There’s an old Saturday Night Live skit in the 70s titled “The Thing That Wouldn’t Leave.” It’s a trailer spoof on horror movie commercials where the narrator with the booming voice announces the title, “THE THING THAT WOULDN’T LEAVE!!!” John Belushi plays a visitor who doesn’t get the hint that a family who has invited him to their house for a short stay wants him to leave so they can go to bed. Bill Murray says, “Boy it’s been really nice to have you, but we’re getting really tired.”
Belushi nonchalantly asks, “What’s on tv?” while Lorraine Newman literally screams in horror.
“The Thing That Wouldn’t Leave.” Coming to theaters near you!
There are people who just can’t leave a good time.
Every historic home I visit in this country seems to have had Charlie Chaplin as a houseguest. It seems this comedian had a home everywhere and was welcomed everywhere. The “Little Tramp” had something that was irresistible; he was a brilliant wit, intellectual, well read and well-spoken on philosophy, politics, literature, art and he was a man of the world who related it in his art. They said the guy would spend weeks at San Simeon, the estate that some called the “American Versailles.” William Randolph Hearst thought he set up residence in his mansion and thought nothing of it.
I once met actress Lynn Redgrave who told me Noble Prize-winning playwright Harold Pinter wrote “The Caretaker” in their guest house. He spent months there. “And your father let him stay there no questions asked?” I inquired.
She said, “It was Harold Pinter.” In other words, you have a great mind in your presence, you make the most of it however long it may take.
For me, Buffalo is a home away from home. It’s not a particularly elegant city or warm seaside resort type city but it’s one of my favorite places to be.
I visited a bar in the first ward in Buffalo. There were a few regulars there. They didn’t even have to tell the bartender what they needed. She just kept taking the money that was sitting on the bar and popping new Labatt’s Blues for them. We bellied up to the bar, and I sat next to a working-class guy donning a dusty baseball cap, a neon green sweatshirt with oil stains on the sleeves, well-worn soot-stained jeans and work boots. He was a strapping six three sitting, had a mangy beard and spoke with a baritone voice and was no nonsense as he waxed poetic about the old days of Buffalo when you called it the “Eastside” or the “Westside.” Now the cultural elites have proclaimed that you can no longer use that terminology, it’s called “Buffalo’s Eastside” or “Buffalo’s Westside.”
He told me his father was a regular union guy who visited the same bar.
I said, “There’s something to be said for that or words to that effect.”
The funny thing is this guy engaged me in conversation. He was very welcoming. I felt as though he needed the conversation.
We went for the chicken wings but the conversation was captivating. Cooks bar feels like a home that was converted into a bar. I could see a forties front room that now doubles as a game room with a bowling game, a dart board, a video game and is replete with neon beer signs, college banners and televisions situated where no one can miss a minute of an important game. The wrap around bar is beer (sic) hug of memories with 3×5 pictures of good times literally under Epoxy resin on the bar. It shows softball teams and patrons who bellied up and poured their hearts into understanding and making the most of the life. The bar was situated in the dining room that was expanded to suit a big crowd, but you can still see the beginnings and endings of a home.
This man has inherited the call to this place. This is his home away from home. Sure, maybe he’s escaping something at his home. He may see something there that he doesn’t get at home. On a deeper level, though, I thought, maybe this guy is looking for something his father was looking for, something he wasn’t even conscious of.
What is that thing that keeps us staying or keeps us coming back to a place?
People want to be where their history is. People want to find quiet acceptance and unconditional love even if it’s bought and comes in the form of a beer or shot and an open mind. The people I love and cherish from the old neighborhood walked in the same misery and stress, the hopes and the mysteries that pointed us to a well-adjusted framework for understanding more in the context of history. The history is in the streets and on the walls. It’s in the living rooms in a lively conversation, an iced cold beer or glass of wine, and delectable food.
The things that keep us are the things that inspire more life; a secure place to open the heart and be present, comfort in knowing that we are being heard, a place to create without being judged – all the things we think of when we think of feeling at home.