Do you love and miss the old King Eddy bar as it was before the Downtown L.A. gentrification brush blotted out its soul? Come slip into that dark, cool place in this poem by Bernard Tucker, graciously shared by his sons.
King Eddy Bar
The door yawns
lets in the morning –
a handful of regulars
for breakfast of coffee, beer, boiled eggs.
The fusty 40 x 50 foot saloon
reeks of stale tobacco and cheap booze.
Walls of layered grime
yearn for a coat of paint.
A Jack Palance-of-a-guy
lords over the rectangular bar.
Whiskey runs a poor second to draught,
Christmas lights chase each other
around the top shelf,
By noon two dozen stools and chairs hold
the local fraternity
descended from their cheap nests.
TV is on.
Juke box plays ‘Nights in White Satin’,
a thin bent body yells
“Who put that crap on?”
Late afternoon, the dark hole roils,
the past wrapped around beer glasses
the present seen clearly in refills
and the only sun, a hard boiled egg.
I crack the door,
the polite bartender points to the far corner:
my patient dangles his only leg
from a stool,
sugar diabetes and nicotine
claimed the other.
Quick to butt his cigarette
“only have two a day, doc.”
His wheelchair waits by
lifesize sepia Babe Ruth poster
“goes back to the twenties
only thing worth a damn in this joint!”
Not a bad hero for these players,
age wearing heavy on their shoulders,
every day must step up to the plate
handle whatever comes,
and the pitching can be mean.
– Bernard Tucker
Bernard Tucker was a cardiovascular surgeon at Good Samaritan Hospital in Downtown Los Angeles for 30 years before retirement in 1999. Originally from a small silver mining town in Northern Ontario, Canada, Bernard first came to Southern California in 1961 for a medical internship at Memorial Hospital in Long Beach. A lifelong interest in literature spurred him to start writing poetry in the early 1990s and attending workshops organized by Hy Baker and the Pasadena Poets. His poems covered topics ranging from his youth in Canada to nature as well as the more human side of practicing medicine. The people and environs of Los Angeles were of course a major inspiration, and poems covered local matters such as the city’s homeless population, 1992 riots, urban wildlife, and the Los Angeles River. Bernard passed away in 2019.