You walk into Bub’s Pub. The floor has soaked up just as much beer as the regulars; the corner door is sometimes propped open to carry the echoes of conversation and the scent of light beer throughout the narrow space. The bar is long—walk past the restrooms and you have a side door to slip out into the parking area or you can continue into a fenced off place for smoking or just enjoying a mild evening. Yet the most apparent, the most affecting part of the Bub’s Pub experience was Bub himself, who loomed behind the bar instead of tending it, a towel over his shoulder, with kind eyes refracted by his thick glasses. Like most bartenders, his wisdom came from his recollection, his memory etched with moments and names, news and rumors. He’s like the entire cast of Cheers rolled into one—Cliff’s knowledge, Norm’s humor, Sam’s steady hand behind the bar.
Larry “Bub” Bates was a friend of mine, but friendship is a fickle word with many levels. I cannot and will not attempt to prove that his passing strikes me with the same level of grief as it does his family, his closest friends, and the more-regular-than-me patrons of Bub’s Pub. We knew each other by name, we exchanged stories and good natured, sports-related ribbing. I drank in his bar, hell, he even sold my books at his bar and refused to keep any portion of the sales as fair profit for doing so, which tells you all you need to know right there.
The news of his passing proved that his life was communicable, contagious—that his life cannot truly be gone because it’s spread among thousands of people in varying levels of degree. Indeed, those closest to him will feel the sadness in ways that I cannot truly share, but every memory someone has at Bub’s—maybe they met that special someone at the jukebox, or saw that big sports moment, or celebrated that big slowpitch softball victory—I think that his passing tinges those moments with a measure of sadness, knowing the man that stood watch while so much life unfolded in front of him is now gone, prematurely, and undeservedly. I know I'll remember him fondly, and the next time I go into the pub, it'll seem just a bit more empty and sad without him. I know I'm not alone on that count.
Everyone is mortal. I think the best we can achieve is to have that communicable life, one that spreads through friends and family and beyond. Bub achieved that in intangible ways through his kindness and spirit but also in a tangible one—it sits on a nondescript corner in Sandoval, a white, pedestrian looking building filled with memories and love and the echoes of an excellent man who cannot be replaced—but he can and will be remembered thanks to the many lives he touched.