This isn’t a running story other than I ran that day. In fact, I did a rare double. But running isn’t central to the memory, though perhaps a catalyst.
In August 1973 I moved from my hometown of St. Louis to begin a new life in Boston. It was there that I took up running before combining it with broadcasting to mount what has become a career.
But during my final full year in St. Louis I found myself hanging out at a new restaurant/pub in the Central West End called Duff’s, eponymously named by its original proprietors Karen and Dan Duffy. In the ensuing years, though I only visited home once, sometimes twice a year, every trip would include a visit to Duff’s. Not just because old friend, and one-time fellow Bostonian Charlie Moseley bartended there for 25 years or so, or that his partner Nancy Kirby was the hostess, or that Nancy’s brother Tim had joined Karen Duffy as co-owner, or even that Tim, Charlie and I had attended St. Louis U. High together in the mid-1960s.
No, it was more than that. Perhaps something generational, as Duff’s came along as we Baby Boomers were reaching early adulthood, and like every generation was beginning to scout out its own territory. Just as Boston’s Eliot Lounge would become synonymous with the running era, so was Duff’s a new kind of establishment for a new kind of crowd.
Though it offered an inventive, seasonally changing menu, a splendidly stocked bar, family-like staff, and such a warm bohemian atmosphere — including its famous Monday night poetry readings — those high pressed-tin ceilings, wide wooden floors and exposed brick walls felt more like an extension of people’s homes than a place of business. Over the years our family (I’m sure like many others) celebrated births, graduations, anniversaries, and even wakes there, and never felt anything other than perfectly at home.
A few days ago another old St. Louis friend emailed saying Duff’s would be closing at the end of the month after a run of 41 years. While it is the nature of restaurants to open and close, for tastes to change, and neighborhoods to transform, as I read the email I was flooded with memories while being reminded of what a single establishment could mean to a city and it s people.