It had been more years than I realized since I stopped by one of my favorite west side (Cincinnati) watering holes. Too many years, in fact.

The bartender introduced the bartender's name as Sandy. Sandy quickly informed me that Sandy identifies with zero pronouns. Sandy is just Sandy.

I just wanted a cold beer, so I asked Sandy for a tall Bud Light on tap.

"We don't serve Bud Light," Sandy said. "We have craft beers and IPAs."

Does Earl still tend bar here?, I inquired.

"Who's Earl?" Sandy asked.

Well, I replied, Earl was the bartender for years.

"When was that?" Sandy asked.

I thought about it for a moment or three. Then, it came to me that I hadn't frequented this establishment since my now-wife used to work at Shillito's in the old Western Woods Mall off Glenway Avenue.

So I told Sandy that Earl was a great bartender in the late 1980s.

"I was born in 1997," Sandy said. "I never heard of Earl."

I ordered a Blue Moon and a shot. I don't like Blue Moon, but it was the least offensive of the options. There's a wheat shortage, don't you know.

To escape the conversation with Sandy, who doesn't understand the King's English as it pertains to pronouns, I walked over to what I thought was the jukebox. I had no idea how to work the machine, nor did I recognize a single song. There were no songs by Hank or Waylon or Willie or Cash or Jones or Haggard or even Kid Rock. What kind of a bar had this become?

Sandy, sensing my confusion, came over and said I had to insert a credit card or debit card, and I could get five songs for $10.

I told her, er, Sandy, that when Earl ran the joint, you could get three songs for a quarter.

"This computer does not accept quarters, only debit cards," Sandy said, with more indignation and attitude than any 25-year-old has earned.

I slipped away to the end of the bar without hearing any songs from by Hank or Waylon or Willie or Cash or Jones or Hag or Kid.

Another customer walked in, obviously a regular known by Sandy.

"Hi, Pat," Sandy said to Pat. "How's the Uber business going?"

Pat replied that the Uber business ain't what it used to be.

"I made more money and more tips before gas went to $5 a gallon," Pat told Sandy.

"I hear you," Sandy said. "My only other customer is that old fart at the end of the bar who doesn't know how to play a song on the computer. He's probably a lousy tipper, too."

"Things sure were better in the service business a few years ago," Pat said. "I mean before COVID."

On his way out, the old fart from the end of the bar, who left a $50 tip, asked, "Don't you mean before Biden?"

Sandy and Pat were not impressed.

There's an old saying that you can't go home again. Maybe it's best that way. I think Earl would agree. I won't be back.

Rory Ryan is publisher and owner of The Highland County Press.