Where Everybody Knows Your Name

The classic television sitcom Cheers tells us that "Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name." And when I was in my late teens and earlier twenties, there was a place like that where I spent a lot of my time. Only it wasn't a bar, it was a pool hall.

The Rack Room was located on Route 1 in Langhorne, Pennsylvania. It was located behind a Denny's with which it shared a parking lot. It was a pool hall (and a parking lot for that matter) in which I spent a lot of my free time.

I'd been introduced to the place when I was 16. I'd been working part-time at a grocery store and one of my friends/co-workers from there was a regular. I hadn't spent much time in pool halls up until that point, and truth be told I still can't shoot a very good game. I spent just as much time in the Rack Room's arcade playing the latest Mortal Kombat game as I did shooting pool But it wasn't as much about the pool as it was about having a place to hang out -- I still regret not having gotten a picture of my friends hanging out under the "No Loitering" sign out front. Which leads me to my next point: the crew.

Most of the people I knew from the Rack Room were people that I'd met just hanging out there. Dave Tyson was the first, and it was through him that I met everyone else. I met Dave one night while hanging out in the parking lot. It wasn't a good night, though I won't go into details, but suffice it to say that meeting Dave was a good thing that came out of a bad situation. He became like a little brother to me. Through Dave, I met people like Drew Rusin, Jay Winslow, and Jen Monti, to name just a few. Often, none of us had much to do, and we'd just hang out at the Rack Room, playing video games, shooting pool, and figuring out where to go next. Just before getting the first job of my professional career, I remember hanging out there one hot, humid summer night and playing hackey sack in the parking lot until sometime past 2am. You could stop by the Rack Room at almost any time and usually find someone there who knew your name.

The reason I'm writing this now -- though I've been planning to write it for some time -- is having heard The Beatles In My Life for the first time in a very long time, the lyrics to which begin with the following:

There are places I'll remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life, I've loved them all

I've thought of these lyrics many times over the years, and they always take me back to the Rack Room. Of the friends I made there, some are no longer with us. Dave, Jay, and Jen have all passed away, long, long before their time. Others are still with us and still in the area, and from time to time I bump into them. I saw Drew about a year-and-a-half ago and spent some time with him at that old Denny's out front of the Rack Room...what used to be the Rack Room. It closed down shortly before he and I hung out that night. The picture above is of the Rack Room's old sign, now disassembled.

I'm nostalgic to a fault. Maybe I hearken back on these memories too often. I don't dwell on the past, but I definitely remember, and I'm thankful for the times I spent there and the people I met.


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