Time only goes forward, but memory goes backward. So, as the days count down to the arrival of the moving van, I’ve been trying to look forward — packing up books, throwing away paper, making preparations — while attempting to avoid a confrontation with my emotions, which are mulling over the past.
It’s been largely pointless.
I’ve been in Atlanta for 26 years, not to mention my formative college days, and emotions come with the territory. I want to be upbeat as I open the new door — it’s an adventure, right? — but I’m all too aware of the one swinging behind me.
I can’t overstate how much of a rock Trivia has been. I arrived back in Atlanta the weekend of April 20, 1991 — almost exactly 26 years ago — and one of the first things I was told about was this “trivia game at Manuel’s.” So I spent that Sunday evening with (in my memory) my old Emory friends Tim and Alec at the Tavern. We won, too.
A year later I was hosting, and I’ve been hosting ever since.
I thought Donald Trump’s finish, in which he praised Hillary Clinton for being a fighter, was both gracious and graciously delivered. In fact, I’m still thinking about it more than a half-hour later, because it showed that Trump could be something approaching humble — an aspect of his personality that I don’t think I’ve seen this entire campaign. Perhaps it was a sign that he was genuinely touched by her praise of his children; perhaps he was simply tired and had spent all his ammunition. But for a guy who always has to not only be dominant but express dominance — with insults, with the tone of his voice, even with the look on his face — it was, well, shocking.
Hillary generally got the better of Trump, but there were times I couldn’t help but think she would have had to raise her game against, say, William Weld (or Barack Obama, for that matter). All politicians have tape players in their heads, but the good ones manage to hide it when they turn it on. (Obama is very good at this.) You could sometimes hear the tape running when Hillary — not a natural politician, as she has noted more than once — gave her answers. (Yes, I think we’re “stronger together,” too, but jeez, you only have to say it once.)
No vodka tonight. I watched the debate at the great Manuel’s Tavern, where it came on right after my Team Trivia show, and I ended up sticking to water. But there’s one more debate to come. I’ll be stocking up on the alcohol.
My dream job would be to host one; my almost-dream job would be to write questions for (a smart) one. (This is why my Sunday nights hosting a weekly Team Trivia game at Manuel’s Tavern are so rewarding, even if they don’t pay much.)
I recently did the #firstsevenjobs thing on social media. Many of my positions were short-lived: summer jobs, jobs to save up for school, jobs to eke out rent money. The shortest lasted probably two months; the longest, a little over a year.
At the other end of the spectrum is my weekly Sunday night gig as Team Trivia host at Manuel’s Tavern. As of next March, I’ll have sat in the emcee chair, on and off, for 25 years.
Tonight I’ll be in that chair again for the first time since last December.
I first met Brian Maloof about 15 years ago, not long after he took over management of Manuel’s Tavern, founded by his father in 1956.
I was immediately struck by Brian’s friendliness. A former paramedic, he’d taken on the family business thanks to the aging of his father, the bar’s namesake, and his uncle Robert, as well as the health troubles of his brother Tommy.
Tommy had made a few changes — if I recall, it was he who decided to upgrade the quality of dishes Manuel’s offered, naturally bringing down a hail of protest from some regulars who thought their bar was getting too big for its britches — but it was Brian who had to maintain its reputation as Atlanta’s living room.
It has been a tall order, but Brian has fulfilled it wonderfully.
About 50 people — Maloof family members, local residents, even a few reporters — came to Manuel’s Tavern Monday for a blessing over the establishment. (The ashes of founding brother Robert Maloof were also present.)
The current look of Manuel’s Tavern has some people panicked.
They see the scaffolding set up around the building at North and North Highland, surrounding the fabled bar like a cage. They notice the old North Avenue room, where Laughing Matters put on their shows, is still hollowed-out and windowless. The front doorway is blocked off; the parking lot in back is a hole in the ground.
No way, they think, is it going to be ready for August 6, the hoped-for opening day — and the 60th anniversary of the Tavern.