Chris Pawlicki

Chris Pawlicki
Old Town Tavern
Ann Arbor, Michigan

Tottered on: 15 June 2006
Temperature: 77 F
Ceiling: sunny
Ground: tall grass
Wind: NE at 6 mph


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Old Town Tavern

In downtown Ann Arbor on the corner of Ashley and Liberty, Old Town Tavern features a casual, relaxed atmosphere, full menu specializing in homemade soups and sandwiches, Southwestern entrees, daily specials and the best burgers in Ann Arbor!

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TT with HD: Chris Pawlicki


HD: Is this going to work for you?

CP: Yeah, this is cool!

HD: If you don't mind, we'll go ahead and get the picture taking out of the way, and then at the end, we'll really be at the end.

CP: Alright.

HD: Ready? You want to smile at all?

CP: Yeah!

HD: [laugh]

CP: Jeez, does it look better than my driver's license, I hope?

HD: No, I mean, you've got your hands so that they're in transition, that's pretty cool, in fact that's very cool. I might actually use that one. [Ed. note: that's not the one that was used, coolness notwithstanding] Alright, one two three ...

CP: So you probably had this teeter totter built for the purpose of doing these interviews, or was this just an afterthought?

HD: Now, Chris, I didn't have it built. I built it with my own bare hands ...

CP: ... oh, you built it! Far out! I respect that. That's great!

HD: So you mentioned just before we hopped out here that you have a teeter totter in your backyard?

CP: Yeah, it came with like one of those big play things with the swings and the slide and all that. It's one of those things, someone's going to end up crying though! [laugh] When we moved in, the little one was six weeks old, but you know sure enough, the one that's three years older is going to make the one that's smaller cry.

HD: Now this one of yours is a classic teeter totter, though, not one of these spring-mounted affairs?

CP: Nope, I think mine has some little ridges, so that you can set it, if someone weighs a lot less, there's these five little loops or something that you can adjust. That's the only difference.

HD: With this one you basically have to scootch back and forth.

CP: Yeah, okay.

HD: So, I want to talk about the Elvis Costello concert. Did you wind up going?

CP: Yeah, oh yeah. You know what, I've seen him a million times. My best friend is a huge fan, so I usually end up going. That was the case this time, too, but you know, this time was ...

HD: ... so this friend of yours arranged the tickets?

CP: Well, actually, we got tickets for three of us: my wife, him and me. And then his mom got him four ticket for his birthday, so it ended up being seven of us. We just met up and went to the show, it was great.

HD: So how did it compare with other performances of his that you've seen?

CP: I liked it. I didn't know anything about Allain Toussaint. I read a little bit in the paper. It turned out, he played for three hours. And that's him, when he gets into his mode of rapid-fire song-after-song, which is what he did after Allain went off for a little while after the first 45 minutes. Then Elvis did his thing for a while. Allain came back and played the last half hour, and that's kind of what I expected. It was great. And it definitely added to have the [Crescent City Horns] section. I think he actually reworked some of his old songs to incorporate some of that New Orleans flavor.

HD: So is there any one song Elvis performed that would count as a favorite song of the evening?

CP: You know my favorite song of his has always been Pump it Up. I've got This Year's Model on album back in '85 or '84, who knows. And I was in that mode in college, doing a lot of weight-lifting, and this and that. That was the perfect song for that.

HD: Was the elite of Ann Arbor well-represented?

CP: I think it was. I saw a lot of lawyers. Not that necessarily come in the Old Town, but I thought, Mmm, I know who some of these people are. It was quite a mix. It was probably mostly 40- and 50-year-olds maybe even 60, who knows, who'd been listening to Elvis for 25-30 years. Kind of like me.

HD: So these people, they stayed generally in their seats or were they out of their seats dancing?

CP: I think everyone was pretty much in their seats. I mean we were up in the mezzanine in the balcony maybe a couple of rows back. There were a couple of younger people dancing in the aisle toward the center toward the front for some of his rocking tunes. But for the most part, pretty much he's a great musician, and his voice is just phenomenal, jeez, he's just awesome.

HD: So is there anybody you'd care to name as the most prominent Ann Arborite that you saw there?

