I’m writing this column right next to a large copy of a Mike Royko newspaper column.
I would like to say that there is a certain amount of symmetry to me writing my column right next to a Mike Royko column, but I can’t.
For one thing, I’m not sure what symmetry means, and for another thing, if it means what I think it means, saying that there is a certain amount of symmetry that I’m writing a column next to a Mike Royko column would imply that I was somehow on Mike’s level — and I’m not.
I don’t mind the fact that I’m nowhere near Mike Royko’s level. Nobody was, is or will be.
If you don’t know, Mike was a legendary newspaper columnist. Although he lived and wrote in Chicago, Mike’s column was syndicated in newspapers all across the country, including the Parsons Sun in Kansas, which is where I first read it.
The reason there is a large blowup of a Mike Royko column next to me is because I’m typing this in a back table in the Billy Goat Tavern, a bar that Mike was known to frequent a time or two.
Well, more than a time or two. A lot more.
That’s right. It’s Friday, and I’m working from the Billy Goat Tavern. A few minutes ago, I finished my double cheeseburger, got another beer and decided to pull out my computer and get to work.
“But Mike,” some of you are saying. “Do you always drink beer when you write? If so, that would explain a lot.”
To some of you, I say, “Hahahaha!” I would also say no, I don’t normally drink beer when I write. But my wife and I are on a mini vacation, so I decided it would be OK to have a beer while I write this. Besides, if I didn’t, Sam, the owner of the Billy Goat and nephew of original owner William “Billy Goat” Sianis, would likely toss me out.
I mean, I just spoke to Sam, and he’s a nice guy and all, but business is business. Actually, Sam is sitting at a table right next to me.
I think that’s something.
The place is about three-quarters full, and most people are munching on cheeseburgers. The ones not on vacation are drinking sodas. At the bar are several guys who appeared to have been on vacation a long time drinking beer.
As I type this, I can hear one of the guys behind the grill at the Billy Goat hollering “CHEESEBURGER CHEESEBURGER.” I can also hear another guy say to a customer, “You want double. Double is best.” And most of the time, the customer orders a double.
I should point out that the Billy Goat was also the model for the classic “Saturday Night Live” “Cheeseburger, Cheeseburger” sketch.
There’s that symmetry again.
After my wife and I ordered our cheeseburgers (doubles, of course), a guy came in with his wife and ordered a single cheeseburger. When the guy behind the counter said, “No, double is best,” the guy who ordered the single said it would be bad for his cholesterol.
Man, it’s a good thing Sam didn’t hear that.
As I’ve been writing, an idea sort of popped in my head. The Billy Goat Tavern is one of my three favorite bars in the world. The other two are — in no particular order — Kelly’s Westport Inn in Kansas City and Captain Tony’s in Key West, Florida.
My idea: In the next couple of years, I’ll write columns while sitting in Kelly’s and in Captain Tony’s and sipping beer.
Sure, it will be hard work, but I’ve never been afraid of hard work. I’ve never done hard work, but I’m not afraid of it.
Now, if you will excuse me, I have a beer — I mean, a vacation — to finish.