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January 28, 2014

Bar Belle: Save me a seat

Perhaps I’m more sensitive to the subject since it landed on my doorstep twice last week, but every time I open Facebook or turn on the TV, news of someone dying has replaced the frivolous antics of Miley or the ignorant musings of rednecks who make duck calls. I have a friend in the funeral business who confirms that January is one of her busiest months. Do people hold on so they can make it through the holidays? Are there more cases of flu? Or, just maybe, life isn’t fair and doesn’t play favorites — and it takes the start of a new year to remind us that we are finite inhabitants of this planet. Nothing is guaranteed.

Will you indulge me as I reminisce on two great souls who moved on to the great bar in the sky? Order me a bourbon neat, and let’s grab that dark booth at the Back Door — the one that doesn’t have a spotlight dangling in the center.

My Uncle Jack died one day shy of three weeks after he received his three-to-six-month death sentence. Cancer was detected throughout his body, which was news to him having just survived a procedure that removed his esophagus and stretched his stomach up to compensate. He thought he beat it, but after a small bump was removed from his scalp, they did a full scan and found the interloping cancer had spread.

I’m not surprised he lasted only three weeks. Some people use the term “gave up,” but not me. My uncle lived life on his own terms. This was his last attempt at getting the upper hand, beating the system. He didn’t want friends and family to see him during his last days, a frail shell of his former self. He’d prefer you remember him when he was happiest — behind the wheel of his boat cruising on Lake Erie or navigating the neighborhood in his little red Corvette.

His drink of choice was a Bacardi and Coke. Cheers, Uncle Jack.

A few days later, death hit a little bit closer to my home turf. I found out that my friend Terri Wilhelm Detenber, the owner of Dundee Tavern, had tragically passed after a few days on life support. She was driving into work Saturday morning and had a stroke. She was 52. I was in denial. If I walk into Dundee tomorrow, I fully expect to see her manning her stool — the one at the far end of the bar near the kitchen — right beside her friend and business partner Sandy.

I expect she will greet me with a warm smile and motherly embrace, and then want to dive right into what’s new in my life, what’s stressing her out in the bar business, and what funny or random thing happened to her while I was gone. She always had random stories to tell — a server who only lasted one hour into her first shift, or a drunk patron who scared a bunch of frat boys watching basketball.

I spent too much time at Dundee when I lived on Boulevard Napoleon, and Terri and I became quick friends. If I was alone or my friends had left early, I would pull up a seat next to her and Sandy, and they made me feel instantly welcome — like part of the crew. After cheering the Cards onto victory last spring, it was her idea to celebrate with Flaming Dr. Peppers — not normally a drink a bar owner would endorse.

When the Pink Door was open, I would meet up with Terri and Sandy before while I mustered up enough liquid courage to explore a whole new world. They’d wish me luck and send me on my way — sometimes I’d return 15 minutes later with my tail tucked between my legs. After raving about the intoxicating Dundee Dip night after night, Terri leaned over once and whispered, “You know it’s not really good for you, don’t you?” I laughed and assured her I knew I was blowing my calories for a week, but it was worth it. She never did tell me the recipe.

Dundee won’t be the same without Terri’s laughter and energy, but to honor her legacy, I hope it continues to be one of the best neighborhood taverns we have in Louisville. Her drink of choice was a Bud Light bottle, but a few times I saw her drinking the Territini, her namesake drink on the menu. A double-fisted cheers to you, Terri.

I have no doubt she’s pulled up a chair for me at that big bar in the sky — and I have no doubt she’s already made fast friends with my uncle. Save some drinks for me, you all!

Drunk Texts of the Week
• It’s so cold my balls are on a two-hour delay
• It’s not a drunk text, it’s a drunk accident!
• If it comes out of me, I'm keeping it!

Send your drunk texts to shavens@leoweekly.com. My blog is at barbelle.leoweekly.com. Word.