Almost all of my early stories were written in Philly, the city of brotherly beer. At Doobie's at 22nd and Lombard, I'd sit and scrawl, and I probably looked like a lunatic if anyone noticed at all. Later, maybe the next day, I'd type my stories on an old Apple IIc computer. I stared at its nine-inch monochrome green screen from the mid-eighties until the late nineties, when a dirt-cheap computer deal, with an agreement to purchase a few years of internet connectivity, finally freed me from old-machine captivity.
Back to the early nineties, at some point Fergie's Pub opened up and that became another place to go drinking and writing, writing and talking, and more writing. I was in these bars a lot, Tangier Cafe and McGlinchey's, too, but wouldn't say I was too much of a drinker. The food menu at Fergie's was part of the attraction for me.
It was a late afternoon or early evening, and only a few of us were at his new pub, and Fergie was tending to the place on his own. I was sitting at the bar, most likely drinking a Yuengling Lager or Lord Chesterfield Ale, and I had a typed story out. It was "Over Fifty Billion Kafkas Served," one of my favorites from that period, and this led to that, and Fergie asked if he could read it, or I offered, and so he was behind the bar reading my story. After a minute or two, I told him it felt weird to see someone reading my story, and so with alacrity, he moved from behind the bar and continued reading behind my back. Literally. I'm not sure if this was just Fergie being the generous guy we all knew him as, knowing our names, pouring our pitchers, etc., or the story was engaging enough, but he took another 10 minutes, and then popped back to the bar and told me with certainty that someone would publish it. That made my afternoon although it wasn't until nearly 20 years later that I found a home for the story.
The last time I saw Fergie, I think, was in the new Borders Bookshop on a winter holiday break between semesters. I was up from South Carolina, staying at my Mom's, and this was possibly Christmas Eve or close to it. Perhaps it would be a more poetic memory if this was at the old Borders at 1727 Walnut Street where I got my start in scribbling on my days off or mornings before the 1 to 10 p.m. shift. But this was the Borders location after they got chased off Rittenhouse Square by Barnes and Noble and opened up at Broad and Chestnut, the one they were in when the whole chain finally went kaput. Anyway, I was headed from the second to third floor, and Fergie was coming down the escalator, and I said, "Hey Fergie," and he said, barely missing a beat, "Hey Alex." I don't think I'd seen him for years, and it was impressive that someone with such an amazing inventory of names in his brain could still remember a customer from so long ago.
So there you have it.