Archive for bars

Ode To The Brass Rail

Posted in life with tags , , , , , , , , on December 31, 2013 by cueball

“A good smelly saloon, my favorite place in the world.” – Paden, Silverado

What is it about writers and bars?  There seems to be an inordinate amount of writers writing about bars in literature.  Not just things happening in a bar in a piece of fiction, but writers just writing about being in bars, going to bars, ordering drinks in bars.

It is more than just the “street cred” of being in a bar and getting drunk and getting in fights.  When Hemingway and other particularly American male writers of the 20th century wrote about bars it was like they were writing about the last bastion of manliness.  Bars were the last bit of unpolite society that sat just on the fringes of a changing world where women expected to be allowed to participate fully and openly.

To writers like Hemingway and Raymond Chandler bars were the original Las Vegas.  What happened there stayed there.  They could get drunk, get into fights, talk loud and say very little.  For these writers, the bar was the last place on earth outside of hunting and fishing where they could be fully men in what the meant in a 19th century way.

This was across the board for male American writers white or black.  They all held a reverence for the bar where the women were either the owners, prostitutes, or hardened to almost manliness through suffering, drink, and time.

After saying that, it wasn’t just about men staking their final claim on manliness, there is something beautiful about a bar:

“I like bars just after they open in the evening. When the air inside is still cool and clean and everything is shiny. The first quiet drink of the evening in a quiet bar — that’s wonderful.” – Raymond Chandler, The Long Goodbye.

I love a good bar.  A good bar has just the right amount of darkness.  Music plays just loud enough to add a counterpoint to whatever is happening at the moment.  In a good bar people aren’t there to start any crap.  It is a happy place or a place a person can come to find solace.  In a good bar you can be as alone as you want to be.  A good bar isn’t like a coffee shop with its hipster folk music playing to loud and forced coolness with its pastels, stainless steel, and big bright windows so people on the street can see how cool you are.  Bars are dark.  They have oak, brass, and brick.  Bars don’t have to try to be cool.  They are or they aren’t and if they aren’t your probably not there anyway.

Maybe I’m wrong or just over-romanticizing bars, but I do know this:  No one has ever written a song this good about Starbucks.  The bar is a beautiful place.

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Places Where Time Stops

Posted in life with tags , , on December 30, 2012 by cueball

I love bars.  In fact, bars and good libraries are my two favorite places on earth.  I can sit in both for hours.

I even like chain bars.  They at the least offer a good selection of beers and televisions with sports on them.

However, I mostly love the small neighborhood bar.  Old stained wooden bars with actual brass rails for your feet.  Surly yet friendly bartenders who have been there forever serve you (if you’re lucky) locally brewed beer.  There are usually patrons who know each other, know the staff, and some of whom will actually talk to you even if you aren’t a regular.

Bars are great places to relax and be yourself while enjoying being with and around other people.  Once you come in through the doors whatever else is going on outside is left there.  Entering a good bar is like entering a warm embrace from a friend.  I think I just described the whole premise behind Cheers.

Libraries are different.  A good library is like a cathedral.  It is a sacred place that houses all of humanity, and all the knowledge it contains is free.  All of what came before and what may come in the future is yours if you are willing to accept it.  All you have to do is walk in, pick up the books, find a nice quiet spot, and read.  Today, however, finding that quiet spot is becoming increasingly difficult.  In smaller libraries with the computer labs, wifi connections, and other sundry things going on it is sometimes difficult to find a nice spot to just read.

Whenever I enter either a bar or a library time stops for me.  There is no out there.  There is no hurry to be somewhere or do something.  There is only being in this place and enjoying everything that it provides.  In their own way each provides a sense of community and of belonging to something greater than me.  Bars give you an immediate connection to the world.  A visceral, “you are here” now feeling.  Libraries connect you to the past and to all of human history.  If allows you to debate and wrestle with the greatest ideas and words ever written.

Many will ask, “Can’t you get that in church or with your family?”  Yes, most people do.  Maybe it is some flaw in me or some defect in my emotional state, but I don’t always feel that with church or family.  Maybe there is some screwed up part of me that would rather be with 20 drunken strangers or my favorite dead writers.  I can’t say.  Honestly, I don’t want to say.

All I know is this, many a moment in my life has been spent sitting on bar stools hearing a goofy joke/story or walking down musty aisles trying to find the next old big idea to wrestle with for a couple of hours.  That may be a flaw that will come back to bite me at some point in life, but I’m willing to risk it.