O’Dewey’s: A Fairy Tale

January 23, 2012

Librarian Barista and More

Once upon a time, in a medium-sized college town, an institution stood for generations. O’Dewey’s was founded by Sean O’Dewey in 1887 and for more than a century, passed from O’Dewey to O’Dewey, all the way to its current proprietor, Mary O’Dewey, who assumed the helm in 1992 when her father, Patrick, decided it was time that his daughter, the second-oldest of four children, take over the family business. Mary was the first of the female O’Dewey’s to ever run the business. It had caused a bit of eyebrow raising when Patrick announced he was bypassing Martin, his eldest, in favor of Mary, but over the years as the children were tutored in the ways of business, it was Mary who’d shown both the most interest and the most promise. Her father, without reservation, deemed her a worthy heir.

Now O’Dewey’s had a reputation, good and fair and well-earned over its many years standing proud in the corner closest to the campus quad. It was a place where students and faculty alike gathered. It was open long hours, always ready to welcome one in need of either a quiet place to sit (it had a room off of the main gathering space designated as such) or others looking for like souls to commiserate a tough exam, a difficult professor, or a paper due the next morning. Year after year, class after class, students spent countless hours at O’Dewey’s. It was the place to go on campus. It was a central happening spot.

Of course, the main fixture at O’Deweys was the bar that stood in the middle of the main room. It was in the shape of a square, a large square, thus offering four sides where people could pull up a stool and sit. You could order drinks and chat with Mary or Patrick or Sean or Ian, ask them questions, seek their advice. They knew a little bit about everything and if they didn’t know the answer, they surely knew who did. Each and every O’Dewey, with the exception of Seamus who appeared so inept at social skills he was relegated to the kitchen and charged with making sandwiches and soup and never speaking with customers, was a natural behind the bar. Each could tap a keg as equally as s/he could tap into some uncanny source of information. It was a combination that endeared them to the college community for what seemed like forever.

Still, even an institution as beloved and ingrained into the community as O’Dewey’s was not exempt from changes that inevitably come to society as time and progress march on. Since taking over the pub in the 90s, Mary worked hard to address the influx of technology that affected even an old watering hole. She installed booths, upgraded the electrical system to add more outlets, provided free wireless access, even started to serve micro-roasted coffee alongside the micro-brews. Lots of things changed at O’Dewey’s during her decades in charge, everything but the central tenet of the place – O’Dewey’s was the college community’s pub. They could serve all the foamy lattes they wished, provide the fastest connections available, but O’Dewey’s was, after all, O’Dewey’s Pub. That is what it was Sean started 100+ years ago and it’s what everyone – EVERYONE – assumed it to be. Always. A pub.

Mary and her family held onto this idea as strongly as the community. They held onto it as Starbuck’s opened on the same block. They believed it as the frat houses and dorms grew fancier and more hi-tech, placating students’ every desire for HD television and universal connectivity. They remained convinced that O’Dewey’s was the place to go – the only place to go – for the best beer and the best advice. They were in possession of both. Better than anyone else could ever be.

Despite competition from other bars and other entertainment sources, O’Dewey’s did well for a good, long while. It never seemed to fail that whenever they were experiencing a bit of a downturn in customers or activity, some alumni event would occur, some big game would be won, or some winter storm would hit that pushed people to the oldest, dearest, and closest spot to come together. And in their gathering, they remembered how much they loved the feelings the old pub prompted. People would laugh and tell stories, they’d order beer and listen to music, they’d say things like, “This is really how it should be.”

But soon enough, homecoming was over, the storm subsided, the season ended and life on campus resumed. Students, faculty and staff went about their very busy lives, going from place to place to place, whatever was most convenient for whatever they needed at the moment. That’s what mattered most. Convenience. And the changing times brought with them a whole host of things that made the niceties of O’Dewey’s, while still nice and still important, more convenient to get elsewhere. Cafes and coffee shops sprung up all over campus. Wireless access was everywhere. Kegs could be delivered to dorms for parties. Who needed a pub anymore?

Mary tried her best to both counter and ride the new trend. She tried starting book groups and posting an online community calendar where people could sign up to use the pub for organizing or study groups. She tried catering to parties on campus. She tried special events and giveaways. Some things worked and others failed miserably, but all in all, the pattern was that with each new thing O’Dewey’s tried, they’d see a small spike in their customers, but nothing that lasted. Mary and her siblings seemed at a loss as to what to do. What more could they offer? What else could they do? They were O’Dewey’s Pub. They were an institution. Why didn’t people see their value anymore?

