Sunday, November 24, 2013 night
A quick review of Yelp led me to old Philadelphia, and the Khyber Pass Pub. I found myself on the corner of Chestnut and 2nd Street, unsure of where to go. To my good fortune, a young bearded guy was standing next to me, waiting to cross the street. "Hey, do you know where Khyber Pass is?" "Right there," he pointed, "The place with all the people." "Is it good?" I asked, "Have you been there?" "Yeah," he replied without passion, "a couple of times, I liked it (long pause) it's a dark bar." I wanted to offer him a literary medal for his outstanding use of adjectives, but instead just said thank you, and crossed the street.

The funny thing, Khyber Pass Pub is...a dark bar. Despite his youth, the bearded guy had wisdom. I walked in and found a seat on the dining room side of this place lit mostly with neon and Christmas lights. The music immediately grabbed me. It sounded like AC/DC playing a heavy blues line... I grabbed a two seater with a marble top, maybe the only in the place. The rest of the tables were colonial looking with plank tops. Bench seats flanked the walls, and I took one for the better view. As with every place I go, I took it all in. Beer sign, a little related art, some sconces on the wall, and a lot of happy looking people of all ages.

A young woman handed me a menu and a water, lighting the candle at my table. I looked over the menu, thinking too hard about how to solicit a recommendation. She's a girl, I reasoned, and this is guy do I ask the right questions... I would ask her what she liked, and then adjust my analysis based on those answers. A flawless plan, though in retrospect, perhaps a little sexist. Once again, my unrealized bias' failed me...assuming ribs are not female friendly (see next paragraph!).  My efforts, all that deep thought, all in vain. Another bearded guy arrived at my table, "Can I get you a beer sir?"

I had selected the bench side, waxed and slippery, but comfortable. I was pondering the menu when a server brought dinner to the three friends right next to me. It looked fantastic, and I couldn't help myself...impulsively I slid over boldly, "I know this is obnoxious as hell, but what did you get, and do you love it?!" My expression might have been pleading, with a huge smile as I asked.  Once the shock wore off, they each humored me. The man immediately to my left answered first. A good looking guy whose nationality I couldn't pinpoint in the dark and I found that curious. I decided he was a university professor. "Three mixed meats with mashed potatoes, though they don't look mashed." He was right, they looked liked crushed home fries. The second man, directly across from me, reminded me of Andy from The Shawshank Redemption. He'd ordered the Gumbo which looked more like chili.  And the woman...attractive, dark haired, and an immediate friend...she ordered the ribs! I thanked them for tolerating my intrusion, and disappeared back to my marble table top...the whole evening wondering if they really enjoyed their food.

My beer arrived, a Russian River Consecration. A sour ale, "like nothing you've ever had before." I had just one question, "Is that beard real, or is it just for November? "It's real," he assured me proudly, and based on his highest recommendation, I opted for consecration solely because of it's name.  I looked at it for a long time through the candles and red, and secretly wished the three had asked me to join them, after all, who likes to eat alone?  Oh, wait - me! I do. It's when I observe, experience, and write. I pondered the emotion of it, it wasn't disappointed or hurt, but perhaps a void of an experience that never happened. They seemed to be having a wonderful time together. Perhaps a promotion, a reunion, or just great friends getting together? It's fun to make up scenarios.

Somewhere between my beer arriving and my food, I knew I'd have to write. I scribbled furiously in a tiny Moleskin trying to capture it all. The sign on the wall, "Be nice or leave." The neon signs and the creepy men's room. And those wonderful mysterious people next to me. They didn't know it yet, but we'd connected, and I needed to share that connection. Tearing out a page, "In a few It might be fun!" For the next 20 minutes I tried not to spy, but glancing over every once in a while, waiting for just the right moment, just before they deliver the note. A perfectly planned, well executed plan, delivered with military precision.

As they left, the professor said...thank you

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