Thursday, December 08, 2011

Drinking Liberally on a cold Wyoming night

We occupied comfy chairs at a local bar Tuesday night. The fireplace at the center of the room roared -- baby it's cold outside. We talked about all of the burning local issues. We drank beer and wine. The tall guy from Laramie ordered a mixed drink with roots in the fifties, just like this place with its dark paneled walls and pub-style name and trappings. A few years back, it would have been filled with smoke but those days are over thanks to a few forward-thinking city leaders.

Drinking Liberally. That's the umbrella we operate under on this December night. Title of a national org that promotes the idea that Liberals should gather every so often to drink and swap stories. A few days earlier, an invitation had popped up on Facebook. There have been four of five of these locally during the past year. Last time about ten of us showed up at Shadows Brewpub downtown. We shared the big room with two big-screen TVs and a meeting of the local railroad history club and its Powerpoint presentation. I found myself sneaking peeks at images of old trains. Cheyenne was founded as a railroad supply camp, as were most of the towns along the UP lines in southern Wyoming.

Tuesday night at Poor Richard's. We discussed the issues. Dave wondered why the state Democratic Party was not more assertive. That's a question we've all asked. Thus far, we have no answers. Much talk about Republican Rep. Bob Nicholas and his arrest in Florida. He was accused of beating his mentally challenged son outside of a restaurant. The media and blogs have had a field day with the issue but Nicholas said he did nothing wrong and has no plans to step down. He's a Republican in this one-party state so he has protected status. Others spoke of the continuing defection of Cindy Hill's staff at the State Department of Education. Seven of nine of the DOE's agency directors have abandoned ship in the face of right-wing craziness. The latest to depart was Peg Brown-Clark, the had of special education. Peg is departing for another state, one that presumably takes special education seriously. I worked with her a few years ago and she's a smart and dedicated champion of at-risk kids.

Leah spoke about her campaign to support Safehouse. The local battered women's shelter keeps expanding because the need is so great. She and her artist fiance conduct domestic violence presentation each Sunday at local churches. A few of us (me included) had flyers for the "We are the 99%" rally sponsored by Occupy Cheyenne. Many of the two dozen people in the room at been to a local Occupy rally. Some planned to attend this weekend.

Service was slow so I sauntered over to the bar. A guy in his thirties asked me what the "convention" was for. I told him it wasn't a convention, just some Liberals gathered together to drink liberally. He asked me to name three phrases to describe what we were all about. So good of you to ask! But I knew what he was up to. Republicans in Wyoming think that Liberals must justify their existence in this place that seems to demand fealty to Republicanism, whatever that is. "Why would I want to do that?" I said sweetly. Then I did what most of us do. I made fun. "Over there are all of the Democrats in Wyoming." The other guy at the bar asked, "I didn't know there were so many." Ha ha. The bartender poured my wind-powered New Belgium beer and one of the barflies asked me if I supported Obama. "All the way," I said. "Just look at my bumper sticker." I pointed to the parking lot. A waitress walked up and said the only Obama sticker she would have on her car would be a big O with an X through it. She made a big X in the air with her finger. I wondered why I was even talking to these people. And I wasn't as soon as I had my beers.

"You go to the bar next time," I said to Chris, my wife, as I handed off her beer. She nodded, busily conversing with her friend, Joanne the cowboy romance novelist. I turned to talk to Jim the legislator. He was the only one of us wearing a cowboy hat. He's also the only African-American legislator in the state. His Wyoming roots go way back. His mother Liz grew up in Cheyenne and had one heck of a job getting a teaching job in the school district. She was black, you see. She went on to become a state senator.

I eventually finished my second beer and coaxed Chris toward the door. I stopped to chat with Ken the airline pilot and combat veteran. He nodded toward the crowd and asked if we should have talks or some sort of prepared programs at these gatherings. We both looked around at a room filled with people engaged in lively conversation. "I don't think so," I said, putting on my coat. He looked at me and smiled. Why ruin a good thing, right? The Powerpoints and speeches can wait.

1 comment:

Wendy said...

This was a great event! So much energy in the room!