This is the scene I observe, while peering into a vacant Ridge Road bar called “Cherry Stone”…
A television broadcast of the Miss America pageant flickers down upon a bedraggled bartender. He’s perched upon a stool, hunched over, gazing at his reflection in the lacquered bar top. No customers are in to dirty its surface. The clock on the wall tells an incorrect time. Miss America accepts her crown, drips Absolut Raz tears and grins her angel dust smile.
“This is the Lackawanna scene?” I ask my co-worker and companion ,S.
“Let’s go inside. Clear our minds. Decide our game plan,” says S.
“But this guy probably won’t give us any drinks for free, since we’re his only customers,” I reply.
Earlier today, I sarcastically mentioned to S. that I’m suffering from a dating dry spell. Also, that I need a change of scenery.
“Every man I meet and date has a beard, tattoos, a bicycle, and emotional baggage,” I said. “I mean, does anyone else exist?”
“Come over later,” S. casually invited. “We can go out in Lackawanna.”
“Go out…in Lackawanna?” I stopped walking. “I’ll pack an overnight bag and be over by ten.”
I’m already a familiar degenerate within the Buffalo Scene, the Cheektowaga Scene, the Hamburg Scene, and definitely the Tonawanda Scene… so it’s time to penetrate the Lackawanna Scene.
So here we are, at the wood-paneled pit with a questionable smell known as Cherry Stone.
“Well, we’re here,” I say, coming through the entrance and sitting down with a sigh. “Do you have any wine?”
The seemingly-intoxicated proprietor – sitting on the stool next to me -shakes himself from his stupor and runs behind the bar. This man – short, with a snowy mustache, ripened age of 60-something – removes a Barefoot bottle from the top shelf. It’s empty, except for maybe a quarter-ounce. He gives it a swirl, and pours the remains into a plastic cup, offering it to S. as a sample or something. We look at each other.
“I’ll get a new bottle from the basement,” he says, and disappears. S. and I settle into our chairs, and I brace myself for a potentially boring night. A night free of chaos and lawlessness, unusual in its usual-ness…? Shit. I might even be in bed by midnight.
The tipsy barkeep returns from the wine cellar. He fills two glasses with ice and pours wine up to the brim. Us girls whittle away some time, kind of ignoring the ceaseless stare coming from the bartender/owner guy.
“So, is there another joint around?” I inquire.
“I don’t know, I’ve only lived here two weeks,” says S.
“Around the corner, on Electric, there’s the old C2’s,” Mr. Cherry Stone says with an ominous look, eyeballs drifting in divergent directions. “That’s where all the real weirdos are…”
We close our tab and set sail for C2’s.
Coming around the bend, I see a man in a motorized wheelchair zipping away down the middle of the street, away from a tiny brick shack. A Labatt light illuminates the threshold of “the old C2’s.”
We enter; the place is packed with sloppily-dressed, dirty, and drunk white guys in their thirties and forties. Some lean against walls like moths; some are engaged in an infinite game of pool. Many linger around the lengthy bar, with a stumbling 40-something behind it.
I sit down at the end of the bar.
“I”ll just have a chardonnay,” I say to a drunken dad in a baseball hat.
He hands me a giant goblet brimming with wine. I begin to hand him my credit card.
“We’re cash only, though,” he tells me.
“You are? Shit.” I take a slurp of chardonnay. “ I don’t have $3…” I look around the room.
“It’s fine, I don’t care. There’s an ATM over there but whatever. I’m the owner too.” I’m realizing the bartender/owner thing is popular within the Lackawanna Scene.
“No, I’ll get $3 before the night is done. Don’t you worry!”
I revolve around the room and start talking to the Lackawanna lads.
“Hi!” I enthusiastically squeal, running up to a skinny, discolored man in a gray Marlboro tee .
“Hey there,” he says.
“So, what’s your name?”
“Is this the happening scene or what? I haven’t been here in gosh…ages! So what are you drinking?”
“Uh, just a Bud.”
“Wow! You have great taste. I didn’t know it was cash only, and haven’t even paid for this yet…I just don’t know what to do.”
“Uh, there’s an ATM right there.”
I immediately bail on Steve and strike out with a few more bar flies. I’m surprised they don’t interpret my frenzied advances as an offer of sexual favors. Please. They can’t afford my sexual favors.
Turning around to the back of C2’s, I find myself at the pool table. Three sturdy gents with beer bellies are standing around holding pool ques, although I’m not sure if a game is actually in progress.
“So what’s the story here guys, are we the gambling sort?”
I can tell that one of the guys – a blonde, full -figured fellow in a plaid scarf -is Top Dawg of C2’s.
“Nah, we just come around here and act silly!” The guy with the scarf bellows, grabbing his friend and putting him in a headlock. “Can I get you a drink?”
“Sure! But actually, I haven’t paid for this yet. I’m in debt.”
“I got you, girl!”
He runs up to the bar and throws a wad of singles at the bartender/owner, who shakes his head in mock exasperation.
“I’m going out to the back patio,” this fellow declares, raising a hand to his lips to insinuate smoking a blunt. His green scarf trails behind him elegantly as he strolls outside. He beckons me to follow him.
“Oh, that darn Schmitty!” The owner jeers, drinking a shot.
I follow Schmitty outside, and despite the freezing temperature, there’s a group of maybe 15 people chilling on picnic tables. A couple more guys – Schmitty’s pals – sit down at our table. One of them pulls out a Seneca and removes half its tobacco. Schmitty unearths a plastic baggie from his pocket – cigarette pack cellophane with weed inside, lighter-sealed shut. Quaint.
Our crew – yes, I was adopted into the C2 crew – stroll inside with a new vision. An emaciated guy, obviously same-sex orientated, is twirling around the room in a Fruit Loops hoodie. From the looks of his pupils, he’s eaten some pills. I’m accosted by a man with a ‘stache and a margarita glass full of ice and Pepsi. He divulges that my wine glass inspired him to get his drink in a wine glass, too.
My night with the triple OGs of C2’s is turning out to be pretty great. I wouldn’t necessarily be caught here again, but would definitely rate the Lackawanna Scene four stars in terms of hospitality.