Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Frank's hot sauce, anyone?

Q: What do you get when you have my mom’s family + jukebox+ The Pumper?
A: A really good time

I spent the first half of my weekend in the booming metropolis of Cannelton, IN visiting family, and as usual, there was never a dull moment. Friday night I took Laura and George and met the family at the local watering hole, known as the Pumper. First off though, a little background on the city of Cannelton.

Back in its heyday it was a typical small town in Indiana. FDR’s WPA projects allowed industry to boom with several dam projects along the Ohio River. Now it’s seen better days, and has a population less than 2000 people and bars on every corner. One, people have nothing better to do than sit around and drink, and Two, the county across the river in Kentucky is dry, so they all migrate to socialize with the Hoosiers. On any given night, the age-old rivalry between UK and IU fans comes up several times among those from their respective states. And if any local Kentuckians find out you went to UK such as I did, they’re your friends for life. In all actually, UK fans are always in the minority here and the Kentuckians are always glad to have someone else on their side of the never-ending debate over which school’s basketball program is better, which state’s more redneck, and which hates Duke more.

Now the Pumper is unlike any bar I’ve ever known. Take what you’ve read above, and now imagine a sort-of Redneck Cheers, where everyone knows your name. Seriously. I asked my cousin Ryan if anyone ever walked through that door that he didn’t know and his answer was an honest "not very often." The crowd is a bunch of locals, both young and old, and every one’s a character. My favorites are Jimmy, the bartender, who has an honest-to-God mullet, and a laugh that rattles deep inside his chest that you don’t know whether to laugh or gag when he decides something is funny (which is often), and Frank Mafia, the transplanted New Yorker who looks like the guy from Weekend at Bernie’s and makes no effort to hide his taste in younger women. When we got there Friday night the first thing Ryan did was show George the men’s bathroom. It’s so apparently disgusting that it’s legendary. "when it’s time to go to the bathroom, it’s time to go home."

The place was actually packed that night, and good times were had by all. So much so in fact, that Laura and George opted not to go back on Saturday night. That second night was the more entertaining of the two if you were a fly on the wall however. My mom’s sister Lisa, and my uncle Jerry came to the house to pick up my mom and I and we were at the Pumper by 8:30. Not the best idea. Shortly after, my aunt Kristina joined us, followed by my cousins Ryan and Eric. It seemed that I was related to half the bar in a night that culminated in a rousing rendition of Hank Williams Jr.’s Family Tradition. I just had to laugh to myself as I looked across the booth to see my mom and 2 aunts sitting side by side there singing along. Believe it or not, this was Mom’s first ever experience at the Pumper, and it was just way too much fun for her. She left after about an hour, leaving me to fend for myself among my cousins and their friends. Fend from who, you might ask? Remember those characters I was talking about earlier?

First there was Randy Hawkins (you know, he graduated with Kristina’s class… he married Gordon Hafley’s sister) (that’s how every conversation begins with the family for those of us who have moved away from the small town life and need to be filled in on the latest gossip.) Randy danced by himself at the end of the bar and proceeded to make his way closer and closer to our family’s table, pulling my Aunt Kristina up to dance with him at once point. We promptly got my uncle to rescue her, but Randy tried several more times that night to get us to dance with him. The old Avoid Eye Contact trick worked like a charm.

Next there was this guy named Pat Ogle who trapped me at Frank Mafia’s Christmas party this past year talking about Kentucky and UK. He’s one of those Kentuckians looking to talk about UK when he can get a chance in a land surrounded by Hoosiers. Luckily I knew better this time and began a conversation with my cousin Eric, where you again, avoid eye contact and nod seriously as you actually say to the person, "pretend we’re having an important conversation. I don’t want to talk to that person."

Finally, among others, was my mom’s middle school boyfriend (thank goodness that one didn’t last), some scary Larry’s at another bar called Bear’s, and a couple of my cousin’s friends. It’s like Ryan said at one point: It’s a good thing we aren’t from Kentucky because then he and I wouldn’t be off limits from each other. Seriously- they passed that law a few years ago. You can actually marry your first cousin in the state of Kentucky.

To end my diatribes on the life and times of Cannelton, IN I will share the most random mystery of all. The next day when I was already safely back in the shelter of the Brenthood, I found a full size bottle of Frank’s hot sauce in my purse. What the heck??!! I can only assume it came from the Pumper or Bear’s, and that good times were had by all.

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