Mary decided they needed better marketing. Quite obviously, people didn’t know everything that a pub had to offer them today. O’Dewey’s was NOT just about beer. Sure, they still served beer, but they had so much else to offer, too. If they could only get people to realize that “pub” meant more than “bar” things would be good again. They hired a small advertising firm to put together a campaign for them. A designer came up with a new logo showing a beer glass encircled by a globe, indicating a community and connectivity. They ran ads in the school paper and paid for spots during televised sporting events. They made t-shirts. They did anything and everything they could to remind people of the importance of O’Dewey’s, not just to the current students and faculty, but to students and faculty of the past, and students and faculty to come. Who could imagine the town, this campus without O’Dewey’s? It would simply never be the same.

One day, in the middle of putting out the new cork coasters with the new logo on the new touch-screen tables, Mary’s daughter Erin asked, “Mom, what do you think makes a pub a pub?” She scoffed a bit and said, “Well beer, of course, Erin.”

“Yes. I’d agree.”

“What are you getting at?”

“I was wondering if maybe, just maybe, we’ve gotten away from that. I’m wondering if we’ve become something else.”

“What are you saying? We’re not a pub?”

“No. We’re still a pub, but we’re also a lot more. People who come here regularly know that, but anybody else seeing ‘O’Dewey’s Pub’ thinks … pub. Why would anyone think to come to a pub for a book group?”

“So you’re suggesting we stop doing that? You think that we should simply go back to serving beer? Being a bar and nothing else?”

“That’s one option. The other is to change ourselves.”

“But we’ve done that. We’ve been doing that for years now. What more can we possibly change?”

“How about our name?”

“WHAT?! Not call ourselves O’Dewey’s?!”

“No. Not call ourselves a pub. Or at least call ourselves a pub and… something. Something else. Something that makes someone looking for a beer or a coffee or a group study spot or a sandwich or a free connection to the web or anything else we provide… well, it makes them know that we have those things. Pubs are about drinking and gathering. We are still that – we’ll always be that – but we need to let go of it as the only thing that we are.”

Mary looked at her daughter suspiciously, fearing that the next generation of O’Dewey’s marked the end of all she’d ever worked for, everything that her family meant. An O’Dewey was a bartender. She didn’t have any idea what her daughter was, nor could she believe she’d raised her. She shook her head, waved her off, and went back to updating ODeweys.com. “Crazy kid,” she thought. She’ll grow out of it.



In 2012, when she finished her degree, Erin O’Dewey opened “Erin’s Corner”. It quickly became one of the busiest gathering places near campus.

How My Mind Works, Part II

January 13, 2012

First, I saw a daily update from ZooBorns, “Meet Libby, Point Defiance Zoo’s Sea Otter”. Adorable.

Then, I noticed the list of animals in the left-hand sidebar:

I see “Aardvarks, Addaxes, Agoutis, Anteaters, Armadillos…”. Then I think, “Hmmm… what’s the difference between an aardvark and an anteater?” Well, for one thing, they look a lot different as babies. Here’s the aardvark. Here’s the anteater. Both cute, but obviously quite different.

So now I’m left to wonder, “Why did I ever think they were the same”? and quickly remember the reason:

Happy Friday!

For My Mom

January 10, 2012

It’s the anniversary of my mom’s death. Whenever possible, I take this day to quietly reflect on our life together, as well as our lives apart. My mom loved life, so it seems an appropriate way to remember her. Today, as I went through a box of some of her things, I made a collage.


I Wrote a Song

January 7, 2012

I took the challenge my friend, Jim, threw down. Poking fun at the recent meme rolling through Facebook (the one I mentioned in my last blog post), he said to think of your earliest memory, write a song about it, and post it on Facebook. I think he was kidding, but I took it up on him. Here’s mine:

How My Mind Works

January 6, 2012

One of my Twitter friends, Travis Burch (check out his great playing here), gave me the nicest complement the other day:

Don’t believe him about being woefully ignorant about things. I’ve read his tweets and his poems, and listened to his music. He’s very much on the ball, the kind of person that you can tell, even within the limits of a relationship involving a few 140-character notes, the guy has substance. I hope to run into Travis one day, to both say hello in person and to play my mandolin with him. He can teach me a thing or twelve.

More to the point of this post though, I had the strangest mash-ups of songs in my head as I started off my day this morning. They were making me quite happy, the fun of them, and so I thought of posting them here before I forgot them. Now, on those days of doldrums and blues, I can revisit and make myself smile. I dedicate this post to Travis, since he wants to pick my brain (though he may be thinking twice about that now.)

