O! The bar, the tavern, the saloon, the cocktail lounge, the pub, the alehouse, the speakeasy, the barrel house, the taproom, the grogshop, whatever one may call thee, thy hallowed walls have held the highest and lowest of our species. Hemingway, James Joyce, and Dylan Thomas are known almost as much for their love of the drink as for their writing. The legends in the realm of art hold some of its most revered to being cursed by the bottle. Marlowe died in a tavern. Socrates drank himself to death. (So he drank poison--you get the point.) All minds of high reputation (artists, actors, writers, a few dancers, directors, and one or two needlepoint enthusiasts) have been inexorably linked to inebriation. So how does our generation fare? We've got the drunken bit down (any trip to Sixth and Main after midnight bears this out), but how are we doing on the rapier wit side of things? Can we stand up to the Oscar Wildes of the past?
But my point here is that it doesn't matter.
While out at a few bars this last weekend my friend and I discovered something important: For every crude and decreasingly funny response to our bringing up Balzac, we witnessed something far more important taking place--connection.
Connection is the key to any great bar. It's what brings us downtown every weekend. We don't go out to drink in silence and watch high school students take left turns all night. We go out to connect with new friends, to reconnect with old friends, or in some cases, to have drunken sex with new friends. We may not be able to come back with a witty rejoinder to every comment belligerently slung our way, but we connect with each other, with ourselves, and in some ways, with our history of greatness as a species.
To prove my point, try this simple exercise: The next time you're too drunk to think and the world is spinning faster than a tumble dryer, when you can't remember your name or the name of the person next to you, when you want a street-vendor hotdog more than you want the protection of those you love, sit down and think, "Okay, I may be feeling pretty low, but right now I know firsthand what it was like to write The Dubliners."
You'll feel better.