It’s been nearly 20 years to the day that a girl walked into a bar and her life was forever changed.
That bar was Highlands’ haunt The Back Door, and that girl was a young, new-to-Louisville Buckeye who had just landed a job at LEO Weekly and was invited by friendly coworkers to a longstanding Thursday night happy hour. Ever since that fateful evening in August of 1999, I’ve only missed a handful of Thursday happy hours at the Unstable Table, and my Louisville family has grown tremendously.
Transitioning from a very social college scene on a small campus in Athens, Ohio, to a rather large Kentucky city that I wasn’t even sure how to pronounce, that first year as a Louisville resident was tough, awkward, frustrating and eye-opening. Many folks told me I’d enjoy living by Bardstown Road, so my first apartment was in a high-rise in Buechel — which I thought was still part of the Highlands. Fun fact: It is not.
But even though my social calendar was nonexistent, I could always count on happy hour at The Back Door, with folks of all ages — 21 and up, of course — who eventually became friends and helped introduce me to Louisville, showed me the ropes, told me about the time-saving alleyways to avoid Bardstown Road and taught me the art of a stiff drink.
We always sit at our same table in the main bar room, which John Brown gets there at 4 to snag. Sometimes there are four of us, and sometimes we need to push a few tables together to accommodate 14. You just never know until you show up.
Through jobs, significant others, deaths, drama and the perpetual grind that is aging, my Back Door family has remained a constant — a place free of judgment, a place to unwind, share opinions on the day’s news or avoid it altogether.
The Back Door was where I first met Mayor Greg Fischer — before he officially was mayor. Somehow Unstable Table regular Cindy Lamb convinced all the candidates running for mayor to stop by our esteemed Thursday congregation and discuss their qualifications.
I recall Fischer’s ease in sitting down with a group of strangers and even reaching for a chicken wing or two that we had ordered.
The Back Door taught me about moderation and finding a delicate balance between comfortably unwinding (one gin & tonic) and crazy town crunk (two or more gin & tonics). Now that I’m older and wiser, I’ll treat myself to one mixed drink and then quickly switch to beer so I don’t stumble into work Friday morning like a sunglass-clad zombie who inhales water instead of brains.
But most of all, the bar has given me friendship, and whether that road is a long one or ultimately cut short (R.I.P. SueBee), it’ll always lead me straight to The Back Door on a Thursday night.
The Unstable Table is open to anyone who buys the first round. We won’t bite unless provoked.
See you on Thursday.