….I have had the undeniable pleasure of visiting some of the most unique and interesting drinking establishments in the world: Irish pubs on the Aran Islands, where former IRA soldiers swapped outrageous yarns with Connemara fishermen and sheep farmers, to a traveling “Scotch Wagon” on a rocky road in the middle of the Scottish Highlands. I’ve been willing hit up for “complementary” drinks from the local Jamaican “water birds” and sipped ridiculously over-priced martinis at the swank Frank Sinatra Club, Las Vegas. This last weekend I was in Huntsville, Alabama, and came across a bar called Campus NO. 805. Imagine this. Take a large Middle School with a spread out campus and turn it into an all-inclusive dinning, gaming, micro-brewery, and mix in a smorgasbord of fun. Who said that you can’t drink beer in school? Campus 805 even kept the room numbers on the “classroom” doors and the bronze title plaques over the doorways of the Principal and School Nurse. There’s a sports trophy display case and newly waxed floors, lockers, and the faint smell of adolescent libido. This place had everything: Ronnie Raygun’s vintage pinball arcade, billiard and dart rooms, three different band venues (Blues, Rock, Country), private niches for conversation, a bustling artisanal coffee shop, food wagons selling sandwiches, Earth and Stone’s wood fired pizza, wings, and gourmet fare, and at last count at least fifty different kinds of beer. It even had the “Huntsville Hair Mafia” salon and a speakeasy with a secret entrance. But perhaps best of all was the family atmosphere. It had that kind of comradery you might find in a kid’s tree house or secret fort. I had always wondered why we couldn’t take a nod from Ireland and the United Kingdom, where pub life is a family affair. But, Campus 805 got it right. The large former athletic field was transformed into a picnic area, where couples and families spread out blankets, drank beer, and munched on tasty wings. Kids played on the brightly lit field, kicking soccer balls and tossing Frisbees. The vibe was peaceful and relaxing, with none of the tension that seems to grow as the night wears on in some power-drinker watering holes.
After taking in the warm night and watching the kids play, I ducked back inside to explore this maze of fun. For a while there I was inundated with stimuli. I bounced off a guy speaking quite convincingly of the constitutional right of Southern secession and then sat beside a caramel latte beauty who told me of her work with NASA: all about lift and thrust and rockets that pass thru the comet circle that girds us to this fair earth- I might have missed the gist of her conversation. She was that stunning. Like a pinball I bounced around a social network that only exists in real time and in a real physical place. It was just folks hanging out. I met this guy who hog farmed in a portion of the national forest, Tennessee way. And he told me about a pig that escaped. He was an easy, good natured guy with a killer, slow drawl that spoke nothing but the truth. He told me that he had leased land near the Appalachian Trail, which gave him easy access to his hog farm: basically a shelter, a mud pit, and seven pigs. He was adamant that he always took good care of his pigs. He hiked up in snowfall and gave them fresh grub. Made sure the water was always clean. Anyways, in the midst of one cold, brittle winter this skinny pig went missing. The hog farmer looked everywhere, but she had vanished. A few winters went by. Then, one spring this enormous sow shows up at the hog farm a roaring and a snorting. The boar commanded a knoll, and stood there growl-grunting. At once she attacked, coming down the bluff like a bowling ball on crack. We are talking gristle and raw sharp tusks invading your space immediately.
“What did you do!”
“I waited to that sow got right close, then turned away.”
“Damn sow turned with me.”
“Got out all right, then!?”
“Hell no, sow left her name.”
He then lifted his shirt to reveal a crudely stitched gash just below his armpit.
In our next dispatch, we’ll share a few more stories from Campus NO. 805. Same bat time, same bat channel.
Campus NO. 805, 2610 Clinton Ave W, Huntsville, AL 35805