19 November 1996

True Story

I had this lay-over in Louisville, two/three hours to kill between busses, and I knew of this bar + grill that was really nice, Zama’s. You know the kind of place, lots of C+W and nothing after 1971 on the jukebox, thin-patty Velveeta cheeseburgers and potato chips, water-damaged photographs of every Kentucky Derby winner since 1936 on the wall, omnipresent smell of stale beer, coin-op pool table, tin ceiling, old lady behind the bar who’s nice to you like an aunt, no two tables or chairs alike: a regular joint.

My problem is, I can’t remember how to get there from the Grayhound Station. So I go across the street to the Seelbach Hotel. The current Seelbach was built in 1905 in opulent Victorian style which it has maintained to the present day. The old Seelbach, which it replaced, is where they invented the Mint Julep back around 1830 or so. This hotel has so much decorum that people speak in a whisper in the lobby.

So I go up to the desk and I ask the clerk, “Can you help me find a place around here?”

“Why, of course!” She was a very gentile girl, about twenty-three and very well brought up.

“I’m looking for a bar called Zama’s.”

“Zama’s?” the girl was incredulous, “That place is a dump!”

“Oh,” I asked brightly, “You’ve been there?”