“That’s my first drink. I promise you!”

This, (obviously a joke) from an thin man in his 60’s wearing a tank top across the bar from me. It’s clearly noted on the signs outside that this kind of attire is not allowed, but maybe they look the other way when it’s a regular customer and the temperature outside is a little north of 100 degrees.

This is The Crying Shame, a Waco watering hole where people of all ages, creeds, and backgrounds gather.

I’ve been here enough to know the names of a few regulars, but not often enough for them to know my name and that’s ok with me.

There’s Doug over there at the long table just in front of the pool table lamp hanging at just the right angle that he and his friends are silhouette when you walk into the dark room. Doug usually sits next to Beverly, who owns a carpet store in town and stands at around 6’1″. Doug has a voice like the late great Steven Fromholtz.

Beverly and Doug at the “long table,” of the Crying Shame in Waco, Texas

To my left, there’s a man giving the guys on either side of him a lesson on barbecue and the drama that comes with having neighbors who don’t care for all the smoke that pours from the stacks of his cooker.

“I just got to get my freezer so I can cook in bulk, because I know they ain’t selling shit like I got down here.”

I didn’t listen long enough to hear where he was referring. He mentioned something about being from the northeast.

Across the bar, Kathy and Holly keep the drinks flowing.

Kathy is a proud grandmother and a devoted daughter. She drives her mother from assisted living in Clifton to doctor’s appointments in Waco at least once a week. She keeps one of her grandchildren, a 3-year-old.

“He’s 3 and he’s already turned into a backseat driver!”

But she said that with a smile only a grandmother could wear on their face.

Kathy and her colleague, Holly may come from completely different backgrounds and generations for all I know, but they work in harmony. When one can’t open a jar, the other suddenly appears with her “church key,” the tool usually reserved for opening bottled beer.

“Don’t bend it!” I said as Kathy pried away at the lid.

“It’ll bend the other way,” she said confidently.

The regulars here seem to take care of each other. There’s a group who meets every Saturday night to play a card game called hand & foot. Anytime one of them ends up in the hospital, another usually sets up a fundraiser for them to help out.

Sure, there are troublemakers that turn up. There are regulars who get out of hand from time. And there are the folks who wear tank tops and aren’t regulars. They’re all dealt with in the most usual way here: firmly told to leave and come back another time.

As for the name, “The Crying Shame,” there’s a story behind it. But even Kathy isn’t sure how it came to be. She promises she’ll get back to me on that.