“Bottle of Buckie” by Ted Leo and The Pharmacists

99. Song No. 1,282: “Bottle of Buckie,” Ted Leo and The Pharmacists
Living With the Living, 2007

Before the pandemic, we were regulars at the neighborhood bar. Hubs and his buddy being personable dudes who don’t creep out women helped endear us to the bar’s staff; being diligent tippers tipped the scales in our favor and kept it there. We were the folks whose bills routinely only reflected half of what we drank, taught the bartenders a few new drinks, and got free shots from our favorites, who always made time to hang out with our goofier-and-louder-the-drunker-we-got group between shifts and during lulls and whenever they needed to grumble about recently shitty customers for some sympathetic solidarity in return.

Nearly every week for years, we hunkered down in the corner booth of the diviest, coziest, most dimly lit and only non-strip-club bar within walking distance to settle in for a few hours of heavy drinking, pub foodstuffs and, occasionally, unspoken but deeply personal passive-aggressive wars with every other patron vying for control of the jukebox.

I have a love/hate relationship with jukeboxes and whatever we’re calling their modern equivalences. On one hand, they’re usually well-stocked with classic-rock standards and deep cuts alike, and I love watching a bunch of grizzled old dudes realize that the giggly redhead in the corner knows her way around the best the ’60s and ’70s had to offer; on the other, the flip side of my taste is built on a foundation of deliberately obscure indie rock, and finding anything that scratches my ’00s and ’10s itches on a music player catering to a most-common-denominator demographic that is very much not curated for me is a fool’s errand with wildly disappointing returns.

“Bottle of Buckie” was one of the few Ted Leo songs on the bar’s jukebox, though, so it became an inadvertent night-out-drinking mainstay for me. The vaguely Irish feel of a song about Scotland morphed into something weirdly appropriate for an Irish bar set among Northeastern urban squalor, the line “How’d you Jersey boys ever make it this far?” an irresistible sing-out-loud moment that even my self-consciously tone-deaf self can’t help but belt out in a fit of regional pride.

Nearly nine months of pandemic precautions and my deep reluctance to share breathing space with a bunch of drunks who aren’t apt to consider social distancing and between-drink masks (and I absolutely include myself among them, because I am one daft broad under the soberest of circumstances, let alone when I disembark on an evening that will most assuredly end with some blank spots) has pushed the local bar I pass on daily dog walks into the same surreally inaccessible realm as concerts, diner breakfasts and grocery shopping after 7:30 in the morning.

I miss the darkly wooden interior and sticky floors of the bar that always felt a little like an extension of home and I do distantly worry that it won’t make it through the winter without our weekly visits propping it up financially, even if the bartenders who knew us and our usual orders on sight so well that they “forget” about a significant chunk of our evening’s tab. It takes a lot for a trio of introverts to not only feel an affinity for but also keenly miss a watering hole largely populated by strangers with terrible music taste and my husband’s nemesis creatively but derisively known as Man Bun, but the hard-drinking tale within “Bottle of Buckie” is a lovely parallel reminder of the years and years of evenings well spent raucously, gleefully drinking with friends both old and momentary one alley/two city blocks away that we might not always remember but won’t easily forget.

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