As I spin lightly on the squeaky, worn out bar stool, watching the strange display of the man, smoking his e-cigarette, I anticipate the arrival of my Marty Burger.
I know, as I wait, this Marty Burger is going to be one of the best I have ever eaten. This Marty Burger holds the flavor of all those I've eaten before. This Marty Burger is symbolic of the end of an era, the loss of an old friend.
It does not disappoint. I spin around, elbows on bar, and briefly meld into the scenery and energy of the end of Marty's. The primal act of consuming the Marty Burger slips me into that place only those of you who have sunk your teeth into one can understand, after a rowdy night of debauchery, or the relief at the end of your work night. My eyes might be open, might be closed, but for a second they fail to function, pushed out by the joy of taste.
It's open mic night. As has been the way for centuries, you find yourself at Marty's at the end of things. As every other bar closes up, one phrase can be heard among your stalwart friends, "We'll meet you at Marty's!"
Michael, who I had met earlier at Zydeco during BFP Open Mic Night, is up on stage, belting out a great set I might add. We have both found our way here after Zydeco/BFP Open Mic. He notices me and heads over. We begin to talk about the local music scene. We talk about bands and BFP. We talk about the funny coencidence of how we had met.
He had been asking online where to find music information in Birmingham. Someone mentioned our name and he saw what we do, wound up at Zydeco, then Marty's. I had not made the connection at Zydeco. It is fairly unimportant, save that it illustrates yet another connection made at Marty's. The atmosphere opens people up. It's somewhere between a bar and a mystical living room, easy to feel at home.
A few bystanders overhear our conversation and join in.
The conversation leads to what bands we all know and what old bands we remember. E-gigarette guy at the end of the bar leans in. We are close in age. "What about Vova-Nova?" he asks.
"Of course." I respond. "Did you know Carry Pate?" I ask. That's a friend to many who was shot and killed across from the Nick many years ago. He was a very close friend of mine. He looks puzzled. He did not know Carry.
We go through several bands each: Electric Circus, Chameleon, Subject to Change, God, and a few more. It turns out we knew a few of the same, but many blank stares indicate we were not quite in the same crowd back in the day. But here, in this moment, its obvious what we're doing. We're commiserating, we are folding out our memories like we're attending a wake. Ah the good old days.
I'm only half way through my Marty Burger, without much self awareness to my own rudeness I spin back around to the bar, abandoning the conversation, and dig into my burger.
I pick up the paper menu, browse the food offerings, although I know them all too well. I gently fold the menu and put it on the bar in front of me. I reach over and grab another. Without much conscious thought I pick them up and hold onto them, gently, like one would a program from a play. Somewhere in the back of my mind I consider the best way to frame them, where to hang them on my wall at home.
I've heard people talking since Marty died. I've heard the opinions about Marty's and why it's closing. I had the misfortune to witness the comments section on the local newspaper's website, people debating issues and bickering about, best word for it, crap.
Me, I don't want to hear any of that right now. I don't want to see or hear someone try to turn this into some major issue about Birmingham. I won't even justify it enough to give examples.
What I want to do is share a moment with you, with those other people who could go to Marty's and hear great music. I want to share a moment with those kids who grew up with me there, always knowing there was a fun and safe place to go ride it out if you had too much to drink. Somewhere where you could find your friends, where you could watch the sun come up. You could see Marty come in and walk all around the bar, shaking hands and, well, being Marty.
Those of you who understand, understand. Those of you who were there, were there. I mean no disrespect to anyone who did not frequent Marty's, who did not know Marty, or who was not around. And I want no disrespect in return. I simply want to pay tribute to the end of one hell of a place, one amazing joint that was home to so many memories.
I want to tell you all how much I will miss Marty's, how much I still have trouble not seeing Marty zip by in his little Mazda, or shake my hand and ask how I've been. I want to express the hole left in our community by the loss of Marty, his person and his bar. And I want to tell those others who know what I mean, I feel it too.
Here is the final schedule: http://birminghammusicnews.blogspot.com/2013/08/martys-august.html