Shepherdstown: Character Sketch of The Meck
West Virginia, USA
When you stop by a local shop in Shepherdstown, it may not be unusual to hear things like, “Mercury is in retrograde, none of the computer systems are working” or “are you taking the hatha yoga or the Reiki session?” These comments are normal. This town an odd conglomeration of local residents, college students and now, D.C. commuters. The heart and soul of the town, however, comes together in one place: The Meck.
The Meck is considered a local pub, yet looking around, there is often an unusual mix of natives, students and newbies (those recently transplanted from the suburbs). You will most likely find George or John as your bartender, and maybe Natalia or Diane tending bar on a Sunday afternoon. The Meck is dimly lit, often smoky and propped up by two local residents who can be found at their respective spots at the bar, any day or night. The fire will be burning in the fireplace all winter and the back garden opened in the summer.
What it is not is a sorority or fraternity hang out, as is the watering hole next door. You will not ever hear Britney Spears or April whats-her-name. Ever. Occasionally, you may be moved to get up and dance, but only when Steve Kemp and the Love Machine is playing live.
The night to see the Meck, and thus Shepherdstown, in action is Tuesday nights, open mic night. It’s simple, just sign up with Sam or Lisa and you play in order. Or just stop by to listen and sing along. American Idol ought to step out here on a Tuesday. Except these are not the type of people who want to be on shows like that. These are people who truly enjoy music, for the sake of playing their instrument or singing their songs. And these people, for the most part, are truly talented.
You will find Dave playing the bongos. He is incredible. You hear about people who have a passion for what they do – this is drum playing passion in action. He backs up most of the open mic acts, on the spot. No rehearsal. Sometimes you will hear Ed on the guitar, playing some bluegrass or just plain blues. Hannah is usually there with her washboard (Yes, you read that right. She plays the washboard). Every once in awhile an anonymous audience member chimes in with a harmonica.
If you are visiting from out of town (or just too drunk to find your way home), you may choose to rent a room above the bar of the Meck, with their historical settings. The Lincoln Room, for example, with furniture and quilts from the 18th and 19th centuries. You won’t care about the noise from the pub below, because you will probably be in the pub until closing anyways.
Don’t be surprised if you find BK in your bed. He is often elusive and has a way of passing through locked doors and climbing in open windows. He may find you in bed later that night, but he will not hang out with you at the bar. He likes to mingle, visit from table to table and move on.
I’ve shared my bed there with BK on plenty of occasions. BK is short for “Bar Kitty.” He was adopted years ago by the staff of the Meck and hasn’t left. He is a masculine tomcat, orange, broad and barrel- chested. Unlike typical cats, he only has a stub of a tail, having lost it due to a back alley cat-fight.
The Meck is the kind of place where everybody knows your name. And if they don’t, that’s OK because you can strike up a conversation with just about anyone. Just be careful if you show up while Mercury is in retrograde; you might just be tempted to play the washboard.