Welcome to where the seeds of dreams are planted--where one can sip from the charmed chalice of life & meet interesting folk through (hopefully) intelligent conversation.

One never knows nor can expect who will sail into the fray--what we do know is that no soul here is perfect no matter how we try. So let us celebrate & raise our mugs to the idiosyncratic nature of life--to the Kramer's & Norm's of the world, the Roseanne's & Allan Poe's. Some old, some lost, some tortured, some blessed, all souls sharing a drink at the same time in the same place. The ensuing tales are authentic with names trending towards monikers. The flag waving on our doorstep means we're open, so come perk your curiosity in Le Harbor Bungalow Cafe.

Bonjour! Mesherfin! Hasta la vista! Your barista.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Murphy's Law

“Those generators kept me up all night,” a red-eyed and irritated Kathleen said. “Make it a large today.”

Walking out the front door of le Harbor Bungalow Café, patrons are used to seeing Kathleen’s antique shop, the Chess Club, Ped Ex, and J.A. Murphy’s Irish Pub across the street.  But for two weeks, a reality television crew occupied a string of five trailers obscuring the storefronts and taking half a city block of precious parking spaces.  The natives were restless.

“I’m gonna kill Keith!” Riggs yelled before ordering a dark chocolate mocha.  It was about 8 o’clock in the morning, but on this neighbor’s clock it was high noon.  “They’ve got a bundle of wires lining our breezeway…my girlfriend’s got paint on her new coat after their half-ass paint job dripped on our gate—all without a word from that clown.  I’m never going into that bar again.”

Keith is one of the owners of J.A. Murphy’s, the establishment that applied and won an appearance on Spike TV’s Bar Rescue.  Keith is a both a fun-loving boozehound and a persistent businessman who attended university with the barista’s brother.  After losing half his staff to a new tavern around the corner, Murphy’s took a turn for the worse, shutting down for nearly a month.  The barista investigated during the re-opening, slugging a few beers while watching the Orioles game as he often would do, but with the air conditioning busted, fans circulated the stench from the dirty taps and the frat house floors making his Yuengling taste like a Natty Boh.  Intolerable.  Now about six months later, twenty-two cameramen, producers and the like patronized le Harbor Bungalow Café on their work breaks.  The Los Angeles-based crew’s visit spanned two weeks—but they only planned to be on the job for one week.

“We found some mold on the subfloor and it turns out the jousts are not up to code,” said one of the show’s producers as she ordered some muffins for her colleagues.  “So it looks like we’re gonna be here for another week.”

The barista is far from a reality TV buff, but he sensed Bar Rescue, now in its second season, was either underinformed or conducted poor research.  Word is that the show paints, rebrands, decorates and drums up dramatic relationships—things visible to a television camera. So gutting the basement and replacing 36 hidden floor jousts appeared an unintended "rescue" procedure, but nonetheless contractually binding.

“Yeah, we’re way over budget,” the producer admitted as she carried away a carafe of coffee for the newly hired construction crew.  “But once we saw the problem we were obligated to say something.”

The big winner from the barista’s perspective is the owner of the building.  Many buildings—especially row homes such as Murphy's—on the Point called Fells are a couple hundred years old.  One bar even predates the independence of the United States—the same bar Edgar Allen Poe drank his last drink before passing out in an ally wearing someone else’s clothes.  This history may be one of the draws for programs like Bar Rescue, Homicide and The Wire.  Is it any surprise a neighborhood this old has so much structural wear and tear?  The building owner was under no timetable to fix the issues.  Bar Rescue had deadlines to meet.  The production picked up most of the tab.

In the meantime, most of the television crew had nothing to do.  They were communication majors, not construction workers.  So they flew home and back—cross-country.  A flatbed truck appeared across the street to receive wheel barrel loads from the cellar.  Rumors of dead rats bounced off the café walls.   The barista and Jennifer were grateful for the spike in business.  Few others the barista encountered had any sympathy towards the project.  The barista understood.

*****

“So Friday’s the big day I hear,” the barista asked the show’s producer, after speaking to her crew upon their return.

“Yes!  Finally.  Come by at 9 tonight.  We’re giving away free beer,” she replied with a sigh of relief.  The barista had a gig with the CR Experience at Betters of Lead that night and could not attend.  But two nights later he popped into Murphy’s Law—the rebranded J.A. Murphys—and got the scoop from Dan, Murphy’s spiked-haired, tattooed bartender and musician.

“Wow, man! This place smells great!” the barista said taking a deep breath of the fresh hardwood floors.

“Hey, buddy!  Great to see ya.  Welcome to the new joint,” Dan said with a handshake.  “What are you having?  We’ve got a whole new tap system.  But only four of them are hooked up tonight.”

“Hmmm…”

“I recommend the Kilkenny.”

“Irish Red, by Guinness.  Sold.”

It is no stretch to say that Kilkenny was the smoothest, creamiest tap beer the barista had consumed this past year.  Proper Irish Pub-style brew—from someone who has visited Ireland.

“So what’s the deal with the new name?”

“Well, the show wanted to move from the bad associations with J.A. Murphy’s.  So they suggested Murphy’s Law.  You know, ‘anything that can go wrong, will go wrong’.”  That explained the new photos hanging opposite the bar: a banana peal being stepped on, a cow fallen through a ceiling onto a businessman’s desk, among others. 

“Ah…you’ve got a new menu, too.”

“Yeah, it’s short and sweet.  Suits our small kitchen.” 

The barista read the menu: “Healthy” Grilled Cheese—deep fried, Fell’s Fries, Meatball sub…  “Simple pub food.  Nice.  How ‘bout another Kilkenny?  ...So other than the floor debacle, any other surprises?”

“Check this out.  They took a sample from our cutting board.  Not one, but a colony of E Coli.  That’ll be in the show.”

The barista should have been surprised, but he wasn’t.  “How’d Friday night go?”

“Packed.  People waiting outside two hours in the rain.  It kinda sucked, though.  Most of our regulars couldn’t get in.  More people just interested in being on TV.”

Figures.  A fickle, trend-following crowd.  Loyal, regulars outside.  Pissed-off neighbors.  Murphy’s Law in action.


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