Kristin now works for a travel company, which I suspect will yield a multitude of fringe benefits for us both.
Case in point, the company asked Kristin to tag along on the first leg of one of their bus tours this weekend that started in Denver with a stay at the Brown Palace and commenced going through Boulder, up to Estes Park, through Rocky Mountain National Park, along Trail Ridge Road, a stop in Grand Lake for lunch, and ultimately ending up in Vail. It was a delightful way to spend a Sunday. Kristin was learning how a tour actually unfolded, and I got to ride along politely and exchange pleasantries with wholesome people from Wisconsin.
What I also got to do, I never expected. I cried tears of joy apropos of absolutely nothing.
I wrote this on Facebook, but it bears repeating.
If you were to ask me what my favorite restaurant was when I was between the ages of 7 and 12, I would have said Bart & Yeti’s without hesitation. It’s good to be back, and to be old enough to drink here now.
Bart & Yeti’s is a small, locals joint in the Lionshead part of Vail. It’s named after two dogs and the menu includes a short little folklore piece about them. I used to stay at a hotel near this restaurant every summer as a kid when my dad would attend an annual meeting there (incidentally, Kristin and I stayed at this very resort this weekend). My parents took me to this restaurant, and for whatever reason I latched onto it. It was probably because of the fun story about the dogs and their terrific grilled cheese sandwich. I ate grilled cheese sandwiches nearly exclusively for a solid chunk of my childhood.
I went here once when I was about 18, which means it’s been about 15 years since I’ve set foot in Bart & Yeti’s. I wondered to Kristin if it was still there. After checking in to the hotel, we ventured into Lionshead square and wandered around. It looks a bit different now than it did then, so it took me a minute to find it.
But once I laid my eyes on it, I was a kid again. The sign was the same. The patio was laid out exactly like it was nearly 25 years ago. The mountain air smelled the same. I sort of wanted to order a grilled cheese. I ordered a beer instead. I lived simultaneously in the past and very much in the present. Drinking a beer in my own idyllic childhood memory.
I didn’t really think too much about it until the weather intervened. One of the great lies of bar culture is that anyone enjoys live music. Live music, way more often than not, sucks. You’re having a nice conversation with whomever you’re with, and then all of a sudden, some choad with a guitar gets up and feels the need to share with you his own personal take on a bunch of Cat Stevens covers. My interpretation on these takes is that poor Cat Stevens never asked you to play his music, so maybe just leave it alone.
When just such an occasion started, Kristin and I eyed our remaining beer and conspired for a quick exit. Thankfully, the weather had other plans. Everyone was forced off the patio and back inside. Now unable to foist his mediocre guitar and singing skills on the world, the ad hoc “entertainment” lost himself in a plate of cheese fries, but not without one vital contribution.
The bartender has his iPod hooked up to the bar’s sound system and asked what anyone wanted to hear. From behind his cheese fries, the musician shouted, “The Clash!” The bartender replied, “The Clash?” Kristin and I were the only ones paying attention and said, “Hell yeah! The Clash!” I think the bartender was surprised, but obliged anyway.
So The Clash songs start rolling along one by one, each one better than the last. Another round gets ordered. It’s an afternoon. We’re probably a dozen Clash songs deep, and I think it’s during “Tommy Gun” that it hits me. I don’t know why, but it all just becomes too goddamn much.
My favorite person sitting across from me. My favorite beer. The only band that matters. And the place with some of the fondest childhood memories for me on earth. I can’t control it, and I shed a couple tears. I am happy. In that moment, in that place, I’m happy.
Somehow I did something right that the universe granted me a moment of sublime nirvana, and I was fortunate enough to recognize it and bask in it. Perfect moments are few and far between, yet I got one and was able to put it in a jar for just a few minutes.
Rock the Casbah, Janie Jones, Train in Vain, Rudie Can’t Fail… the songs continue to peel off the bartender’s iPod, and we sip our beers. When our beers are empty, we decide to pay the check and head out for a proper dinner.
They say great art is knowing which brush strokes not to take, and that music is the space between the notes. When it comes to great moments, the trick is not to chase them, and not to hold onto them too tight. I knew it wasn’t going to get better, so I didn’t want to make it worse and diminish it in my mind. So we left.
And the greatest part about leaving when we did is that now it lives there forever. Kristin, Dale’s, Tommy Gun, Bart & Yeti’s.