We hope you enjoy this introduction to Bristol City and The Night Police.
The function of the choir practice, the ancient and culturally appropriate social gathering of brothers in blue is three fold. First it’s a place of comfort and social acceptance where a tough day on the street could be mitigated by quite a few rounds of drinks.
Second, it allows detoxification from the stress and brutality of the last ten or more hours of urban battle.
Third and almost always, the choir practice devolves into a random recounting of favorite war stories. It doesn’t matter if the stories are current or recycled, they are current whenever they are told.
There’s always an eager anticipation to hear the next tale. Often it leans competitive, each guy jockeying to slip his story into the queue so his voice gets heard. The stories are always true but often deployed in a gray space where total accuracy is not demanded. It’s hard to remember the exact details each and every retelling, but that’s expected by the street hardened cops in attendance.
Bristol City, a disheveled, comfortless township of 900,000 somewhere not too far west of the Mississippi is home. Well for some it's home, for most it was a placeholder, a long moment suspended in the course of a lifetime. More actively fled Bristol City then ever ventured there on purpose. Still, almost a million souls lived there, most in differing degrees of disquiet and hardship. A rawboned example of what the midwest can be when it’s not at its best.
The primary employers in Bristol City's past were big steel and heavy equipment manufacturing. Generations of blue collar workers made excellent wages and the belching smokestacks and mill tailings that wept decades of toxic tears were tolerated. Like many similar US cities, as the mandate for an improved environment advanced, decades of decline and ever increasing unemployment took hold until it settled in to its current squalid equilibrium. Scarfing machines, sintering plants and coke quenching may not be the primary topics of conversation in the watering holes of today, but it's legacy is still readily apparent.
Nobody strolls in Bristol City, but if they did, it would be down the ubiquitous, ruptured sidewalks, most sloping as if about to slide into the avenue. Telephone poles, each heavily draped in wires traversing the streets, sidestepped ancient street lamps to complete an arial web. Pale, grimy, two and three story apartments, offices, delis, and laundromats, all circa 1900, littered the avenues. Most wore geriatric awnings in different states of fatigue. This is the shoddy flavor of what was not so affectionately known as the Stock-town Borough.
Mid-block, at 28-09 23rd Ave., a weathered foot-wide bottle cap (“Schaefer Beer On Tap”) affixed to a metal door, confirmed the location of Solly's. It’s single window looked out to the intersection, a pendant stop light, alternating green, yellow and red reflecting in the spitting rain.
At this time of year the days meandered on, one after the other, in that early winter gray, the kind that drapes itself to the ground. Not bone chilling, but it’s damp and it makes you want to slip inside, into the familiar warmth that comforts and consoles. For the Night Police reassurance and seclusion was most often found at Solly's. Technically it was Solly's Tavern, but the puny, neon sign in the window only read Solly's Tav; “ern” long ago having burned out. Hence, the “Tav” or Solly’s... you pick.
The Tav, doesn't have a pool table, a shuffleboard or pachinko… it’s a drinking man’s establishment. Unless invited by the unordained, it doesn’t have women either. It’s not that women aren’t treasured, it’s just that Solly’s is a man’s bar. In today’s world, that’s frowned upon and possibly grounds for litigation. Too fucking bad, this is a man’s bar.
Behind the battered, black lacquered plank was a simple tarnished brass plate, that simply identified the birth of Solly's, "estb. 1929”. Tino was likely there at the grand opening judging by his rickety, tottering shuffle behind the bar. There had been many barmen over the years, but Tino was the constant. The keeper of the knowledge, the history, and all things on the quiet. Never, did he disclose a secret or give someone up. Ever!
Late autumn shadows puddled on 23rd. Avenue and Solly's was the natural landing spot for five men in blue with an agenda. First up, Pat Quinn. He unbuttoned his flannel overcoat as he stepped down the four steps from street level and pushed open the door into the warmth of the Tav. “Tino” Pat nodded to the barkeep as he made his way past the bar, through the small clutch of tables towards a semi-secluded spot at the back of the house.
A common name in county Galway, Quinn is derived from O’Cuinn, meaning ‘wisdom' or 'chief’. It was perfect for the rumpled, bent nosed, retired Chief of Detectives that all the boys of the Night Police worked for at one time or another. Described once in court by some idiot defense attorney as "irascible and dyspeptic” he may have had those moments. He was definitely a dichotomy.
We hope you'll join in with The Night Police; it's a journey as they say.
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