Drunk by Dawn?

Everybody does it on St. Patrick’s Day. Meet the folks who do it every other day

Drunk by Dawn?

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Union House, Parma, 6:15 a.m.

The Union House at six in the morning is exactly what you'd imagine.

The stand-alone white building sits on Brookpark Rd. across from a trailer park, a dart's throw from I-480. The sun has yet to rise, but there are seven cars in the parking lot. An extra-large flower pot with no flowers sits by the door, sprouting a bouquet of cigarette butts.

Inside, six men are spaced equally around the large rectangular bar, each with four or five stools as buffers from the nearest company. Four are drinking a shot and a beer. Three are reading the paper. Two are wearing teamster hats.

Bill is the shepherd of this operation — has been for nine years, since the place opened. His head's topped with salt and pepper hair, and he wears a buttoned-up shirt with the sleeves rolled up, tucked into faded blue jeans. He moves deliberately and silently, refilling drinks instinctively.

"We usually have a good bunch in here," he says over sips of coffee. "That guy over there works at Mittal, he's here around 6:30. One guy works at Continental, he'll be here soon. I think everyone enjoys the camaraderie."

Whatever camaraderie exists is unspoken. In fact, nobody talks at all.

One of the teamsters, a portly, ruddy-faced gentleman in the corner, raises a finger pointing to his empty shot glass. Bill picks up a bottle of clear liquor and saunters over.

"This will be your last one," he says in a hushed voice, because he doesn't want to embarrass anyone and because the only competing noise is 19 ActionNews. The guy had passed out and fell off his stool a couple Sundays ago, thus earning a three-shot max.

The guy looks at Bill not with anger, but with understanding upon hearing the news. His half-open eyes are plaintive beneath the unironic flat brim of his teamsters hat, like a kid who wants one more piece of Halloween candy before bed. "I can still have another beer though, right?" he says, supplicating and hopeful, awaiting Bill's answer.

The lesson: You can get cut off, even at 7 in the morning.

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