains or doors.
(written with a good friend who wishes to remain anonymous-and really, who can blame her?)