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August 30, 2014
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Forty years and a bar

As Jim tells the story, he was lying on his back in his SoHo loft with a slipped disc when he got a call from his friend Bill Odom in New Orleans. Jim’s first marriage was ending badly and his job in television journalism was being subsumed in a mass media merger. The time was right for a change. When he could move well enough to walk, he high-tailed it down to the Crescent City to find his new partners in a bit of a muddle. Nobody knew how to do much except pour drinks and chat up the ladies, despite advanced academic degrees and other signs of high intellect. They needed someone who could hold a beer in one hand and a hammer in the other. Jim Stratton was their man. He had honed his skills building a loft out of dumpster-procured materials. His partners were more inclined to outright theft than hard labor, but when the local antiques merchant got wind that they had mistakenly purloined a bar from his sidewalk sale, he made them put it back.

So Jim built the bar—or part of it (the story of a 40-year-old bar gets fuzzy here)—and designed an oddly shaped trellis for the bar-back mirror that had been broken by his partners in the course of delivery. Another man may have junked the mirror, but Jim was more cautious of spending than of superstition, so he built around it, carving a rustic frame that disguised the broken glass. Few things have changed at the Maple Leaf but the mirror is gone, perhaps in a bid to luck by the new owner.