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A dozen bellies cozied up to the bar. Shooters all around. Shots and beers for a small group of men, some of whom had just gotten off work, others who were on their way to work, and the rest who had no work at all. It was nine o’clock in the morning, and for those with nowhere else to go, drinking seemed like a good idea, and for those in no hurry to get where they were supposed to be, drinking also seemed like a good idea. It had been this way at the Highland Tap for the better part of three decades, and if it stayed that way for three more, that would suit these men just fine.
The Tap was their comfort zone. It was dark and it was quiet. The faces were as familiar as the conversations. It was a no frills bar, uncluttered with only the essentials, a handful of tables and enough wooden stools to surround a small, oval bar. The walls were adorned with pictures of fighters, boxers, local guys whose photos served to fill these patrons with a sense of parochial pride. If you grew up in Lowell, you were tough, because Lowell made you that way. There were times in Lowell’s history when it was a good place to raise a family. The rest of the time, it was a good place to raise a little hell. Most of the men who ventured into the Highland Tap had done both.