Andrew covered his face with his hands.
“I took pictures, aerial photography.”
I told him that didn’t sound so bad. He looked like he was about to cry.
“It was for oil, minerals, the rape of the land,” he said, and covered his face with his hands again.
Andrew got up to play the jukebox, and Jerry came over.
“How’s our secret agent,?” he said.
Jerry said the Foreign Legion stuff was dubious at best, but that Andrew really had gone to Vietnam.
“He was doing photography, aerial reconnaissance. The war fucked him up.”
We were talking about how Edison High had more casualties in ‘Nam than any school in the country when a skinny young guy came in with a pretty blonde in high-cut jean shorts. He was wearing nerdy-cool glasses, the kind with thick, black frames, a tight t-shirt that just covered the tattoos on his neck, and tan Hush Puppies.
Andrew told the kid he went to high school in Philadelphia the same way he had with me, and I wondered what the odds of that were in the new Northern Liberties–getting pretty slim, probably.
The kid looked puzzled.
“I went to Central Bucks West,” he said, and went back to watching the Sixers game.
Peter Woodall sacrifices his liver, and potentially his nose as he ventures into Philly's drinking establishments. A bartender and West Philly native, he has worked as a newspaper reporter for the Sacramento Bee and Biloxi Sun Herald. Got a tip on a colorful taproom? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Smoke at your own risk,” says the hand-lettered sign above the jukebox, and nearly everyone does—Parliament Lights, GPC’s and USA Golds. Good health is already in short supply among this crowd anyway. Between the canes and the walkers and the overall level of physical infirmity, the place can look more like a doctor’s office than a bar. Patti the bartender has to remind guys to take their prescriptions. They swallow their pills with a beer chaser.
Neither the building nor the bar had changed much since 1991, when I was 18 and lived around the corner. We bought takeout forties of Olde English 800 there, and sometimes we’d stick around to listen to the jazz combo and live out our Kerouacian fantasies. We assumed Way’s had been there forever;it never occurred to us that you could buy an old bar and slap a new name on it.
Back in 1971, when Dom and his brother Marco took over Friendly Lounge after their mother died business was pretty slow. They’d brought in go-go girls for three or four years, and that kept them afloat for a while. They’ve managed to limp along ever since.
A Philly bar isn't quite what its name promises -- but for one patron, it might as well be heaven after time spent behind bars.