I’ve always felt younger than my 34 (almost 35, eesh) years. Blame it on my sense of humor, love of all things Disney, whatever… But there are always going to be those moments that make you feel your age; the first time a kid who is maybe 5 years younger than you calls you “ma’am”, the first time you don’t get carded, when you’ve been playing on the floor with your kids and your knees pop when you get up, or when you find out that the bar you spent your most formidable college years in, is closing after almost 20 years of operation.
Fitzwilly’s. It was a Northgate institution. For those of you unfamiliar with Texas A&M tradition (and A&M is steeped in tradition), Northgate was essentially the first social center of tiny College Station, Tx. Situated at the north entrance of A&M, it quickly earned the moniker “Northgate”. Over time it became the place where students could go to get good food and good beer with good friends – and is still that way today. I’ve never met a fellow Aggie who didn’t have a good Northgate story (or two or three). Everyone had their own favorite haunt along Northgate, the Dixie Chicken, Dudley’s… But mine… Mine was Fitzwilly’s.
Perhaps I should say ours was Fitzwilly’s. My best friend and I. We were originally regulars at the Dixie Chicken, but moved over to Fitzwilly’s for a change of scenery. Namely, scenery in the form of the bartender/bar back who she had the hots for and who she was pretty sure was into her, too. Lured by the promise of cheap(er) beer I left our usual pool table at the Chicken and moved over to the larger digs… and promptly fell in love. Luckily, she and said bartender began dating (and are now married) so the drinks stayed cheap and our new hangout was born.
As you all know I love to make me a list so I thought I’d share some of my favorite Fitzwilly’s memories:
5. Halloween – I can’t remember the year, but we got it into our heads that we would go as Charlie’s Angels. We recruited a third friend (who ended up bailing on us) and spent the afternoon running through the one mall in town to try to piece together outfits. We ended up looking pretty cute if I do say so myself, but my allergies were killing me so wearing my contacts was a no-go. My glasses ruined the outfit so I compromised and left one contact in. I pretty much spent the evening winking at everyone so I could see. The more I drank, the more I winked. So much so that my BFF began calling me her “cycloptic” friend.
4. I don’t always know when to keep my big mouth shut. I have a quick temper and tend to mouth off and then realize that was my outer monologue vs. inner monologue and have to talk my way out of what I just said. I had to talk my way out of a lot of fights in that bar. Mostly in the restroom. I don’t know what it was about me and that restroom, but every time I went to pee it was an event…
3. The crowd. Unlike many of it’s fellow bars along Northgate, Fitzwilly’s attracted a rather diverse crowd. One night a rather unusual man set his sights on me. What made this man distinctive aside from his apparent homelessness and insanity was that he had no legs. Instead of a wheelchair, he had this little skateboard looking contraption that his dog would pull him around on. He smiled at me, so I complimented him on his dog (the dog was a beautiful chocolate lab), and he instantly took to me. I spent the rest of the night with the man following me around and continuously trying to grab my hand so that he could “give me some of his power”. He finally left me alone after I let him hold my hand for 10 minutes so that he could “transfer the power” to me. I didn’t get any power or powers… that I know of, but I promptly washed (with a pound of soap and the hottest water I could stand) my hand.
2. The BFF was a better pool player than me, but I wasn’t too shabby. We would line a string of quarters on the table, signifying that the table was ours and we intended to play all night, but every now and then some dudes would come over, lay their own quarters down and say something like “play you for the table” thinking that us pitiful females couldn’t possibly hold our own against them, a challenge which we always accepted. If we felt hospitable, and they were cool, we would play a game or two and then just share the table. If we didn’t, we would run the table and then send the fellas packing. In all the times we did that, we only lost a table once. We were pool sharks, I’m telling you.
1. I’m reserving this for May 10th. Final call at the bar I basically called home for two years. The BFF and her man will be there, as I’m sure will be many others who called Fitzwilly’s “their” bar… I’m hoping we can eat some good food, drink some cold beer, play a little pool, reminisce, make some new memories and maybe, if I’m lucky, I’ll get into an almost fight in the bathroom. You know, for old time’s sake…
It was always a place I knew I could go back to. That it was still there after so many years, when new bars would open and close along Northgate, was always comforting to me. So I’m sad to see it go. But I’m excited to go back for final call and raise a glass to the place that played host to so many great memories and where I forged some lasting friendships.
Fitzwilly’s… I’ll miss you.