#Downtowning at The Tap
By Yasmin Ramirez
Johnny Cash’s “Cocaine Blues” is playing when I walk in. It’s 3pm on a Saturday afternoon and the long wooden bar is half full. The black and red booths are filled with a medley of old timers, yuccies, and chipsters, all talking, with a cold drink in their hand. The kitchen server, Jose, greets me by saying, “No la he visto en mucho tiempo”.
When most people think of The Tap, they think of their famous nachos or of fuzzy music-filled Saturday nights. When I think of The Tap, I think of my childhood and the many nights I spent sitting at the bar with my grandma, Ita, or Lichita as she was often called, who worked the bar in her younger years. I think of all the people who have walked in and out and sat in its worn seats. Memories of the owner, Charlie, white-haired and sitting at the end of the bar cloud in with faces of the people who are The Tap for me. The song changes to Pink Floyd’s “We Don’t Need No Education”.
It, and similar places in Downtown El Paso, that have been around longer than anyone can remember, come alive because of the people who have inhabited their spaces. A building is just a building until people’s music sing it to life. The Tap, for me, is my Ita singing to a musico playing his guitar while she sang Amalia Mendoza’s “Amarga Navidad”. It’s Veronica, Vaca, my adopted Aunt, and long-time family friend who recently retired from her post behind the bar. It was Justo, the doorman, sometimes bartender, bar back, all around Tap guy. He was a broad man with black rimmed glasses and a gray crew cut who often wore suspenders with his jeans. He died two years ago.
The song changes. Juanga’s “Hasta Que Te Conocí” comes on. I imagine these people and others like them in the places I last saw them. I see them as they fade and others take their place. Today, I see a face behind the bar I don’t recognize. The song on the jukebox changes. And, I realize that just like the song, the people who inhabit The Tap will change. I will change, but it’s the people who have been here, worked, patronized, and continue to inhabit its spaces that make “The Tap”.