Walking into Dicky's for the first time in five years, I thought I stepped into a wormhole. Nothing had changed since that night in '97 I'd last left there after losing at darts, drunk.
I wandered from the bar to the tables in the back, searching for some sign of time's passage. There was none. For example, the eighth rule posted by the pool table was still "no fighting, or you're barred." Followed by the motherly admonition: "Remember it's only a game."
Someone might have taken the time and trouble to rearrange the same beer mirrors --- but what sicko does a thing like that?
Finally, almost desperately, I approached the CD jukebox and began flipping the flippers for any album released during the last half decade.
I was relieved, and a little disappointed, to see Santana's Supernatural in Dicky's mix, which otherwise was still stocked with a fine, tasteful selection of early alternative and classic rock, HipHop, and soul.
Dicky's is a neighborhood bar. As such, it reflects its neighborhood --- the South Wedge, which also seems trapped in time. It's old, it's comfy, it's a little bit funky, just like the Wedge itself. It's got what real estate brokers like to call "character."
From the outside, Dicky's looks like a house. Driving by the place during the day, it's easy to miss it among other old homes on the corner of Meigs and Caroline. At night, the slightly grimy plastic sign over the door lights up to announce it's open. But little sound escapes to betray the fact there's a bar beyond that portal.
Back in the day, I considered Dicky's a clubhouse for people like me in need of a haven from the stress and pretension of the rest of Rochester's bar scene. The couple who introduced me to the place coveted Dicky's for this reason. It was the one place in town we could really be ourselves.
Many a night, Jay, Eliza, and I would grow restless drinking beers and throwing darts in the Cobbs Hill apartment they lived in years ago. So we'd go down to Dicky's to do the same thing, but with plastic-tip darts, instead, and I'd have no better luck hitting bulls.
The place was never crowded, but as the night wore on, we'd see more people like us wander in --- slightly scruffy twentysomethings who also seemed to be seeking something real in a sea of superficiality. As far as we knew, they weren't Wedgers, either, but were in on the same hip secret. No one cared whether we lived in the 'hood or not.
Since we never went there much earlier than nine, I for one was unaware that Dicky's doubles as a neighborhood restaurant. Perusing a menu on a recent visit, I was shocked to read page after page of dinners ranging from pasta to meats and seafood. It was also not until recently that I discovered the Dicky burger, one of the best I've ever had here or anywhere else.
Jay and Eliza have moved away, but my clubhouse pass is still good. Dicky's is as welcoming as ever. Though I can't be sure, I believe I've seen the same strangers still haunting the stools, dour ghosts who smoke and drink drafts, then disappear.
I struck up a conversation with one of those specters while alone there the other night. We soon fell into a deep discussion about death. He tried to convince me that killing yourself was better than a natural demise for some vaguely Satanic reason I still can't grasp. But I recall it being a pleasant discussion, one of the most honest I've had in some time.
Expect nothing more, and nothing less, at Dicky's.
Dedicated to Jay Filkins and Eliza Stoker.