Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Jen Tucker Dishes on Harry's Chocolate Shop

She is the proverbial salt of the earth, and now Jen Tucker's latest memoir, The Day I Lost My Shaker of Salt, (is that cover not the best!?) has officially launched! I'm the lucky and honored one who gets to host Jen on my blog today. We decided to do something a little different because, well, that's how we are...so, with that, I turn the table, sans the salt, over to Jen...


­­Yippee!  I’m so excited to kick off this blog tour for The Day I Lost My Shaker of Salt with you, Heather.  Thank you very much for hosting me today.  For those who do not know, Heather and I are not only dear friends, she is also my editor.  Thank you, HH, from the bottom of my wine glass.  Heather and I batted around ideas for me to blog about, when she suggested I tell you about a little place that means a lot to me.  Why I haven’t opened up about it before, I have no earthly clue.  Enjoy!    

Home of the Great Indoorsmen
     It never fails.  When my husband, Mike, and I meet new people, they’re curious to know where we first met.  When we divulge the tidbit we met in a bar, we’re usually met with a pleasant smile and nod of the head.  Similar to the look I imagine receiving if I told them we met in prison.  After revealing the small detail that we first laid eyes on each other at Harry’s Chocolate Shop, my how the tables turn. We are the recipients of slaps on our backs, jovial smiles, and sometimes utterances of, “Hey!  I love that place!  That’s where I met my wife too!”  All of a sudden, somehow meeting your true love in a bar isn’t as shady as previously determined, is it?

Mike and I may have—ahem—changed over the years, but one constant remains, and that is Harry’s itself.  Photos of Purdue University legends such as Bob Griese and Drew Brees, gaze down from the walls to observe the shenanigans of students on any given evening.  Graffiti from days gone by litter walls and the ceiling, like little time capsule tattoos of graduating seniors bidding their favorite watering hole farewell.  The Go Go’s, Eric Clapton and Bon Jovi still blare away on the jukebox, and the bartenders still skip those songs every chance they get so they do not have to listen to them.  Bartenders continue to wear shirts, which encourage you to, “Go Ugly Early.”  This has a debatable meaning, yet every alumni thinks they own the secret decoder ring with the translation.  Owners Herschel and Mary Cook can be found chatting with loyal patrons and enjoying conversations with returning alumni whom they welcome back with open arms.  Last, yet never least, we have the legendary Fishbowl.  The Fishbowl table, located in the front window, is usually occupied by a group of newly minted, legal-aged drinkers attempting to “go Indoorsman.”  Going Indoorsman means you park at this particular table, facing a large picture window were a passersby can gawk at you while you drink massive quantities of beer from 11am until last call.  May God have mercy on your livers, young lads.   
    Mike and I attend a reunion that takes place each fall at Harry’s called, Kramerpalooza.  The best of bartenders, barflies, and waitresses who once slung and sloshed drinks in this establishment, descend upon the place and take over the top floor.  Through the years, our dear friend, Jen Kramer (Gorgeous, right?), has worked her tush off to bring us all back together for one night of sin and debauchery.  Okay, okay it’s not that seedy.  It’s more like a bunch of forty-somethings, who complain about their mortgages, joint inflammation and taxes, while trying to prove they can still handle endless glasses of Jack & Coke. 
     We reminisce over each other’s glory days, relive ΓΌber embarrassing moments, and tell soapbox tales of nights that shall forever live in infamy.  We lay it all there, for everyone to see, without fear of judgment or rejection.  This group has witnessed the best of times and the worst of times together since our twenties.  Although many of us have traded in barn dances for diaper duty we remain closely devoted to one another.  We are a crew, who knows where all the skeletons are buried in each other’s shameful college years, yet would never tell another soul outside of these plastered walls.  In laymen’s terms; we are family.

                                                
          And as a family, for the first time, we buried one of our own this year.   George Owen lived a long and full life alongside his bride, Mary.  They were surrogate parents to numerous students that attended Purdue University over the decades, including me.  Including our entire gang.  On summer evenings, George and Mary sat across the street from Harry’s on a park bench so they could chat with as many students as possible.  They welcomed us into their homes for cookouts.  They attended our weddings and baby’s first birthday parties.  You could confide in George, but make no mistake.  He loved making you the butt of a good joke, and it was always meant with love.  He was a man among men, who contributed his heart and soul to each member of our little Kramerpalooza group in some way, shape or form.   
     There was no funeral; no graveside service this winter when George left this earth.  Instead, he was remembered as his final wishes dictated.  A gathering took place, with those who loved him dearly, at Harry’s Chocolate Shop.  Friends arrived from across the miles to raise a beer in George’s honor.  We said goodbye to the gentle giant, with the boisterous laugh and bigger than life personality, just as he requested.  It was difficult for me to bid farewell to George, who entered my life when I thought I had it all figured out at the ripe old age of 21.  Gosh, was I dumb back then, or what?! 
     Kramerpalooza will commence this October; our 19th anniversary.  Rather than shed tears for George, or pine away for moments long gone, we will again honor his memory by simply occupying the same space as we do each year, and raise our glasses in remembrance.  Then it will be back to the festivities at hand.  We’ll tell the same old stories, relive the same old moments of foolishness, and continue to love each other as we have for over two decades.  They say you can’t choose your family.  I believe in this case, we have chosen.  And we’ve chosen wisely.

Jen Tucker has never met a gluten free cupcake that she didn’t like.  A former teacher and educator, she worked with children in school, hospital, and enrichment settings for many years. In her years at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, it was Jen’s job to bring the “hands on fun” into the visiting exhibitions in the galleries.  Jen broke away from writing children’s books and thematic units in 2011 with her memoir, “The Day I Wore my Panties Inside Out” which was a semifinalist in the humor category in the 2011 Goodreads Book Awards. She is a monthly guest blogger at the website, Survival for Blondes. Jen lives in West Lafayette, Indiana with her husband, Mike, and their three children. 
You can purchase Jen’s latest book, The Day I Lost My Shaker of Salt, here.  You can also find her on Twitter, Facebook, her blog or on her website at Princess with a Pen.