CP: I got there a little late. But I remember seeing Mary, I think her name is McDonough, she used to run the Michigan Theater. I got to know her when she did that years ago. I think since then, she works at the University doing something. I sat right behind her, I don't even think she noticed me. There were a couple of lawyers, like I said, that I saw that you know used to come around the bar now and again, but they probably hang out at more hoity-toity places now [laugh], but I just recognized some faces. And a couple of names, but as far as prominent, I don't know. But there was definitely a good crowd there. I think that might be the best show that Summer Fest is doing.

HD: Yeah? So you're not going to the Ani DiFranco show?

CP: No. I'm going to miss that one.

HD: So music is also a part of the Old Town culture, right?

CP: I think so. Every Sunday evening, 8 o'clock, 8 to 10. I think Chris Buhalis is doing a great job. We have people who come in, or email us, or phone us and say, Hey, I want to play there! I say, Well go to Chris' website or email him, we don't have anything to do with it, and he's pretty good about ...

HD: ... So Chris [Buhalis] handles all the bookings?

CP: Yeah.

HD: Have you given him guidelines or does he just basically understand your sensibilities at the Old Town?

CP: I think he does. There's been a couple of guys, that were just, you know, I don't want to name names, but there was a certain someone, who was just so not-very-good, and that people would pay-up as soon as he would start tuning his guitar, and it was like, Hey, does anybody see what I'm seeing here?

HD: So when you say that this person or persons were so not-very-good, you mean the musicianship?

CP: You know, someone who wants to do something good, but just doesn't have it. You could probably take piano lessons for ten years, but if you really don't like it, and aren't really into it, it kind of shows. I think there's got to be a little level of talent there.

HD: So do you play anything?

CP: I don't. I played tuba in high school, and that was it for my musical career. I think I was one of those, where I was, Yes, I can learn the notes. And that was an instrument that had like twenty-five bars of rest. You just need to know to come in when you're supposed to and the conductor would always make sure, because we were in la-la land. When you're fifteen, trying to count that many rests ...

HD: ... so did you play the tuba all the way through high school?

CP: No, actually I started off with trumpet, and for some reason I just got bored with that. Then I went to the euphonium, which sounds like a trombone, and it's smaller than a tuba. Did that for another two years. Then tuba pretty much from ninth grade. Which was great in marching band. I had a lot of fun with the Sousaphone. Symphonic band, it was the trumpets and the saxophones that got all the glory.

HD: So you went through senior year with the tuba.

CP: Yep!

HD: And then you went off to college. And you actually have a college degree in restaurant management?

CP: Well, hospitality administration, yeah.

HD: So is there anything you could give as an example of something you use every day that you learned in college, as far as running the Old Town?

CP: You know what, it's funny. Some of the basic things, it just sounds so simple, but it holds true. Like keep hot foods hot, and cold foods cold. Something that basic. That sounds so silly, but certain things you just gotta have them.

HD: I would think that for you, having plenty of beer would be key.

CP: Yeah! It's really one of those degrees, that most people who are doing what I'm doing don't have, and you don't really need. But I said, you know what, I don't have the brains for an accountant or the desire. I said, I want to get a business degree, I like business. And this is a business my dad has been doing, he seems to be doing pretty well for himself, maybe this is what I want to do.

HD: The last time I checked, there was still a sign in the window of the Old Town promoting the Michigan beer special. Is that still running?

CP: Yeah, doing it all summer. I think everyone's doing happy hours now. The Den is doing these two-dollar beers for the Pistons, well they're no longer in it and the Red Wings are no longer in it, either. So they were doing what they could to get some of the sports crowd in there. And now people are doing World Cup promotions. We haven't really had to do a happy hour on the weekends until this summer. In many summers past, we've done it like Monday through Thursday type thing, but this year we're doing it on the weekends. It's just more competition now, so you gotta do what they're doing.

HD: I have to say, I like the idea of having the theme of Michigan beers for the happy hour. My neighbor across the street, though, I'm sure you'd recognize his face if you saw him, he said he could get behind a Michigan beer promotion, if they brewed Pabst Blue Ribbon in Michigan.

CP: [laugh] You know what's funny about Pabst Blue Ribbon, we could not get it for two weeks, and they're saying demand is so strong. So my O & W rep, I've been given him heck, because for two weeks everyone is clamoring for Pabst Blue Ribbon. Hey, if we can't get it, we can't get it.

HD: But you've got it now, though?

CP: Oh, yeah. Oberon and Pabst Blue Ribbon are our two biggest sellers for the summer.

HD: Other than Oberon, and other than any Bell's, what Michigan beer would you suggest as something people really ought to try?

