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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Super Bar, Super Man

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I’m Art Kumbalek and man oh manischewitz what a world, ain’a? So listen, definitely feeling a shade of blue this week. I got a call that Mike Cmeyla had died, goddamn it. Mike, who had owned the fabled National Liquor Bar from 1982 to its “last call” in 2005; Mike, who always had an ear for a good joke or story, and a mouth for one, too; Mike, whose enormous generosity touched so many; Mike, who always made any guy or gal feel a whole lot better just by him being there. Yeah, that Mike. Remember?

How ’bout a jog down memory lane, back to ’05:

I believe it was the famous Greek philosopher known today as Anonymous who once said, “You’re always just one drink away from being homeless, buddy.” And for me and the fellas that cocktail will come to pass our lips sometime on Saturday, July 30, when the words “last call” are coughed up for the final time up over by The Bar With National Liquor.

Yeah yeah, you could say the joint was an institution, and you could say a bunch of us regulars belonged in one; so you could say as long as the joint was open, everybody won, what the fock.

Sure, some might not consider it the classiest tavern in town—you wouldn’t drop a wad of dough at the boutique so’s you’d have something new and sporty to wear for an evening at The Bar With National Liquor. In 66 years of business, “I simply don’t have a thing to wear” never stopped anyone from visiting the friendly confines found at 2601 W. National Ave. Come as you are. Come as you were. Come as you will be. Shot and a beer. Beer and a shot. Simplicity. Like the name itself. It’s a bar. It’s on National Avenue. It’s got liquor. If you need to know more than that, then hey, go the hell somewhere else.

I’ve been to a lot of taverns in this town, or so I am reminded, usually the following day. But of all those joints, The Bar With National Liquor rises above as the only one I remember completely from each and every visit over the years, they be the best of all possible memories—a 40th birthday party; a sunny afternoon with two gals named Mystique and Aura; the constant graciousness of the regulars to comply with my request for change the numerous times I asked if anybody had two tens for a five.

I could go on and on but the hell with it. Yet, I do want to say to Mike, and brother Andy, who’s been running the place for the last some twenty-odd years, to the guys and gals who work and worked there, and to the gang who socializes ’round the bar: Take care and god bless. And thanks for letting me and my crew stop by and bend your ear now and then.

So yeah, I’m singing a melancholy tune. The last thing a guy like me who reaches a certain age needs is one more intimate reminder that nothing lasts forever.

And this: Man walks into a bar. Ouch! So they raised it. Ba-ding!

But before the bar was razed (to be replaced by a Walgreens—you just can’t have enough places where you can pick up a pack of beef jerky and a tube of lipstick with one stop), Mike had an auction for charity on all the stuff in the bar. On that day, Mike gave to me a souvenir stool, signed by Mike and Andy Cmeyla, inscribed thusly: To Art, from the guys at the focking National Bar of Liquor. To this day, that stool is one of my most prized possessions, and Mike Cmeyla tapping me a cold one with a sidecar of top-shelf hobnobbing is forever one of my most prized memories.

 

TIMEOUT

Speaking of passages, any of you’s who rifled through the pages here for your sports fix provided by The Fairly Detached Observers, don’t schedule an eye exam. The shepherds of the Shepherd have hit the buzzer on weekly doses of sports blathering by me and my pal Frank Clines. We’ll resurface for special times in the sagas of the Brewers, Packers and Bucks.

We had fun serving up heapin’ helpings of hoo-ha every week for almost six years, and we thank whoever was out there reading. If you run into us in the real world, feel free to buy us a beer or ask Frank to buy you one, ’cause I’m Art Kumbalek and I told you so.