A Hole-in-the-Wall, Mummers and Cheesesteaks

There is something to be said for a hole-in-the-wall bar. It might not have the best beers, and it might not have the MTV Real World cast and it might not have pollo fri diablo on the menu, but there is an honesty to it. I got experience this on Friday night when my wife and I went out with her brother into Philly. After a delicious dinner at Dmitri’s, we were going to meet up with his Mummers’ troop at a local pub. Yes, I went to a Mummer’s meeting, for which I’m sure I’ll hear about from several people.

The place – Ray’s Tavern on 8th and Federal, near the Italian Market. Now, there are some bars that are local places and there are some bars that are LOCALS places – Ray’s is definitely the latter. I’m a beer snob, so walking into a place that offers Pabst Blue Ribbon on tap usually doesn’t happen. But after a few minutes, I figured what the hell – and it was worth it. Ray’s makes up for in comfort what it doesn’t have in beer selections – the bartender was a genuinely friendly guy who took care of the whole group as though they were family, and Annabelle, the portly English bulldog, patrolled the bar and the backroom like a friendly sentinel. Scratch her back and you had a friend for life.

I probably would never had gone into this place if it hadn’t been for Mick, but I’m glad that I did. I got to see a different side of most of Shari’s old friends – including golden “Bo Peep” dresses, conversations about sparking nipple clips and a straight man talking about using “silver lam&#232” on their outfits. Beat that night out, folks. But more than that, I got to see the inner workings of what really goes on with the Mummers – as an outsider looking in, but still a good look. Granted, this was the beginnings of this year’s extravaganzas, but it was interesting enough to get me interested. No, you won’t see me walking down Broad St. carrying a golden parasol anytime soon, but you will probably see me on the sidelines this year (as long as the weather holds – I’m still a fairweather zealot, after all).

The night also provided the best opportunity for me to get to know my brother-in-law better. We’d had the typical family conversations at the parties, but only once had gotten to hang out before – and that was in a loud, dark bar, so conversation was limited. This time, I got to know Mick better. It helps that we escaped from my wife’s clutches at the bar to walk the short block to Geno’s Steaks for a provolone without. There’s something about sharing a cheesesteak over a PBR in a dark bar that makes for camaraderie. Too bad he wouldn’t play darts later at the Dark Horse – but I did hit my best throw of darts ever – 2 double bulls and a single bull. That’s 125 points in cricket, folks. Awesome.

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