The Butt HutPosted: February 13, 2012
One of my favorite areas in the Res is the outdoor patio, specifically the grassy lawn. It usually exists as a pure, unbelievably pristine grass patch that separates the smoking shed from the Dawg House (the outdoor shack that houses an old big screen TV). But on a beautiful summer’s day, pulling a picnic table out in front of the TV and posting up with multiple friends and multiple pitchers of beer is about as good as good gets. Baking in the sun and watching a day-time Mariners game, we settle in on the uncomfortable wooden bench seats and alternate in trips to the bathroom and back to the bar for more beer.
Walking out the back door of the Res and looking out beyond the fence, one can just make out the very top of the school building neighboring the bar’s outside patio. One woman who I chatted with said it’s a Catholic school that she attended called St. Catherine’s. It turns out that one of her teachers, Father Something-something, used to live in the house where she grew up in, and actually lived in her childhood bedroom previous to her. I asked if it’s in any way bizarre that a Christian school is direct neighbors with a grimy old bar. Her response was that Father Something-something was probably just as drunk as anyone at the Res, and this made her and I laugh.
The smokers are segregated. This has been the law in Seattle for about half-a-dozen years now. I remember going to shows back in high school and coming home smelling like smoke, and seeing guitarists stand up on stage putting lit cigarettes in their tuning keys and knowing that that is bad ass. I remember my family always going to a small Italian restaurant by the house where I grew up and us choosing the non-smoking section instead of the smoking one. There are no choices now, the decision is made for everyone. The smokers (gladly?) go outside to smoke, and at the Res they are similarly forced to comply. One has the option of sitting at the sports themed picnic tables and filling an ashtray there, or venturing in to what is apparently known as the Butt Hut. It was a second woman, a friend of the (I’m assuming fallen) Catholic, who said the “Butt Hut” refers to the cigarette butts left behind by the smokers who inhabit said hut. Then, with the kind of laugh that only someone who spends a lot of time in the Butt Hut can have, she said, “at least most of the time ‘butt’ means ‘cigarette butts.’”
The Catholic woman said she used to frequent the Seven Seas Bar. I told her how I had met with two other Seven Seas transplants – Carla and Nicole – a few weeks back and how we had had a long chat about finding a new “home.” Her phrasing of how she used to go to the now defunct bar was very specifically worded, and made me chuckle. I asked if she had been coming to the Res for a while and her response was: “ever since my bar closed.”
I asked, “Which bar was that?”
“The Seven Seas,” she responded.
Here word choice immediately made me think that she was the former owner of the “Seas,” which she quickly corrected me and said that no, it was just the bar she went to all the time. It was a very telling way of wording her relation to the Seas, though. It was not a bar, it was my bar.
I think there are highly negative connotations with bars, and these connotations are probably based in some kind of prejudiced assumption. Today, this – the Res, the Butt Hut – was a place of gossip and chat. The four women whom I spent time with in the Butt Hut gabbed on and on about whatever: new hair styles, problems with the dog, unpaid parking tickets, parents living and deceased, drug use, car break ins, friends, past vacations to the Grand Cayman islands, all the while chain smoking, chasing one drink with another. Some people have church groups, others have book clubs or sewing circles or bridge nights. People go out to dinner to catch up on old times, or head off to a concert with a troupe of friends. These four women sit, smoke, drink and talk. Simple enough that most should be jealous.
This is not something grand or noble, but I am not necessarily trying to seek out nobility, at the Res, or anywhere else. I am here with four women; strangers to me, but friendly enough. They had seen me, heard of me doing interviews around the bar. I am an outlier of sorts, breaking with conformity to what ‘usually’ happens at the Res, and much younger than any of them. The women do in fact initially approach conversation with me wearily, and the desire to not want to be on camera or formally interviewed was not a giant surprise. But by no means were they standoffish. We all sat around in the Butt Hut for hours, mostly me watching the second half of the Husky basketball game (winning out over Oregon State) and mostly them smoking and gabbing and drinking. The weather was not particularly spectacular, but for a winter’s day none of us could complain.