This random flashback brought to you by hearing “(Don’t Go Back to) Rockville ” by R.E.M. on the radio this morning.
In the Fall and Winter of 1994 Amy Skal and I took to the townie bars in downtown Eau Claire. We eschewed the college bars on Water Street because we were just so sick of that scene. Instead, we preferred to drink at the establishments where actual grown-ups drank. Our particular favorite was a place on Gibson St. called the Diamound Lounge. I’m not sure why it was spelled that way.
Amy Skal was a beautiful, lithe blonde who was so cool she didn’t live in the student ghetto like most of us, instead she lived downtown Eau Claire with her boyfriend in an apartment that had a spiral staircase that led to a loft bedroom. She was gravelly-voiced and worked part time at the Mousetrap, a bar near her apartment. She was the most sophisticated and worldliest person I had ever met up to that point and I was more than happy to be her chubby sidekick.
Skal and I would hide out at the Diamound Lounge where there were no throngs of college-aged kids fighting to get a Leinies. Instead we would shoot pool and play the jukebox at the nearly empty Lounge. Just us and a handful of old men who were retired or laid off from the nearby Goodyear tire factory.
What made the Lounge the best aside from its unpopularity with the college crowd was the shag carpet on the floor and the wall-size mural/photo of a deer in the woods. Also, it was easy to get a drink there.
Skal and I became regulars at the Lounge. We were so regular that the old men looked on us as kind of pets. Often buying our round of drinks or giving me money to “go play your song on the jukebox, honey.”
The jukebox at the Lounge wasn’t the greatest, but it had Weezer’s “Undone” and R.E.M.’s “(Don’t Go Back To) Rockville.” The Weezer songs was mine. That’s the song the old men expected me to play when they put the quarters in my hand.
But, it’s ‘Rockville’ that instantly transports me back to the Diamound Lounge. Me, Skal, and the old guys. The two of us smoking cigarettes, shooting pool, and her singing along, talking about how much she loved Michael Stipe.