“You’ve heard me talk a lot about Staunton’s back in Ballyragget, and most of the customers there were hard-to-get-along-with old men, and I got along with them. I not only got along with them, I enjoyed getting along with them. I enjoyed observing them and I enjoyed listening to them. They were like actors in a play, only the play was real. There were Falstaffs among them - that is, they were just windy old drunks from the back alleys of Ballyragget, but they were Falstaffs to me. And there were Ancient Pistols among them. And there was an old man with a broken-hearted-looking face who used to come in and sit in a chair in the corner with a Guinness at his elbow and stare straight ahead for hours at a time and occasionally mumble a few words to himself, and every time he came in I would say to myself, ‘King Lear.’ There were good old souls among those men, and there were leeches among them, leeches and lepers and Judases, and I imagine that the cast of characters down in McSorley’s is about the same.”
-McSorley’s Wonderful Saloon, Joseph Mitchell
Our cast of characters is a bit more diverse, but this is as neat a summation as any of the free theater provided by working behind a counter.
(Photo of Hanae and Elizabeth working together to resolve Elizabeth’s tab taken by Vida)