Who am I kidding? I've always been judgy.
I remember the place from a few decades ago. To call it a dive was an understatement: furniture was worn and uncomfortable. The menu was a small step up from reheated TV dinners, and the service was nothing memorable, at best.
You could enter from the outside, on the far end of the mall or walk in from within the shopping promenade. The name probably came from before the neighbourhood was built up, when you could look out onto the green fields of the farmland.
The first renovation was a major improvement, with a raised dining area that looked onto the stage, where local bands would perform to the redneck masses. Though smoking was banned indoors, the clientele reeked of nicotine from fulfilling their habits a short distance outside, still covered from the elements.
The only thing going from the pub was that it served more than Labatt's and Molson's. Though I don't touch Guinness or Lug Tread anymore, it was considered the only place in the community where you could get elevated ales.
The latest renovation is a giant leap from the pub of the past. A long, welcoming bar features two dozen or more taps, at least half of which rotate quality craft ales, both local and from abroad. The service is always friendly, welcoming. And despite the folks behind the bar spouting off the talking points of brews, provided from the sales reps, they like to sound like they know a lot about the suds they pour.
I started dropping in just over a month ago, finding it a good place to wait out DD16 while she attended a piano lesson or worked out at the nearby Karate school. I had enough time to have one pint at the bar before retrieving her and scooting her home. I've exchanged names with the folks behind the bar, shaken hands, and commented on the beer that they were offering. While I quietly sip my pint, I look at the silent sports on the TV screens, observe the folks at the neighbouring seats or nearby tables, and unintentionally eavesdrop of the conversations around me.
The first conversation I heard reminded me that while the atmosphere of the pub has cleaned up, the regulars haven't. The asinine talking points from conservative headlines, utterly devoid of substance to back up the flat statements. Men in their mid-thirties, talking of behaviour that I grew out of in my late teens or early twenties. Laughter at jokes that were tasteless decades ago but utterly offensive now.
I try to block out the conversations, bury my face in my smartphone, looking for a distraction while I enjoy my ale and pretend I'm in a better place.
I return, of course, killing time while my daughter pursues worthwhile activities, because the beer is good and the service is friendly. Each time, I sit, I sip, I listen, I look, and I judge.
At my age, with my life experiences and other venues by which I can compare, I feel I've earned the right. I can form my opinions and not feel bad for what goes through my head as I sip from the glass.
I can be judgy in my old age.
For all I know, the regulars, who see this short, dumpy, middle-aged guy who sits by himself, are judging me back.