On that putrid, evil force known as Facebook, I saw a wall post that took a gruesome bite from my heart. It was a photograph someone snapped at a local restaurant they happened to be headed to for happy hour and the accompanying complementary munchie spread:
They were shocked and disappointed to discover that this dependable drinking destination was closed for business. Forever!
After contributing so many wonderful years to our local alcoholic non-vibrancy.
The restaurant, Charley Brown’s, was a fixture in this area for several decades.
It sat north of the Pomona Freeway just a DUI’s safe throw from the freeway entrance. This was one of those restaurant bars that came to life during the 70s and all that the 70s entailed. Disco, sex, sex, drugs, blurry abandon, sex, drugs. I didn’t drink freely and legally until 1986. By then, the restaurant was well established and cascading into a new era of what was expected of drinking establishments, but if you looked carefully while you were eating a steak (it was first, and foremost, a steakhouse), you could see archaic remembrances of an era past, and over.
Charley Brown ‘s maintained its cloistered party, degenerate atmosphere and sitting in the bar dining area at night, one could watch the freeway’s mad dash through the windows. The pretty scenery lent an air of misplaced exclusivity to the dining and drinking atmosphere, but it was trashy as hell. It was semi-romantic if one wished (this is where me and my ex-wife had our first date). Consequently, many of the waitresses, especially in the bar, were throwbacks to the original Travoltian era. They wore frumpy shorts and hose and looked every day of their 60 years (even at that time). This was a heavy smoking bar until California’s nannies blew their suffocating wad over bars, forcing drinkers to go outside and smoke. The standing ashtray business boomed after California’s special legislation.
Charley Brown’s was the dependable Wednesday night watering hole that me and some friends would hit occasionally after bowling and sporting events. As I said, it was where I took my ex-wife on our first date before skipping across the freeway to watch that really bad piece of shit, “Outbreak,” with Dustin Hoffman.
After we were married, we had dinner at the restaurant a few times with our infant son as he sat in his high chair, and still, the floor to ceiling freeway-facing smoked windows always presented us with that special View. That view that harked back to our first date, to my early drinking days. I suspect I took many dates to Charley Brown’s, including a later date with a girl who I chose to break up the very marriage that had started here.
I am the master spinner of irony!
One night, (I usually drank alone at a table because I don’t like people and I don’t like bar people), I actually was sitting at the bar. This Hispanic chick sat next to me and we began chatting, which is only possible for me when I’ve had a lot to drink. Next thing, we’re at her apartment in the seedy Union district near MacArthur Park. This is where Central Americans reign and where they kill and maim. I remember sitting in her dimly-lit kitchen with her mom or some elderly figure, drunk as shit, but still, I didn’t get laid. Rather disappointing. You don’t stray that far from a bar just to sit in a kitchen, but I did. Cause I can be a loser that way.
Speaking of loser, this is also the bar I sat at one weekday afternoon (I must have had the day off) and was on my phone for an hour, sipping martini after martini, while I made time with a strong Catholic wife (not married to me). I could have gotten places with her but I always found reasons to simper out. Cause I just wanted to drink martinis at Charley Browns. Much more important!
Charley Brown’s is a curt memory.
A fleeting memorial to an older business era that simply cannot live any longer, not in this new paradigm of no-smoking and cyber-smarts.
It was an old joint that couldn’t keep up with its dying and disabled customers.
Young people need new things, new, shiny beacons of sociability, and an antique drinking fixture from 40 or 50 years ago with dying customers doesn’t cut it.
This is a new era. I’ll be 50 this year.
My past is thrown to the curb by our commercial, youth culture. Iotas of my past dissolving, ceasing to exist. I suspect I’m not far behind.