CP: This guy in Dexter, Ron Jefferies, started his thing out in Dexter, Jolly Pumpkin. I don't know what his situation is, but the rep is telling me that he can make more money on bottling his beer as opposed to putting it in kegs. And just now he's started putting it in kegs, which I think is great, because if people want to try a new Michigan beer, it has to be on draught, because that's really important. Because bottled beer just doesn't have the cachet of a draught beer. And he has a couple of really good beers that I think are pretty interesting.

HD: So available at the Old Town?

CP: Yeah, we have the Calabaza Blanca. This one's flavored with a little orange peel and coriander or something like that. And it's pretty tasty.

HD: So, Dexter, is this Jolly Pumpkin guy a neighbor of yours? You live out Dexter way, right?

CP: I think I know where his little shop is, because when I take my daughter to dance, his place is right there. It's downtown, but it's kind of off a back alley and this and that. I've been told he's not a big people person, just likes brewing his beer. And that's cool. But I remember Larry Bell, when he was starting off 20 years ago, he was traipsing around town, trying to drum up accounts, drinking with everyone, and this is just not that guy's style.

HD: I actually think that Michigan beer is at least one piece of the economic puzzle in Michigan. You know, you have Granholm and DeVos both talking about how to re-vitalize the economy, but they never talk about beer. It's always high-tech, or auto-industry, or here's how we're going to attract new business to locate here and come to Michigan. But you never hear the simple idea: as long as you're going to drink a beer, make it a Michigan beer. Drink Responsibly: drink Michigan beer. That should be the slogan.

CP: As far as the economics of it, it'd be great if we could get everyone to think more locally like that. But a brewery is never going to employ as many people as Ford Motor Company or anything like that.

HD: That's why I say it's a piece of the puzzle. It's not the whole puzzle. I'm glad to see you're doing your part to promote Michigan beer.

CP: Oh yeah.

HD: So you live out in the direction of Dexter, which means you can't walk to work. Where do you park?

CP: I park at First and William's lot. You know, the one where they wanted to put a park there or a parking structure? It was a heated debate and it got so that no one wanted to do anything with it, because it was so heated. The woman who's in charge of the greenway thing, I've heard she's got a lot of toasters, she wants a park there. And she had a lot of west side people behind her. I can kind of see both sides. But whether the lack of parking is real or not, people perceive that parking is an issue. On the other hand, that is two blocks from Main Street and other people might say, Well, do you think people are going to walk two blocks from their car and come up here? And I go, I don't know, I would hope so. Because that's silly. Americans have just gotten so if you can't park right in front of the business, they're not going to stop? I don't get it. I don't know, but there's probably a lot of people like that.

HD: So you'd just as soon see a parking structure go in at First and William?

CP: I think [instead of] a park would be good. That's kind of a weird spot for a park. You've got the whole Eaton, now it's going to be Liberty Lofts and all that. I think it'd be nice to do something, ... well, I'd hate to see an 11-story parking structure ...

HD: ... how about a 10-story ...?

CP: ... oh, well, 10 would be much better! I don't know, but it's kind of weird. It's on the edge of the core of businesses downtown and it's right there right on the edge of the residential, too.

HD: So if somebody called you up from, I don't know, Lansing and said, You know, I've never been down to Ann Arbor, but I want to drive down and have a drink at Old Town, where should I park? What would be your recommendation, like the first three places in order?

CP:Well, the first one, I would tell them to park in the old Kline's Lot, which is behind Main Street there. After that there's a couple of surface lots, what is it, First and Washington? Now that the DDA has that leveled-off area, I think you can park there for three bucks after three [o'clock] everyday, so that's a good deal.

HD: Anything else on your mind?

CP: No not really. Just looking forward to summer. Just think, summer is so early, I still want to do so much ...

HD: ... you mean vacation kind of stuff, or stuff for business?

CP: Well, vacation kind of stuff. This is a kind of slow time of year for business, just because so many people are doing other things, the university folks are gone, so I can get outside and play hooky or a half day on certain days. Maybe I'd like to get better at golf, that's going to take a lot of work, a lot of money and a lot of time. Summer's early, so I'm anxious to have fun.

HD: Well, I hope this has gotten your summer off to a good start, this teeter totter ride. Thanks for coming over!

CP: Why, thanks!

HD: Let's dismount. Oh, we stuck the landing.