First, Nancy Sinatra (especially the horn section):

This then blended into Rosanne Cash’s “Seven Year Ache”, leaving me singing something like “These boots are made for walking on a seven year ache. See what else your old heart can take.”

If that wasn’t strange enough, a song that I heard for the first time yesterday, Lori McKenna’s “The Most” (first line, “My life is a grocery store line…”):

merged with They Might Be Giants, “Dead”. Really.

Sorry this isn’t the best video, but it’s fun. And it’s a wonderful song to memorize every word and sing often. At strange times. Like now.

Finally, it all came to a culminating sing-along during the morning commute as I sang loudly to “Birdhouse in Your Soul”.

I blame all of this on that crazy meme spreading around Facebook right now, the one asking you to share the song that was #1 the week you were born. Hint: None of the above are mine.

Anyhooo… Happy Friday! Enjoy!

Looking Like a Million Bucks

December 29, 2011

I spent the morning in my cubicle, earbuds in, listening to my new copy of “The Essential Rosanne Cash“. Anyone who knows me or has followed my adventures of the past year knows that I’m a big fan of Rosanne’s, both her songwriting and her prose. She is a favorite writer of mine, plain and simple. Even when limited to 140 characters, she is more witty and poetic than the overwhelming majority of tweeters.

Over my bowl of Barbara’s Peanut Butter Puffins this morning, I read the liner notes to the CD. Many quotable lines are there, but the one I liked best came from the words of Rodney Crowell,

Truth be told, it was Rosanne’s infectious and unforgettable laughter that, more often than anything save the songs themselves, brought out the best in these extraordinarily generous musicians… that and the stylish focal point she quite often provided simply by turning up for the sessions looking like a million bucks.

I was fortunate enough to see Rosanne and her husband, the uber talented John Leventhal, perform live at The Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River, MA in November. Even more, I’m fortunate to have a slight little Twitter friendship with the artist and thus, had the chance to visit with her for a few minutes backstage after the show. She was gracious, funny, down to earth, and… yes… looked like a million bucks. She signed my copy of her memoir, “Composed,” posed for a picture, and shared a few hugs.

me with our well-pressed singing-songwriting hero

When I got back to the hotel after the show, I downloaded the pictures to my laptop and was shockingly pleased to see that Rosanne and I share not only good taste in music (because I have to assume she likes her own work), but in the lost art of … IRONING! Lo and behold, on the table behind her, was an iron. I asked her about it via Twitter later and she admitted that she did indeed iron both her outfit and her husband’s shirt before the show. Be still my heart! She writes, she sings, she cracks witty and intelligent jokes, AND she irons.

I iron every morning. Well, not EVERY morning, but just about. I iron whatever it is I’m going to wear for work that day. I iron whatever I might wear out to dinner or some other entertaining event. For those few occasions each year that I travel for work, I used to pull out all the clothes I chose to wear and carefully ironed and folded each item before packing it in my suitcase. Eventually though, I was told by a colleague with a look of bewilderment on her face as I unpacked, “You do know that hotel rooms have irons, don’t you?”

I confess that I did not, but even now that I do, it’s with reluctance that I pack my clothes pre-pressed (as in, not pressed yet). I just don’t trust those hotel irons. Or the hotel ironing boards. They inevitably dribble water all over everything or they’ll leave some odd mark across the only white dress shirt you’ve packed. They cannot be trusted. And I cannot be wrinkled.

The other day I saw an advertisement for surely what must be the most disturbing invention in clothing ever designed; quite possibly in the top 5 of disturbing inventions of all time. It was for an item called the “Forever Lazy,”  an adult-sized onesy for grown-ups who have evidently not. Grown up, that is. It’s a gigantic cocoon, complete with a zippered trap drawer so you can pee without taking it off. Now granted, one-piece union suits have been around a long time for guys (and women) working outdoors, but this thing is for anything but work. Hell’s bells, it’s called “Forever Lazy”!

My point with this ramble from Rosanne to long johns is this, there is something to be said, still, even in this day of lazy-ass sloppy dress, for looking like a million bucks. There’s still something to be said for ironing your clothes and making yourself presentable. Yes indeed. For all of my friends who forever harangue me about my concern for neat appearance, this is why: laughter and looks will get you through life.

I will never be in Rosanne Cash’s league in terms of style and grace and beauty, nor will I ever possess Katharine Hepburn’s figure or wardrobe as Bunny Watson in every librarian’s favorite film (or at least favorite librarian on film), “Desk Set,” but I’ll be well-pressed when you see me out in the world. I’ll not be caught in any outfit of the style I outgrew 48 years ago. I’ll not walk down the street in whatever I wore to bed last night. Let’s look neat, people! Pull up your pants! Press your clothes! Let’s recapture what it means to be presentable in public.

