Moving every couple of years as a kid resulted in my being wary of new places and shy with unfamiliar people, but it had the opposite effect on my kid brother. The same day we moved to Campbell, Calif., Brian pulled me out of the house with a mission in mind.
As I hovered on the sidewalk, Brian marched up the steps to each house on the cul-de-sac to knock on the door with his little kid fist. When the doors opened, he got down to brass tacks.
"Do any kids live here? I'm 6," he'd say, before pointing at me. "She's 8."
We ended up making friends with a 12 year old who taught us to climb trees, a 9 year old who owned a Barbie Dream House, and an 8 year old named Mario, who regularly pulled apart daddy longlegs and later ran my brother over with his bike. Like all adventures, it was a mixed bag. Brian continued to bravely explore every opportunity that came his way, and now lives in Japan.
I had a minor meltdown when I moved last summer, needed to find a new bar to frequent and realized Brian wasn't around to knock on bar doors to ask: "Is this place warmly lit, filled with conversational white noise and packed with characters my sister will feel safe around? I'm 37. She's 39."
I'd have to Goldilocks the bars by myself.
After checking out places that were too expensive, too loud and too filled with Guy Fieri wannabes, I went to the Waterloo in downtown Louisville. I sat at the bar, quietly scribbling in my notebook and nursing a beer when a drunk dude shouted, "I got an eight ball in my pocket! Who wants to party?" I was thinking he needed another 15 balls, a stick, and a table before anything fun could happen when he shouted again. "Nobody in this fucking bar wants to party? What is this shit?"
"We don't do that in these here parts," said the Texan bartender. "'Bout time you left, I reckon."
The dude to my right, dressed in black and built like a superhero, stood up and echoed the get-out-of-here sentiment, which pissed Eight Ball off.
"What are you guys, gay lovers?"
Now I was mad. Instead of smashing my bottle on the bar and shouting, "My uncles are lovely, brilliant men you'd be LUCKY to love, you ignorant, mouth-breathin', neck-beard-havin' asshat!" I silently watched as Batman suggested they go outside.
Oh crap, I thought. Sheriff Bartender can't leave his post. Batman's gonna snap that guy like a dry twig and do 15 in The Big House for assault. I took a deep breath and, remembering the teachings of "The Big Lebowski," summoned my inner Donny and went outside with Batman's cell.
"Phone's ringin', dude."
The situation was diffused. Eight Ball wandered off into the night as Batman and I went back inside to high five the sheriff. Looks like I've found my bar. And so far, nobody's run me over with their bike.