Tuesday, February 5, 2008

World Series of Travel

Watching the Super Bowl on TV on Sunday night from my living room couch, bereft of company and/or party food, I suddenly longed for Andy’s Club at the Ramada Inn in Jasper, Texas.

Last October, I had to travel to Jasper, in deep East Texas. Jasper is known far and wide as the Jewel of the Forest. Guidebooks reference the piney woods and beautiful lakes in the surrounding area. But my fondness for Jasper is based on my visit to that hidden gem Andy’s Club the night the Boston Red Sox won the 2007 World Series.

When I opened the door to my room, I knew, with its green indoor-outdoor carpet, thin-as-a-blanket bedspread covered with yellow cabbage roses and leaking faucet, that was no place to watch a championship game. So I donned my No. 18 Sox jersey and trooped across the parking lot to the hotel bar, Andy’s Club, where the game was on the big screen, but the sound was down due to the live performance of the three-man local cover band that played there every Sunday night. I was warmly welcomed, with the bartender immediately exhorting me to try out the free buffet (three large pizzas in Pizza Inn boxes on the pinball machine). She brought me a Bud Light and introduced me to the other two patrons. None of them were interested in the game, but the second I walked in they all became Red Sox fans, including the band.

Not to say that any of the regular Sunday night bar activity changed. Lonnie, a chemical manufacturing company rep who was in town overseeing a bug-spraying operation, came in around the 3rd inning and ordered shots of Jack Daniels with Bud chasers. He was screaming “It’s all about the music” and bought the entire bar (all six of us, including the band) drinks several times before he called it a night. And the band still played its power ballads as if the bar were full. Although at one point they played and re-played the opening bars of “Is This Love” for an eternity until the lead man was satisfied with the chord progression.

I had only planned to stay for a beer or two, but wound up still on my stool when Jonathan Pappelbon got the last out in the 9th inning. My new friends were cheering as loud as I was, even the band, which had stopped to watch the bottom of the last inning. Random experiences like that are a reminder to slow down, spend some time getting to know people, and enjoy the adventure. And High Flying Bird highly recommends Andy's Club if you ever find yourself in Jasper, Texas.

-- The Commish

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