Gather round, kids, while I tell you the story of How the AE Came To Be. The credit goes entirely to Ms. Karen Suglia, a women who’s seen a lot in our years of friendship, and don’t let her kid you any, she’s been right in there pitching on a lot of it. But I digress. A diverse group of us gathered after work on a Friday night to wish our friend Brian well as he was decamping for brighter horizons. We met at a friend’s house and had a lovely time celebrating him, but after show tunes karaoke wound down, I suggested we all go out for a drink to continue the festivities. I gave everyone directions to my favorite bar at the time, the Home Bar.
Now, this establishment was, in its time, The Quintessential Dive. Long demolished, it was The Spot for many, many years among those with zero pretenses and fewer teeth. You would go here only if you thoroughly enjoyed rubbing elbows with a plain-spoken clientele and imbibing strong drinks made in a straightforward fashion. You did not go here for your appletinis, or your cosomopolitans, or your craft beers. You’d go here for a shot and a Pabst Blue Ribbon, perhaps some boxed wine on Ladies Night. This place was a classic no-frills joint in a rough neighborhood, decorated with carpeted walls, Christmas lights, and a very large framed portrait of the ship on which the proprietor and her husband had taken one of their many cruise voyages.
I don’t remember which door we used coming in. It’s important to note that it was always better to use the back door at the Home Bar. If you went in the front, off Portage Street, you would be walking directly onto the small dance floor and that annoyed the hell out of the regular group of rug-cutters. We took our seats at several wobbly tables and placed our drink orders with the thoroughly unimpressed waitress. I had a passing acquaintance with one of the working girls at the bar, so I said hey to her as we passed by. I never fully knew if they were working girls, but there were many times that men would approach them at the bar, briefly chat, and they would depart together for 20-30 minutes, and return separately. I drew my own conclusions, and didn’t judge.
Some of my group was a little jumpy, as the Friday night crowd was not-so-quietly checking out the new arrivals in their midst. Some of our group were openly gaping at them as well. One of these groups was not like the other, one of these groups didn’t belong, to take you all back to Sesame Street. Then the front door slammed open loudly and all talking ceased. Eyes got huge at our table and I turned around to see what was causing the commotion. “Well, if it isn’t Amy Campbell!” said the leather-clad man in the lead. It was my friend Jim, who was at that time a member of a fairly notorious local motorcycle club. I jumped up and ran over to give him a hug, and I heard one of our number say behind me, “That’s about right. Amy brings us to this ratty place and a motorcycle gang comes in and she knows them.” What can I say? I get around.
I brought Jim over to the table to introduce him, and to my surprise that rough group decided to sit down with us and get acquainted. Soon the conversation picked up and from there things went off without a hitch. Several pitchers of beer later Karen looked around and then uttered the phrase that started it all: “Yeah, someone ought to follow her around for a couple weeks with a video camera and make a movie about the stuff she gets into – they could call it the Amy Experience.”
And there you have it. The Amy Experience. Ask for it by name.