Friday, November 16, 2012

Bars are Good, Too

Earlier this week I embraced the joys of coffee shops. I think they are tools for community. But last night a friend mentioned that, in her expert opinion, bars are even better. Well I don't think I can argue with that.

Bars, public houses, taverns, pubs are much much older than coffee shops. Remember that human civilization had beer and alcohol from the earliest stages of communal agricultural development, but coffee was not widely embraced until the late Renaissance. And while it is true that the sober discussion of philosophy in coffee shops led to the development of Democratic ideals and the scientific revolution, I can't help thinking that it was less-than-sober discussions of oppression in Boston taverns that led to the American Revolution.

That was the key to our discussion last night. Bars promote turning points in our lives. You go in, meet with friends, get safely loose, and clarify your life problems. The alcohol reduces anxiety, which makes decision making easier. If you have good bar friends - that is, real friends who also like going to a bar - you will be held accountable to that decision.

Bless you, Chart Room
Case in point, the Chart Room is, for me, the place where things happen. It is one of the few French Quarter neighborhood bars, where most of the patrons are locals and the prices are good. The bartender Julia knows my name and my drink. And almost every time I go there something big happens: I have gotten a call for a promotion, I have interviewed for a job, I adopted cats, I got a new apartment, I quit my job, I found another job, I got sick, I got better....

I actually don't go there very often, because every time I go something happens. I went weekly when I waited tables in the Quarter, and now it is "my spot", even if I stay away for months (which is typical).

Maybe that is the essential joy of bars. Like coffee shops, you are welcome there, period. No one judges how often you come or how long you've been away. You can order whatever you want. You can strike a conversation or read or play poker. You can bring your friends or meet them. But, unlike coffee shops, the people at bars are relaxed, even talkative. If you can avoid the drunks, or getting drunk - easy to do with experience - bars are great places to make community. 

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