I’m not ever as stumped at how to start an entry as I am on this one. Maybe it’s because this subject matter truly has a soul to it? I mean, yeah sure, we all love food. Good food pretty much writes its own blog posts. When it’s time to get serious, and do some memory browsing and back-gazing, that’s when stuff gets real.
T.T. the Bear’s Place in Cambridge closes its doors for good this Saturday night. I don’t think I have never referred to it using it’s full name, but there it is. I’ve walked through those wooden double-doors as much as any entryway I may have ever crossed over in my lifetime. I’ve definitely referred to it as my version of Cheers. (The tv show version. Not the actual bar, obviously.)
I’ve sat at that bar on a slow Monday night scratching lottery tickets as the venue goes acoustic for “The Other Side of the Bear” events. Those were pretty great nights that were made better when I found myself surprised at the talent behind the low-volume vocals catching my attention. Mondays when the stage is closed down and the lights were turned off in the main room. Shari could usually be found working those nights. I remember attempting to concoct new cocktails in plastic cups with $7 bottles of liqueur all too often. This, of course, all occurring after the great Livejournal debacle of 2002.
You see, there was a time when I didn’t know many of the faces at T.T.’s. On this particular night – November 5, 2002 to be precise – it wasn’t my first at T.T.’s, but it is the initial memory I have of my deep friendship with Shari, one of the bar/club’s veteran bartenders. That memory is brought to us by Livejournal, the letter “B”, and raspberry flavored vodka mixed with – if I recall correctly – chambord and Coca-cola.
Hanging out there with my now husband, we were watching Imperial Teen perform on stage. Shari’s name was still unknown but her company was welcomed openly. On this night in particular for whatever reason, I was struck by T.T.’s amazingness. And so, in early 2000s fashion, I commented about the night and Shari in my Livejournal blog (The Friendster equivalent of Tumblr). I of course mentioned the fact that I loved having her be my bartender, as well as commenting on her, umm…see for yourself:
I also saw Imperial Teen at TTs tonite and that was kick ass as well. they rocked, and it was neat seeing them in such an intimate venue. as usual, our bartender chick was sweet and kind and cute (even with her ghetto booty!) rock.
Yeah. I went there. That quote is responsible for a friendship of thirteen years that I can not imagine my life without.
T.T.’s was always a welcoming place – regardless of the bands playing the stage each night, you knew good folks would be there, and that if you didn’t know them, you soon would. I never felt awkward for even a minute being the gay dude in a rock club, and I love them for it.
The club made me and Joey feel so secure and comfortable and safe that we asked Bonney, T.T.’s owner of 43 years, if we could host a same-sex marriage music benefit The answer was, as is most often the case with Bonney, “Yes!”.
Joey and I put on several fundraisers there under our now defunct LegalLove.org. The first show featured Ad Frank, Mary Lou Lord and Annie Clark, to name a few. Ad and Mary Lou so happened to have both played their last sets at T.T.’s this week. Annie Clark might have been asked to play during the final week, but I’m assuming she was too busy being St. Vincent to even be considered.
The response from the Boston music scene was incredible. This at a time when gay marriage wasn’t even legal in Massachusetts with fierce opposition trying to shut it down. So many people – too many to list here but – aided with their talent and tones to support the idea of equal marriage rights for all under the law.
T.T.’s wasn’t just a rock club, it was a community of individuals who stood for good things, played pretty incredible (and occasionally crappy) music and enjoyed life while it was theirs to enjoy.
Someone who enjoyed the hell out of life was Jeanne, T.T.’s much loved and celebrated bartender. There was something about Jeanne’s smile, that when you got it, – when you truly received it – you realized you were special. Then you realized everyone got that smile from Jeanne. Although she is no longer with us physically – because cancer is a motherfucker – stepping into T.T.’s you can still feel her greet you as you pass through the doors and glance towards the bar.
Not only have I gained many lasting friendships at T.T.’s, I’ve discovered great music and had an untalliable number of life-affirming experiences here. Picking one is pretty impossible. A few that come to mind however:
Hanging with Jenny Lewis, sharing a drink and getting schoolgirlish about Kathleen Hanna and Bikini Kill.
Mingling with your favorite local talents at the annual holiday party (to which I recall bringing some damn good deviled eggs to one year).
When Lady Lamb had her first gig there and blew everyone’s skullcaps off.
When I was working the door and charged Juliana Hatfield admission only to feel like a horrid human once I realized who I had just charged admission to.
Or one of my top 5 moments! The time Joey and I took our pug Riley to visit Shari on a lazy weeknight (as one does), had a seat at the bar and then were joined by Hanson (Yes, that Hanson) coming to sit at the bar next to us. The Hanson brothers petting our dog and sharing a drink. A typical night at T.T.’s.
There are lots and lots of memories. I have laughed here. Cried here. Rocked here. Kissed here. Danced here. Fought here. Hugged here. Played Scrabble here. Eaten Hi-Fi here.
T.T.’s will be gone, but the community that has been created by the four-plus decades of being in business will continue. Thanks for everything Bonney – you’ve done this life very right.