My New Year’s wish #2.

My New Year’s Wish: Grow Up, America!

December 28, 2011

There’s a trend going around the interwebs, at least around Facebook and Twitter, where people like to create and share images of political candidates (or Ryan Gosling – still at a loss to figure that one out) with quotes about this, that or the other thing attributed to them. They come from the extremes, both right and left, and seem little more to me than cheap name calling. The latest I saw was one that a friend, who I agree with on probably 98.9% of things in life, posted to her FB page. To be fair, I saw it elsewhere too, but hers was the first sighting.

It comes from the author of the blog The Stumbling Block, a site that no doubt get a gazillion hits a day compared to my average of, oh, maybe 3. It’s obvious that this fellow’s ideas are more popular than anything I might venture to state, a fact that in and of itself sort of makes my point (that I’m about to make). First, the image:

Admittedly, Ron Paul says some fairly dangerous, if not downright absurd, things. Whether or not he truly believes the things he says, who knows? But like political candidates of EVERY stripe nowadays, he spouts off some lulus. But here’s the thing about this particular image and the message it carries; a message that I’ve seen fired from both sides at all kinds of candidates, i.e. it is WRONG to change your mind.

Mitt Romney (god help us) has been labeled a flip-flopper for what seems like the past decade. It’s the reason no one is to trust him – because he changes his mind. Same is being said of Ron Paul in this ad (or whatever you call these things). He once said and/or held some totally ludicrous ideas about gay men. Completely unfounded, hateful and inane. Today, he says he holds different thoughts. By this picture though, I’m not supposed to believe that such a change is possible OR, and this is the part that bothers me so much, that if it is possible and he does feel differently, this is a bad thing.

Well hold the phone folks, because I need an explanation for that logic. If people are to never change their minds about something, then why do we have groups with a mission to help people change their minds?! What’s the point of PFLAG or GLAD or the Human Rights Campaign? What’s the point of any civil rights movement if it’s such a bad thing for people to change?

I posed this question on my own FB page and friends shared that it’s the political climate and the candidates themselves. None of these people are to be trusted. No one running for national office says anything out of their own conviction anymore, but simply to appease a particular voting block. Well if this is so, then let’s all simply cut out the whole finger-pointing charade and ginormous money-suck of campaigning and simply turn it all off until that Tuesday in November when we go to the polls. If anyone and everyone lies, then what’s the point of yammering on and on and on?

The other piece of this particular Ron Paul image that tipped the scales for me is this: It’s a quote from a 1994 newsletter. 1994. Seventeen years ago.

In 1994, seventeen years ago, my then new partner and I traveled together to Virginia to visit my (side note: libertarian) brother, sister-in-law and their kids for the first time. Long story short, it was a pretty unfriendly visit and resulted in more than a decade of little to no communication between us. When we did talk or write letters, we all shared things that, I like to think, we all feel pretty ashamed of now. But over those 17 years, we’ve all grown up a bit. Thankfully. We hardly see eye-to-eye on everything, but I don’t believe that today any of us would say and/or feel some of the same things we said and/or felt all of those years ago. We changed. All of us. And it’s a very good thing.

Last week I was also asked if I’d share with a colleague a book that I wrote probably 15 or so years ago. I wrote it when I was an associate minister in a congregational church. I wrote thoughts that I believed, born of experiences that I knew. There is nothing staunchly religious in those words, but I don’t believe the same things the same way today. I’ve lived longer, I’ve experienced more, I was open to change.

That’s hope, if you ask me. We can all change. Granted, not everyone is always going to change the way I wish for them to. Not everyone is going to change in ways I understand. But there’s one thing I’m fairly certain of and that’s that the people who never change in life are those who take us nowhere but down. They ruin relationships, friendships, work environments AND our government. These are exactly the people we do NOT need in charge.

As a lesbian, I don’t know if Ron Paul sticks up for me today. Quite honestly, I don’t care. I live in Massachusetts where we passed same-sex marriage and a state-wide health insurance mandate under Mitt Romney’s watch. Does any of that make any sense? I wonder. But it shows that change can still happen, both to individuals and a greater society, if we just keep open to it. We are collectively bigger than any individual candidate and the myriad of far-wing organizations putting this crap out.

So my New Year’s wish is this… let’s do better, America. Let’s change.