Before we get into INDY Week's celebration of the Triangle's new watering holes, I'll tell you a short and true story about a odd bar and a human foot.
Cripple Creek Tavern, in the old Van Noy Theatre across from Ballard's funeral home in Middletown, Ind., population 2,086, looked like a good place to get knocked in the head.
One night after the summer carnival, I went in for a drink. Judging from the paraphernalia, I think the masons or some secret society met there during off hours. In addition to seating, Cripple Creek had a stage, a dance floor and a pool table. I had not been to town in so long that the players glared at me as if I were an outsider, their cues at the ready.
On stage a Rubenesque man dressed in fluorescent orange shorts was balancing on a very sturdy stool and operating the karaoke machine. A scrawny guy on crutches, who could not bend his legs, had just finished performing. Several young women stood in a circle on the darkened dance floor and began singing to Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain":
"And if you don't love me now ... "
In the spotlight I spied a familiar foot.
It was the bare foot of an old friend, Natalie. I recognized it because 15 years earlier, she and I had sat in the hallway of Shenandoah High School waiting for driver's ed class to begin. She had her shoes off.
Her feet appeared to be fresh from the potter's wheel. She had no callouses or cuts or ragged nails. Her big toes launched a graceful slalom to the smaller ones. Her nails were painted the color of a Tiffany rose.
"You have beautiful feet," I told her.
"Thanks," she replied, smiling.
At Cripple Creek, after the song ended, I followed Natalie to a back booth.
"Natalie, it's me, Lisa! I recognized you by your feet."
She looked at me, puzzled, and said hello, yes, she remembered me as well. I told her the story of how I came to admire her feet. We made small talk. I left, disappointed that my recollection had not made more of an impression.
This is the kind of story you might hear at a bar as you meet and make and remake friends over drinks. In the Triangle, we have our favorite veteran speakeasies as well as new brewpubs and taprooms where the weird meets the wonderful.
And, as you'll read in this DISH issue (see Related Stories below), we have talented beer artisans and distillers who craft the elixir that, as country star Webb Pierce used to sing, stands in your glass and settles your mind.
Cripple Creek served terrible beer. It probably couldn't have put out the fire that burned the tavern to the ground. But I reconnected with a familiar face—and a foot. That's what bars are for.