I love telling stories of my favorite corner bar.( My poem “Corner Bar” follows below) And I love listening to others tell theirs. On the Morning Media Menu today, author and New York Times Magazine ”Drink” columnist Rosie Schaap talked about her new memoir, Drinking With Men. The book shows how bars have helped shape her personal and creative life. She also shared tips for pitching This American Life.
Here’s an excerpt: ”What I love about bars is that they are places where people talk to one another and tell people stories. There is a kind of openness and exchange of stories in bars. Everyone is relaxed. You go to a bar not to get dressed up, not to have a really fancy night out on the town. You go to the bar to be relaxed and to be yourself. I think that really facilitates great storytelling among regulars. That’s really what we do at bars, we tell each other our stories.”
She concluded: “But you can tell (whether you are writing a story or telling your friends in the bar a story), whether the story is working or not. Sometimes the story you tell in a is going to fall flat. I think in a way, bars are a great place to hone your storytelling skills. Is this making my fellow bar-goers interested in hearing the rest of the story? Am I going into too much detail? Am I not giving enough detail? Bars are great laboratories for storytelling.”
Here’s my bar story. Hope you can barely relate…for your sake. Enjoy!
It always felt familiar and safe;
not like home, but filled with that same tragic scent
of failure, futility, and confusion.
In this darkened chapel, night after night,
we feigned brotherhood, but watched our backs.
We found religion in tall tales
and twisted notes floating softly from the jukebox.
The enormity of the lies exchanged was staggering,
yet not once was truth demanded.
Here, we worshiped and blessed ourselves
at the mahogany and brass altar of amber absolution,
our sins washed in a flood of cheap whiskey and stale beer.
Our bottles filled the night with dead words, hungry ashtrays,
and all these incessant “maybes”
while shameless calls for “another!” filled the tepid air.
We licked the back of our teeth
and bought rounds for the prostitute sitting there all alone,
hunched over to entice our drunken libidos.
We adored her, this faded Madonna,
with her chipped teeth and sagging breasts,
reeking of a stale alcohol and tragic perfume.
Where once there had been beauty and life
some bastard had beaten it out of her;
taking everything that made a woman good and reduced her to this.
Our prayers were answered
in the way this whore swallowed you whole
in the back room’s secret confessional
where you keep her words tightly knit
in the dark corners of your heart.
This was the flip-side of our saintly home-lives;
our souls consumed in the repetition of it all.
We whispered our hallelujahs as the clock struck two;
last call and a slow retreat into the shameless shadows of wretched existence,
as God soundly closed the doors behind us.