This was their finest hour! (Actually, make that 19 hours.)

It wasn’t much of a story, really, just a brief blurb buried in the Cincinnati Enquirer on a few changes that Xavier University is making to their on-campus basketball and volleyball arena, The Cintas Center. But man, did it open a giant can of memory worms for my old XU crew.

Xavier is installing a new craft beer bar in an upper corner of the basketball arena, and the bar they are installing is the same 35-foot cherryback bar that was in The Norwood Cafe, a legendary hole-in-the-wall bar just off campus that was demolished a decade ago when Xavier expanded their campus footprint.

“The Woods” as it was called, was a throwback from a bygone era, when the city of Norwood had a General Motors plant. The bar would open at 5:30 a.m. for those GM third-shifters looking to have a beer — or a famous “Double Beamer” of coke and whiskey — before their morning bedtime. Long after the GM plant quit making Camaros, the bar hours remained the same. For Xavier University students, “opening the Woods” became a thing, a badge of honor, bragging rights: you’d stay up past the closing time of Dana Gardens (the other XU watering hole) at 2:30 a.m., and find something to occupy your time until you could stumble into the Woods at 5:30 a.m. for a nightcap that was really a morning cap. But there was also a legend (or myth) about a few hardy Musketeers who had both opened and closed the Woods – staying there from the time the bar opened until the time it closed… 19 or so hours. Well, straight from the “it seemed like a good idea at the time” book, my friend LJ and I realized that our senior year exam schedule would allow us to complete that feat. Challenge accepted!

L to R: yours truly and LJ. Men on a mission.

We knew we had to pace ourselves, so we limited our alcohol intake, and we also spent most of the daytime hours playing darts and doing yearbook-style legacies/prophecies for all of our buddies. When they showed up that evening, we had an impromptu ceremony, with the reading of the legacies and a gift exchange where each guy brought article that was unique to him. We pulled names from a hat and whoever’s name you picked, you got that person’s keepsake. Which is how Paul from Cleveland wound up with my treasured and oh-so-stylish “Hawg Hat” that no true Arkansas Razorback fan would be without.

Haters gonna hate the Hawg Hat

Bill Clinton has been called a pig by many.

When I read the article about the Woods bar being installed at the arena, I emailed a link to “the gang” figuring it would be good for a chuckle or three. But the response was overwhelming. Nearly every guy weighed in — including our friend Matt, breaking his self-admitted “radio silence” of several years. They brought up memories not only of that night, but of other notable events during our time together on campus.

 

Matt giving Ned his patented “helicopter spin”… he let go a couple seconds later.

I’ve read that women’s friendships are based on shared emotions, and men’s friendships are based on shared experiences. Or as this Wall Street Journal article puts it:

Researchers say women’s friendships are face to face: They talk, cry together, share secrets. Men’s friendships are side by side: We play golf. We go to football games.

Some of my best friends in the whole wide world are in the photos above. Just a bunch of kids from Cleveland and Akron and Strongsville in Ohio and Tampa and Middletown, Connecticut and Louisville and Indianapolis and the West Side of Cincinnati… and Clarksville, Arkansas, of all places. Thrown together in a dorm and learning how to get along. Doing some stupid stuff, but living to tell about it. And living to re-live it… even at our advanced age.

So thank you, Cintas Center, for installing the bar from the Norwood Cafe in your arena. As a season ticket holder for men’s basketball, now I’ll be reminded of good times spent with great friends at least 16 times a year. Maybe I’ll even have a Double Beamer to celebrate. But not 19.

 

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