Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Justin Burrow and a perfect Manhattan.

Sunday night, my friend Marc was showing me handwritten letters that his grandfather, Otis, had saved through the years. They were beautifully written, with the kind of intricacy of language and penmanship (my God, remember penmanship??) that’s been lost to microscopic circuits, illuminated screens and instant gratification. One of the letters was from a friend, wishing Otis luck on the high seas in the kind of boisterous and inspiring yet entirely guileless prose that today’s motivational speakers only wish they could scrape together on their best days behind a podium.

It occurred to me the next evening that we often reserve expressing that kind of fond appreciation for others, keeping it to ourselves. These days it seems almost too schlocky to admit that appreciation, to open ourselves up in that way. And we get far too busy. Busy moments turn into busy days, busy days into weeks and without knowing it, we’ve completely forgotten to take that extra moment and tell our friends and family how much they mean to us, taking it for granted and assuming that they automatically understand our thoughts and feelings towards them.

I had a very difficult day on Sunday. I don’t want to expend further energy on even discussing why, but it was a very painful near-end to a time which I’m hoping will become a vague memory very soon. After taking care of my business, I headed to Anvil.

German-style pretzel with mustard at Anvil.

Say what you will about Anvil, that it’s uppity or expensive or scene-y (none of these things are true, by the way). I love it there. And this is why: Within moments of arriving, one of my favorite bartenders in Houston (it’s a very close tie between Marc Borel, the effervescent and knowledgable sommelier at 13 Celsius, Bobby Heugel, the cocktail wunderkind and gifted writer who created Anvil, Claire Sprouse, the spunky and inventive brains behind the bar at Beaver’s and Justin Burrow, the curmudgeonly yet kind man behind the beard at Anvil) was crafting what he and Bobby termed the “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” Manhattan, and four of my friends had already shown up to rally my flagging spirits and lift me out of my funk.

The bottle marked P.I.G. holds pear-infused gin.

Anvil is the kind of bar where the bartenders take their craft very seriously, with much care and consideration, yet without an ounce of pretension. It’s the kind of bar where the regulars care just as passionately about cocktails or beer as they do about Filipino food, Russian literature, Nintendo games, graphic novels and 70s yacht rock. It’s the kind of bar where – at least on a week night – it’s impossible to leave without making a new friend, and not the kind of friend who’s hoping to eventually bed you.


And oh, my friends. Ann and Cathy gently listened to me rant and rave, offered kind shoulders and understanding nods. Marc and Jason made me laugh, took me out to get tater tots and French silk pie at House of Pies and took me home after it became apparent that I’d had too much too drink. Countless people consoled me on Twitter and Facebook, offered supportive text messages and phone calls. I felt suddenly so much less alone, so much less adrift in all the craziness that seems to have permeated certain parts of my life lately.

Jason (fuzzy, in foreground).

I may not say it enough. I may forget to say it. I may want to say it, but my shyness creeps up and smothers me. (And although people don’t seem to believe me when I tell them this, I struggle with almost crippling shyness nearly every minute of every day – I’ve just gotten better at talking through it and masking it after 29 years…) But I do think it all the time: I have amazing friends. I have an amazing family. And you all make my life so much better simply by existing.

So thank you.


17 thoughts on “Where Everybody Knows Your Name”

  1. “knewchapter” You are welcomed. I have been there. It is a difficult process. If you ever need another person to walk with you through it, just call me. Some day, you will not hurt.

  2. Time for me to get a life, Tom? Funny coming from a man (are you actually a man? who knows…) who stalks every single website that I write even a sentence on — day in and day out for the past two years — just to leave nasty, disgusting comments under the names of various porn stars.

    If you were any kind of man at all, you’d leave your real name when you stalk me. You’re nothing but a useless pussy and a coward, and you know it.

    I repeat, time for me to get a life? Really? Fuck off and die. I mean it. Sincerely.

    p.s. It’s not called “censoring.” It’s called “you have nothing of any worth to contribute to any comments section at the Houston Press, therefore you got IP banned.” Suck it up and move on, you pathetic, whiny little bitch.

  3. Katherine, I hope all is well. This is a good write, and fuck the haters. Have a good day. 🙂

  4. Oh, boy, you know where I went to school! I bet that required so much effort on your part. Poor showing, Tom. You have done much better than this in the past.


  5. OK, I lied. That’s not all. I also think you’re awesome & any time I see you, I just want to squish you with hugs. 🙂

  6. You never cease to amaze the old man. It displays something extra special to be able to touch a nerve in an old cynic like me. I am so very proud of you and can never say I love you enough

    “tiny” thomas, back off

  7. I know that new friends are easier. They don’t carry the years of memories and heartache that old friends do. Just know that I am here for you no matter what.

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