After Wednesday softball nights, we’d get a pitcher or three at a dive bar named Geo Kaye’s in Oakland, California. It was the size of a Brooklyn two-bedroom with an L-shaped bar, two shitty TVs in the corners, the same five beers on tap, and a digital jukebox that lit up the joint too much for its own good. It was the kind of place with a memorial plaque for a heavy drinker who’d frequented the corner stool but who had passed long before any of us could meet him. I loved it in part because it never had any social media presence. I had my “book release party” there the night before I left for New York, nine months ago.
Life goes on after you leave, and so has softball and the post-game drinks, but, on Wednesday night, with the world on hiatus, I got a text with a link to an online hangout. The old softball crew was on the other end, each boxed like the Brady Bunch in their own private spaces lit in their own unique ways—sitting properly at a kitchen table, upright in a home office chair, lazily reclined on the couch, walking around the kitchen. I was taking a night-stroll with my dog. I told them how it was here, they told me what it’s like in the Bay Area lockdown. Geo Kaye’s came up, and someone mentioned that before all this went down, its doors had been locked more and more often. Guess the new luxury condos across the street didn’t bring the necessary clientele—plenty of brew-pubs nearby with dozens of taps, tulip glasses, IBU listings, whatever those are. After a silence someone said, “Kaye’s ain’t coming back,” it might have been me.
If you’ve lived in any U.S. city long enough, you know the feeling that comes with the closure of a longtime hangout. And you know that no matter how hard you try, you can’t remake whatever made that space special. You can try a new one, but I promise you something will be off. Maybe the lighting’s too bright, the seating arrangement ias awkward, the bar line is too long, the clientele is off-putting. Maybe it’s simply the wrong geographical point that allowed everyone to easily make the journey. Maybe we’d all found ourselves stuck in a groove and losing it shook us free again. Anyway, our beloved spaces used to leave us one at a time, spaced out by comparatively kind heart of gentrification. It’s not like the economic terraforming that’s coming, not like the approaching dive bar rapture.
My walk done, I told the old softball crew goodnight. It was bedtime on the East Coast while they were cracking open another beer. We promised to do it again soon. These will have to be the new spaces for now, until whatever’s next.