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Two Dads Walk into a Bar...

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It's 2:30 in the afternoon, on one of those defiantly sunny winter days in Spokane, and rather than spend time outside, two guys slink into the bar at the Blackbird, a sleek wood-and-steel-accented gastropub on North Washington Street. They should be at work, or the gym, or reading a book, or thinking about 401ks and tax liabilities — anything but this: day drinking. But when you're married, with a toddler at home, staring down 40, your free time is mostly spoken for. Besides, if a pint is drunk and no one is around to see it, does it really count?

The men slide onto two stools in an otherwise empty bar.

Is it happy hour yet?

Not 'til 3, a smartly dressed barman replies.

The two men are, on the whole, upstanding citizens: one a successful real estate agent, the other a bald and bearded newspaper editor. Both became fathers a year and a half ago, and both find comfort in knowing they're not alone. Age and responsibilities haven't stolen the passions of youth, exactly. But as they raise their first pints of the day, they discuss how growing older has taught them to not obsess as much. With life half gone, it seems wasteful to worry so much about high hairlines, lost deals, petty arguments.

Or the occasional pint in the middle of the workday.

They enthusiastically agree with what the other says, in a way that drinking buddies sometimes do. Yes! Exactly! That's what I was saying... They tell each other that they still try to be better men — indeed, they want to be great — but, in what feels like a revelation, they agree that part of being better is realizing you'll never be perfect.

Yeah, like that Shakespeare quote, the real-estate agent says: "For there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."

Oh, Hamlet — that guy knew a thing or two about obsessing.

And just like that, a couple of pints lifted and drained, and it's time to return to reality, to the parking lot, where their late-model cars reveal the men they really are, with diaper wipes, pacifiers and toys on the seats and floors. One has to do grocery shopping before heading home; the other plans to tidy up the kitchen before his wife gets off work. They linger in the parking lot for a moment — the winter sun showering light as though it were August instead of January — and then they slide into their getaway cars, having pulled off the perfect crime.♦


The original print version of this article was headlined "Two Dads Walk into a Bar..."

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