It was late on a Saturday night at Charlie’s Star Lounge. The local dive spot was already abuzz with patrons – dancing to the DJ, buying drinks, laughing with their friends.
I was there because Charlie’s is a new venue, just outside Deep Ellum, and I wanted to give KXT fans a look. I went outside to the patio to take some pictures of the lively night, when I happened to stumble across a few very energetic women.
I pulled out my camera and that got them excited. They started posing, making kissy faces at each other and smiling.
Their names were Courtney and Kelli – they declined to give their last names. I asked how their night was going, and they told me that they were actually there to celebrate a good friend of theirs, sitting just across the table, proudly sporting a short black bob wig.
Courtney leaned closer to me and said, “We’re here to celebrate her life, because she’s actively dying.”
In an instant, I realized this moment was much more than just a few friends having some drinks.
I introduced myself to Marisa Anguiano, who is easily one of the warmest people you could ever meet. I asked if she would be interested in speaking with me about her condition, and what being at a place like Charlie’s means to her.
Anguiano is 47 years old. She said she has Stage 4 Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Navigating her diagnosis has been a difficult journey. But she keeps her spirits high by surrounding herself with people who love her.
And that’s where Charlie’s comes in. Her eyes light up when she talks about the place. She lives in the neighborhood and she was excited to tell me how this spot has quickly become their “home bar.” She’s known the friends that were with her for 20 or 30 years.
To her, gathering in places like this is all about community. It’s about finding kindred spirits through music, art, and being able to feel like you’re not alone.
“It’s not just another bar,” she said. “It’s a vortex of people who needed to find each other.”
Her friends say Charlie’s is a spot where they can relax, unwind and make the most of what little time they all may have together.
“Every time she shows up, it’s an active party,” Courtney said of Anguiano. “She’s the queen of Charlie’s!”
Watching Anguiano and her friends reminded me how small rituals can help us through troubled times, and add up to make a fulfilling life. And we don’t just gather at a bar to “party” and listen to music.
It can also be a place of connection, sanctuary, and most of all – love.
Jessica Waffles is a freelance photographer/videographer and regular contributor to KXT.
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