Home » Tales from the Rip Tide

Tales from the Rip Tide

Rip Tide bartender and lifelong Marblehead resident known known as “Murph” pours his favorite drink, Titos with cranberry and lime. Photo by Libby O'Neill

Murph, a bartender at the Rip Tide Lounge, has too many stories to tell. His lips curled into a knowing smirk, recalling all he has seen and heard over the decades, trying to find something to say that will not get him in trouble.

He poured me a simple but strong drink: Tito’s, soda water, and a splash of cranberry juice. He asked me, “Do you want some fruit?” before tossing in a slice of lime. Looking at the drink, you could be tricked into thinking it was a raspberry lime rickey –  but one sip in there is no mistaking it.

Compared to some of the patrons, Murph is not a man of many words. But that does not mean he has nothing to say. Looking for help, Murph turned to a regular called “the Governor.”

His English accent might make him stand out anywhere else in town, but at the Rip Tide, he is just another guy having a beer after work. The pair tried to explain why there is no other place on Earth like the Rip Tide.

Sure, everyone can appreciate cheap drinks and a no-frills environment, but there was something more than just that.

In spite of the “For Sale” sign out front, no one will admit that the bar might be closing. They float numbers about how much the property might sell for and how much it is actually worth, but dance around the fact that the Rip Tide might wash away someday soon.

As Murph flipped through the Rolodex of experiences in his brain, he tossed looks to the regulars Amanda and Rick, a silent retelling of tales from nights that need not be spoken out loud.

A raised eyebrow to Amanda and a tilt of the chin to Rick was enough to say “Remember that one guy…?” Without another word, the patrons laugh as if saying, “How could I forget?”

Thursday night brought in a common crowd. Local folks popped in after work for a drink or two before calling it a night. But Murph said that the Rip Tide brings in everyone.

As he puts it “First class, middle class, last class,” and even people of no class. Needless to say, whatever is playing on the TVs is always the least interesting thing going on at the bar.

Clientele ranges from young adults trying to find the most inexpensive booze to elderly women looking for a place to socialize outside of the senior center. He has met people from Seattle, Sweden, and India. He’s served drinks to born-and-raised Marbleheaders as well as interlopers like “the Governor” and me.

That is what makes the Rip Tide the “greatest bar on Earth,” as Amanda put it: whoever you are, wherever you are from, however you got here, there is a seat for you at the Rip Tide. As long as you do not cause any trouble, you are welcome. And if you do get banned? Give it some time and make things right and you might get a second chance.

Before I knew it, Murph was nowhere to be found. I could hear his voice carry out once in a while from the kitchen, but he was clear out of sight. With everyone served, he disappeared into the back. 

While Murph was gone, “The Governor” said that there used to be an article about the Rip Tide framed and hung up above the bar until someone broke the glass. So, Murph, feel free to frame this one.