March 30, 2018 by T. Gregory Argall
There used to be a pub in the city where I grew up, called “The Rose & Thistle.” It was a regular weekend haunt for me during the latter part of my high school days and well into full adulthood.
On Friday and Saturday evenings, a gentleman named Bill Davie would set up his gear on the small stage at the far end of the room. I never managed to pin down an actual age for Bill, but he was significantly older than my friends and I at the time. To be honest, he was probably around the same age that I am now, yeah, still a young man.
Anyway, the stage was really just a slightly raised bit of the floor, maybe the space of two phone booths. (Remember phone booths?) Bill would be standing there with a microphone, a drum machine, and a twelve-string guitar. The stage was his office, his workplace, his world, and he had no qualms at all about welcoming people into his office.
You see, Bill Davie knew every song ever written and was happy to share them all with anyone who walked through the door. Random song requests were written down and/or called out all evening and he would play each and every one. He would also, on occasion, move a couple of feet to his left and allow someone from the audience to step up to the mic for a song.
Bear in mind, this was before the era of Karaoke severely lowered the standard of performance expected from drunk people with a song in their heart and a microphone in their hand. This wasn’t a prerecorded backing track; this was a talented musician trusting you to not be horrible and insulting to the gift of a spotlight.
And everyone who sang at Bill’s microphone was, indeed, worthy of their moment in the spotlight.
At least it seemed that way, anyway, because here’s the thing about the Rose & Thistle when Bill Davie was on the stage: It was a place of peace and magic.
I don’t mean like a frou-frou hippie-dippie kind of peace and magic. I mean actual peace in a magical way. There was an unwritten (and unspoken) rule at the Rose & Thistle: “Check your attitude at the door.” And it worked.
There were Irish Catholics sitting beside Irish Protestants all laughing together. In the 1980s. That’s magic. And a crucial part of the spell was Bill David and his guitar.
My wife and I had our first date at the Rose & Thistle, too. (That’s a whole other story in itself; I started that day in Vancouver and was dubious about my odds of getting out of Vancouver.)
In the intervening years, I’ve found other pubs and restaurants that I like, that I feel comfortable spending time in, but never one as unique and magical as the R & T.
I miss that place. That’s all I’m saying. There will never be another.
Try to be nice to each other.