The shot glass sat on the bar, waiting for some action.
It would have to wait. There was a beer to nurse and memories to swallow down.
I was sitting in a bar called “Cara’s Irish Pub” in downtown Dover, New Hampshire. It was my first visit to the establishment, which is owned by old friends.
It was not, however, my first visit to Dover. That had come almost 20 years earlier when I moved here from the only home I had ever known — my native state of Maine.
I came here alone for a job, not knowing a single soul, and for eight years I stayed. I must admit, it was one of the few places in my life that became home, a place where I felt like I belonged.
When I drove into town again last Saturday, for the first time in 12 years, the memories came flooding back to me at each and every turn.
Locust Street. Henry Law Avenue. Central Avenue. Wentworth Douglass Hospital. Beckwith Park. The old Foster’s building.
Memories everywhere. Ghosts from my past rising up and dancing in my head.
I spent two days in Dover taking care of some work-related business this week before making the trip down to Cara’s.
I looked at the shot glass, half filled with a Raspberry Stoli Kamikaze.
Now there were some memories.
• • •
It was inside Mike Murphy’s Irish pub where my life changed. It was there where I made some of the best friends I’ve ever had in my life.
After living alone inside a big studio apartment off Henry Law Avenue, I moved in with a roommate named Monique. One night, we walked into the bar together and that night, right then and there, both of our social worlds changed for the better.
All the people, all the friends we made, all the good times that were to be had in our “regulars corner” or at the pool table or watching the bands take the stage.
It was there, at the bar, where I celebrated the new millennium by making out with a sure-fire, out-of-the-closest lesbian, whose name escapes me on this day.
It was there, at that bar, where I celebrated a handful of birthdays with those who were closest to me.
It was there, from that bar, that we walked up to a friend’s house one snowy night and began leaping off her third story balcony into the giant snowbanks below.
How many $100 tabs did I charge up at that bar in one night? Far too many. Once the liquor started pouring, once the shots — the raspberry Stoli kamikazes — started flying, once one person started buying so too did others follow suit.
I graduated from Rum and Cokes to Bass Ale to Guinness in that corner of the bar. And car bombs, I believed they were called; the shot of Jamesons dropped into a Guinness and chucked down as though my name was O’Nash.
Ah, good times.
I had two centers of my world. One was the newsroom just a block away. The other was the corner of the bar I came to call my home away from home.
I’m supposed to be good with words, but trying to find the right things to say about those people is so hard to do, even today. They became my family — my brothers and sisters, parental figures, sons and daughters. I loved so many of them that I honestly felt an ache when another job took me away from Dover.
There used to be an online webcam that showed downtown Dover and in the year after I left, I would look at it so many times and miss this town and the people who called it home.
I missed my friends. I missed my Dover family.
• • •
Over the years, though, I’ve learned that life went on, taking everybody in different directions. It wasn’t just me moving on. It was everybody else, as well.
Through the magic of Facebook, I’ve been blessed to see those people I loved so much fall in love with new people and start their own families. I’ve seen them build their own homes from scratch, with their own hands. I’ve seen them travel across the country on their motorcycles.
Sadly, I’ve seen some pass away (RIP Phil) and others just disappear off the face of the earth (Where are you Danny?).
And, I’ve seen two of them open their own bar, calling it Cara’s, and creating a place for a whole new group of friends and families to come together and make memories that will last forever.
Dover is no longer home. It almost feels like I never lived here.
Thankfully, I have the ghosts to remind me that I did live here, though, and it was once upon a time a very special place to me.
But, in reality it was thanks to the people who all just happened to be in this one place at that time that made this home.
They were my friends, my family and I will forever be thankful for having them there in my life, and I’m glad to have all those special memories to bring back when I need them.
I picked up the shot and downed it one chug, wishing I could count up the number of times I had done this before.
Wherever you are, my Dover friends, please know I love you and still think you often.