I had just turned 22 years old.  As with all people
that age, my life was in turmoil.  Problems with my
car, my bank account and my love life.  It was
always one of those three things or all of those
things.  That day was one of those days all three of
those things.  My car needed a transmission, I had
no money for a transmission and my girl was
dating my best friend.

Who knows how much one had to do with the
other.  Either way, I knew where to go to find
better solace when they all hit at once...the Silver
Tankard.  Up the street on West Liberty, down
the street from Mineo's Pizza was a dark refuge of
liquor and laughter.  Ricky Canello began his
storied career as a bartender here as a slinger of
booze and friend to all mankind behind a bar.  
He didn't just fix you with a two finger concoction
of spirit, he soothed your morbid self with a smile,
a slap on the back and joke that you could, almost,
tell your mother.  It was here that I settled in by
myself and a cold glass of Iron on the day after

The snow was coming down steadily and a sharp
wind would snap up every so often to give you a
chill.  Typical for this time of year.  The jukebox
was playing its string of seventies hits while other
straggler's started to make their way in to the half
empty bar.  I watch them come in and shake off
the cold, make eye contact and then fade into the
background.  I'm smoking another cigarette
after ordering up another beer.  Ricky is getting
busy and I have run out of people to talk to.  I'm
the stranger at the end of the bar, eyeing up the
faces as they enter, making them uncomfortable.
December 26, 1983
The Day After Christmas...
As it gets later in the evening boredom gives way to new
excitement but, I don't feel it.  As the door opens to
a new stranger, I can hear the horn blasts of Dormont's
Fire Alarm.  Bwaaaaaaaaaaaaa!  Bwaaaaaaaaaaaaa!  
Then the door shuts.  "Hey Ricky, another one here!
"Hey Ricky, another one here!"  "Another one."  I almost
have forgotten my troubles.  I actually have a smile on
my face.  Ricky has managed to do it again.  Take my
bad situation and make it bearable.  He's a magician
like that.

More people stray into the bar and it is filling up.  I'm
looking around for familiar faces but they are just not
there.  Another cold blast hits me as another walks in.  
He tells no one in particular, "There's a big fire on
Piedmont."  My ears perk up.  "Big fire" "Piedmont?"
Well, there's nothing going on here, I might as well go
check it out.  I live on Piedmont.  I throw on my jacket,
gloves and scarf, over tip Ricky and head out into the
biting cold.

I make the left on Peermont and start trying to skate
down the hill on the slippy snow.  I get all the way
down to Gaylord before I notice a glow from my side
of the street.  I'm moving faster now.  I make the right
turn on Piedmont and see...my whole house engulfed
in flames!!!  Without forethought, I sprint to the side
door in the alley trying to run in.  Mr. James of the
Dormont Volunteer Fire Department grabs me by the
collar and yanks me back from the ledge of sanity.  
"You can't go in there!  Don't you see that it is all gone!"
All gone!  All gone!  My tricked out bedroom with a
waterbed, imported stereo and my second place finish
Little League trophy!  My Mom's Persian rug, our
flower pattern couch, our family photos' my favorite
jeans...ALL GONE!