What it means to have a local, plus my weekly shareables: a rare Barbie, a rare painting, and so much great music
About the heatwave, thought you might enjoy this:
Tommy very kindly suggested that I post this if I wanted, and, yeah, I want to. Express was basically our Cheers in the early and mid-80’s.
It was a simple brown wooden table in a booth on the right as you came into the place - calling the dimly lit building a restaurant or even a bar was giving it too much credit, with its cheap pizza and even cheaper garlic cheese bread if you were low on money - and sat eight comfortably, though we sometimes fit in more folks if they wandered in to play quarters.
This was Express Pizza in Athens, just up the hill from Creswell dormitory. Express, and in particular this booth and table, which really should have had our names carved on it since we basically owned it from 1981-1985, was our home away from home. I wince to think how much time and money we spent there, but given the low prices they charged, we probably only put the owner’s children through two years of college instead of all four.
How many gallons of beer, how many loaves of bread, and how much fun we had can’t be calculated with any certainty, but this was where our friendships grew strong, bonding with each cup of Miller or Budweiser or whatever was cheapest. Other students wandered in and out, but they weren’t regulars like the kids from Dreisler Hall.
I’m glad my dad can’t read how I spent his money, but in my somewhat biased view, it was a great investment at any price. Some Fridays, we would start drinking at Express about noon, the pitchers sticky with overflowing beer, and sit and talk about girls, music and sports until supper time, when we’d roll ourselves down the hill to eat at Bolton Dining Hall (Revoltin’ Bolton, it had been dubbed) and get ourselves ready for an evening at - you guessed it - Express. We’d often stay there until midnight, when we’d wander back to our dorm, content until the next day.
Then there was the jukebox, unsurprisingly loaded with tunes from REM. We’d all sing along with Stipe, mumbling when we didn’t understand his lyrics, but shouting out the verses. Madonna made her appearance on the jukebox, too, but I don’t think any of us sang her songs. Well, maybe Eliyahu Crossin.
Oh, there were nights when we’d go to The Odyssey or The 40-Watt Club or O’Malleys on the River. And, we certainly spent some nice days and nights on the deck at Classic’s sub shop, hearing the owner call out in his distinctive voice, “What’ll ya have?,” but Express was our real base. We fell in and out of love, commiserated and teased, told lies and truths that only come out after several pitchers of beer, and became lifelong friends there.
Clint Engel was our writer, and he was supposed to put all this down on paper to capture our youth as if frozen in amber, but my lesser efforts will have to do until he does. A few of us met in Athens several years ago, and went to Express, but it just wasn’t the same grimy place we fondly remembered - it was clean and nicely lit, the booths gone and replaced with attractive tables and a nice menu.
Naturally, we quickly left.
Express had changed, but we Dreislers had not, thank God - at least not in the ways that were important, our affection for one another and the times we shared stronger than ever.
Everyone should have such a place.