Noticing Magic Everywhere

Kate Comings' journal


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My friend and I ate here for the last time today.

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I will miss this place. Gustav’s pub and adjoining Rheinlander restaurant will be closing its doors after 53 years. I’m not sure of the reason, but sadly, nothing lasts forever. The turreted, half-timbered building is a Northeast Sandy Boulevard landmark, the place to go when you want German comfort food. I have dined there with friends and family so many times, it’s sad to imagine the neighborhood without it. It’s cozy and comforting like a big hug, and I included it in my upcoming book, Zen Flowers, before I had any idea it would be closing.

In this excerpt, Brendan had bad news. He’s broken-hearted and his brother Niall, the narrator, has just picked him up at the airport:

My stomach growls, reminding me that it’s well into the afternoon and I haven’t eaten since breakfast early this morning.

“I heard that,” he says.

“Are you hungry, Brendan?”

“He gives me a sideways look and his mouth twists. “What do you think?”

“Stupid question,” I say. “Sorry.”

“I could do with a beer, though,” he says.

“That can be arranged.” I turn off 82nd onto Sandy Blvd, heading for the closest brewery, but at the last minute, I change my mind. Gustav’s, the German pub across the street with its cozy bar, all heavy dark wood and dim lighting, would be more comforting. I pull into the parking lot behind the turreted, half-timbered building, and we get out of the car. Brendan lights a cigarette and takes a deep drag. We go around to the front of the place, taking our time while he smokes. He puts his cigarette out in the ashtray by the entrance, and we go inside.

The blonde waitress grabs a couple of menus and shows us to one of the side booths. We both order Spaten Optimator; dark, rich, and elemental.

Brendan takes a long pull at his, then another, and begins to relax. “Thanks, Big Brother,” he says. “This place is a balm for sore nerves.”

I nod. “I know. They have a lovely shepherd’s pie here, if you change your mind.”

“Think I did just change my mind.”

I watch him across the table. The fire has gone out of his eyes. I hate seeing him so subdued. The waitress is eyeing him, too—actually both of us. We look alike, both a bit worse for wear like shipwreck survivors. She’ll be wanting to take care of us; women are funny that way.

We both order the shepherd’s pie, chunks of meat in brown sauce, covered with mashed potatoes and melted cheese. I order the sausage platter to split between us, and when the food comes, we dig in.

“Ah, this is grand, Niall,” he says, and drains the beer in his glass. “Thanks for putting up with my morosity. It means a lot.”

“Goes without saying.”

Cozy booths inside Gustav's.

Cozy booths inside Gustav’s.

The bar.

The bar.


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Ruby is a real dog.

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She belongs to my daughter, Eithne, and she just showed up in my latest work in progress, “Zen Flowers,” as I pants my way through. Dogs have a way of doing that. Elizabeth is seven, old enough now to tell part of the story.

“When Mom’s not looking, John sneaks a piece of sausage under the table and gives it to Ruby, our dog. We have a dog now. Me and John wanted one so bad, but the house we lived in was No Pets. Now we live in a different house, and we get to have a dog at last. We got her at the humane society. Mom says she’s probably half basset hound and half German shepherd. You should see her. She has short, crookedy legs and a tan body with a black back, and her ears are really huge and stick up but the tips flop over. She makes you want to laugh and hug her at the same time. She poops a LOT. The only thing I don’t like about having a dog is having to pick up smelly poop when we go on a walk.”