Hamilton-Part 2 (Image:5 lives-one death)

There was no problem with the search for Hamilton—it was right where everybody said it would be. I found convenient—and free—parking adjacent to the town square. Yeah—they had an actual town square with flower beds and a gazebo band-stand.

Zipping up my coat and snugging down my fedora, I started down the immaculate main street lined with perfectly restored early 1900s stores, shops, bistros and boutiques. Shuffling in and out of the Starbuck’s and Barnes and Nobles, beautiful young Colgate students from a dozen countries dressed in $300.00 parkas and alligator skin boots, blended with the locals like that stuff in Lava Lamps blends with the medium it rises and falls in. As earlier—I thought I glimpsed Greg going into the Hamilton Theater on Lebanon Street.

The pub in Munnsville wasn’t enough—I needed an in-town, close to campus bar a guy like Greg would hang out in as he took hedonism and irresponsibility to new heights. In 1969 Greg was 19 but back in those days the legal drinking age in New York State was 18.

I found it in about three minutes—The Payne Street Corner Bar. It was perfect.

The Payne Street bar is today—as it was in 1969—part of the gorgeous old Hamilton Inn. In keeping with my life-long search for America, large, twin American flags on long poles flank both sides of the majestic front entrance. The main lobby of the hotel is right out of central casting. Deep plush, maroon carpeting, darkly gleaming walnut paneling, polished brass sconces. The front desk is massive, hand-carved Cuban Mahogany and the Colgate co-ed behind it—“Alison” on her name plate—was also out of central—the drop-dead beautiful girl department.

I wandered around the lobby—which reeks of, “if you have to ask how much, you can’t afford to be here”—studying the furnishings and décor’ and find myself thinking about Sherlock Holmes’ ‘Diogenes Club.’ When I got to within 8 or 10 feet of the front desk I stopped and briefly made eye-contact with Alison who looked at me ambivalently—kind of like the way a beautiful young girl looks at a shriveled up old-timer in an Indiana Jones Fedora.

I smiled, nodded and wandered off in the direction of the bar—which is reached through a door connecting it to the lobby. But before I get to it I see Greg and his pretty American girl friend Samantha entering the lobby. Greg and Sam were high-school sweethearts—Greg attended the same high school as Sam his senior year. Sam’s friend Sherry and her new boyfriend Noah are with them—the two couples come laughing and chattering through the big revolving door from the street. The two couples crowd around the front desk.

Alison is not at the front desk to register the two couples of course. She won’t be born for another 24 years. Instead an aunt of hers—Mary Jane who is in her early 20s in 1969 and just as pretty as her niece will be—is holding down the Cuban Mahogany fort. By this point in the story Greg had become well acquainted with Mary Jane and Marco the concierge and was able to score two vacant rooms for the cost of the maid’s tip in this four-star establishment.

Greg befriended Mary Jane one evening shortly after arriving in Hamilton when he rescued her from a jammed and derailed drawer in a big gray filing cabinet that was giving her fits. After 5 or 6 minutes of frustrated struggling she was looking around with that “somebody please help me” expression on her face and he offered to help. Greg quickly found and replaced the screw that attached the drawer glide to the cabinet carcass and remedied the problem. As he demonstrated the now smoothly functioning drawer he warned Mary Jane the common sheet-metal screw should be replaced with a locking screw or it would eventually come loose again.

Mary Jane—a niece of one of the owners—was going through a divorce and no—she and Greg did not become lovers. They did become friends—after 10 or 12 beers and several hours of commiseration in the bar discussing their love lives. After hearing Greg’s story Mary Jane encourages him to go back to Sam but Greg isn’t quite ready for that yet. Whenever Greg was in the bar after that evening he would swing by the front desk and speak with Mary Jane.

With room keys in hand the two couples put their bags on a luggage cart and roll it into the elevator. I don’t know what’s coming next because that part of the story hasn’t been written yet. Probably they’ll hit the showers, have sex for an hour or so then come back down for dinner and drinks in the dining room.

I go into the bar—which looks a lot like the lobby except for the ancient jukebox—a 1953 Seeburg—at the back. I sit down at an empty corner table where I can see the entire room, especially the people coming and going through the street door.

Bar maid ”Susan” on her name plate—takes my order—a Gin & Tonic without the gin. Six bucks for a glass of tonic water with a wedge of lemon. To be fair—it was a very nice lemon wedge.

Its mid afternoon—only a few customers at the bar muttering across the hushed space separating us. The place looks exactly as it did in 1969. Through the front windows snow can be seen falling thickly hitting the warm street and melting as soon as it strikes the wet pavement.

Greg enters from the street. I quickly pull out a notebook to take notes. He walks directly to the jukebox and drops in several quarters—the Beatles,’ “I’m Looking through You” floods the quiet room. He takes a seat at a table near the large front window so he can see the entire room but by turning his head, look out on the street.

End Part 2

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