Quote of the Day “It is well to remember that there are five reasons for drinking: the arrival of a friend, one’s present or future thirst, the excellence of the wine, or any other reason.” Latin Proverb
Men’s magazines have a stable of go-to stories that are sure to fill pages when ideas are lacking. One of them is the Top 10 (25, 100, 500) bars story, and I’ll freely admit, it works on me. Today in fact I was perusing such a list hoping to see a mention of some old favorite. There were a couple on this particular list and several noteworthy omissions considering the article also included a substantial honorable mention list broken down by state. Mississippi’s bars were Proud Larry’s and City Grocery in Oxford, Po Monkey’s in Merigold and Schimmel’s in Jackson, for the record. All good choices, though to leave out Gorenflo’s in Biloxi is to cast doubt upon the research done in preparing the list.
As many of you are doing this very second, I began compiling my personal list of great bars frequented and/or visited. In addition to all of the above, my list would include Shucker’s in Ridgeland, Huck’s in Gautier, the old Matthew’s in Pascagoula, Krazy Kajun’s in Creole (also defunct), Captain Tony’s in Key West, the Flora-Bama, the Blue Note and the Subway in Jackson….I could go on. But as I began to formulate what it was about these bars that made them great so I could pass the knowledge on to you, I had an epiphany. It was nothing.
The coolest bar in the hippest place with the most magazine articles written about it absolutely sucks when the conditions are wrong. And the lowliest dive or the most generic chain, or the smallest capacity places can all turn into Valhalla when the stars line up just right on a given night. Or day. A great bar is a fleeting concept. A bar must constantly start over, day after day, to create the magic that makes it great. And no bar can pull the rabbit out of the hat every time. This is one of the reasons going to a bar is such great fun–you never know if you’re going to hit the greatness lottery when you cross the threshold, but there’s always a chance.
What alchemy works to concoct greatness is variable too. Much depends on your station in life. Example. If you are single, male and 30 you may decide on a Monday to go to your local pub for a few beers to watch the game, play some trivia, and just be out of the apartment. You do this pretty regularly. Then one night it happens. In comes the bank teller newly divorced party crew. Yadda yadda yadda, you’re in a great bar.
Another example. Your sitting in a busy Karaoke bar with a couple of pals slamming lite beer. Next to you is a group of 18 year old PFC’s getting off base for the first time in a month. One of them tries to steal your chair, one of your party stops them, and a standoff ensues. You might die. But one of the army punks is sober and knows all about the stockade, and he defuses the situation and leads his merry band of patriots back out to the street. You live to tell the story. The story is about a great bar in the Keys.
So the next time one of you magazine publishers is running short on story ideas, do us all a favor. Don’t go to the same old best bar list–that’s the easy way out. (And TB loves a list.) Come to me. I’ll tell a few stories, some true, some lies and I’ll round up the asshole runnin buddies for a few more versions of each. Before you know it, you’ve got a list of great bars and an article worth reading. And nobody can second guess your list. It’s up to them to go make their own great bar, wherever they happen to be.