Archive for hemingway

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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An Attempt At Making Hemingway Love The San Antonio Spurs

Posted in sports, writing with tags , , , , , , , on May 28, 2013 by cueball

Hemingway would have loved the San Antonio Spurs.  He would have especially loved Tim Duncan.  No matter what you may think of Hemingway (I love him) you have to admit he had a love for the competent professional.  He respected the hell out of anyone who knew how to do things.  Almost all of his stories included passages of his main characters doing some task, no matter how small, extremely well.  His writing about writing and bullfighting and boxing and race car driving all reflect that same reverence for efficient skill.

The Spurs are professionals.  They go about their business of playing good basketball and winning without regard of what anyone else thinks (including David Stern).  They are not trying to impress you.  They are not trying to impress me.  They are simply trying to play basketball their way and win.  From Greg Popovich on down to the bottom of the roster this team focuses on the skills that will help it win and on very little else.

There is a beauty in the way the efficiently dispatched the Memphis Grizzlies.  When Hemingway wrote about bullfighting he always emphasized his love for the fighters he considered brave.  Not the ones with the needlessly ostentatious bravery, but the simple bravery of a man doing his job in an professionally artistic manner in the face of danger.

When selecting players, the franchise seems to focus on two things: 1) Does the player have a specific skill set that we can integrate into our system and 2) Is the player smart enough and/or willing enough to subsume his own glory to that of the team’s.

Outside of the occasionally petulant whining towards the refs and the point guard getting injured in a weird accident involving a night club and Chris Brown, you would hardly notice the Spurs until they have beaten you.

Their professionalism is off-putting to a modern fandom.  They aren’t looking for your emotional approval.  They don’t care of you like or you hate them.  They don’t care if you even notice them.  Just give them their trophy after they’ve kicked your ass and let them go about their business.  They are true to themselves and do what they think is right no matter the consequences.

This is what most of Hemingway’s characters tried to do:  Perform honorably with no regard to glory.  Popovich and Duncan have together built a franchise culture that isn’t about glory.  It isn’t about getting lauded on television and the internet.  It isn’t about getting a participation trophy for just showing up.  It is about doing the things that lead to winning on a daily basis and never losing sight of that goal.

I’m not going to get into whether the Spurs play the “right way.”  The right way is a term that often leads to describing teams that don’t play the right way as being selfish thugs and thugs is a word that has a lot of heavy connotations to it.  I don’t think the Spurs can be the Miami Heat, but I think it will be a fun series to watch.

As a franchise the Spurs refuse to play the games of ego placation when acquiring or keeping players nor do they seek to placate fans by bringing in big names solely to boost attendance.  They have a plan of how they want to play and how they want to run their franchise and they stick to that plan.  It helps that you have a hall of fame coach and the best player of his generation as your anchors.  However, most teams don’t have a plan other then try to win and try to fill the arena.  The Spur more than any other professional sports franchise seems to understand that the best way to get people to come see your team is to win and win consistently.

Of course, today, the idea that you sometimes need to eschew short term superficial gain in order to build something meaningful and long lasting is foreign to many.  Our current microwave and internet society is filled with instant gratification and instant answers.  So much so, that delaying enjoyment and building for the long term appears irrational.