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I have heard it said that the advent of death begins from the moment of our first screaming breath . . . for me it started last Friday when I walked into My Friendís Tavern in the early afternoon and saw that Ray Styer was the only one sitting at the bar.

I quickly weighed my options but decided there was no inconspicuous way out, so with resignation I bellied-up and sat down. Now donít get me wrong, Rayís a good, regular guy and he can tell you all you want to know about the coffee at WaWa, backhoes, why he canít work in the bar business anymore, goddamned jukeboxes, Jewish entertainers, why the VFW burned down, and who the best district justices are.

Problem is, these valuable insights come without solicitation immediately following the words: "How ya doiní, Ray?" (or some variation) and BAM! Youíre in physical pain for a good hour. So, after I had hung on the cross for near 90-minutes, and in an effort to derail this freight train to ennui, I did employ strategies. But how many times can you realistically take a piss in an hourís time or pretend you see a friend or pretty girl out the Tavern Window? It wouldnít have been half as bad if Ray could just have spoken in complete sentences and left out the "wellís," "umís," and "erís." By the time I had heard enough I thought his name was Ray Wellumer instead of Styer!"

Finally, I heard the stool to my left scrape across the floor as someone pulled it out to sit. Salvation! I turned with the anticipation of seeing one of my regular buds saddled next to me. Not.

It was Frank (picture Abe Vigoda-- alive or dead, it doesnít really matter). But heís another story for another day. It was time to go.

Hemmingway was right, man endures.

                               Mystery Man





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