The Social Microcosm of THE BAR

2012-10-27 21.41.56
The magic of going out to the pub on Halloween

As a man with 2 children, a wife, a real job, and a pretend job, I find myself with very little time available to go out and enjoy the bar scene any longer.

And honestly, I don’t generally miss it.  My days of mass consumption of alcohol are mostly behind me.  I’m just too tired to try to stay awake until bar close, and the after bar scene. . . well, it’s tiresome to say the least.

Yet, on those rare occasions that I do find myself out and about with a bottle in my hand, well, the world suddenly opens up into something new.

My little town of Eau Claire, WI has an abundance of bars, servicing the needs of a variety of clientele types.  There’s the college bars, the townie bars, the old folks bars, the sports bars, the biker bars, the gay bars, and so on.  There’s a hell of a lot of bars is what I’m getting at.

Yet, going out to one of these places on most given weekends will put you in a place, if you’re paying attention, to find some incredibly similar characters.  Most of the truly interesting ones, of course, are the ones who should have already had a taxi called for them.  I, however, prefer the ones who haven’t quite made it that far yet, the ones who have finally reached a place in their social lubrication where they just want to talk about their life like it’s an open book.

Some times it can get depressing.  For some reason whenever I’m out with my wife, we end up in a conversation with an incredibly inebriated person who wants to share all of their woes.  She seems to attract them like my compost pile is currently attracting flies (it’s not quite composting correctly at the moment).  The stories are always rather interesting, albeit sobering, as one can’t really enjoy the laughter that usually accompanies alcohol when being told about how it’s their birthday, but their wife is drinking on the other side of town and doesn’t want to see them on that given night.  (Seriously. . . depressing, right?)

Other times it gets downright deep.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had detailed religious conversations with folks who have well surprised their tolerance level of the poison.  I mean. . . seriously. . . way more than I would have ever expected.

But yet other times, things just begin to take a completely different tone altogether.

This weekend, for instance, I was approached by a man who was being a bit of a social butterfly on that particular evening.  He was jumping from place to place, offering his advice to all the young bucks in the building, as he was now 54 (a detail he repeated quite frequently during our relatively short conversation).  He quickly began talking to me about his wife and how they had been together for over twenty years.  I, of course, congratulated him, because, well, that’s just pretty darn awesome.  Details came out later in the evening that made it sound as if there was currently a fair amount of trouble within their marriage, but yeah. . . unimportant at this point.

What is important is that he immediately attempted to go into yet another advice-giving session regarding how to pick a women.  I cut in rather quickly and agreed with him on several of his opening points, which, I guess, surprised him.  The conversation changed quickly from him giving advice to him asking for my thoughts on several topics.  I managed to surprise him even further, considering my current mood of “don’t worry be happy”.  He stuck around a lot longer than I had expected, causing my over-inflated bladder to want to scream.  But, the conversation was enlightening.  It gave me a view into the life of this man that I’m sure most people don’t get when just talking to him in a more regular situation.

This is the part of the bar scene that I love the most.  People open up so incredibly well when they’ve got a little beer in their stomach and suddenly you’re getting to meet something much more akin to the heart of the person you’re conversing with.  These people are bonding with you on a level that they are incapable of doing with people they only see when sober.

And I love it.

Sure, the conversations get old quick.  Repetitive even faster.  But, perhaps especially due to my status as a writer, I love getting to know more of the inner-most details of people’s lives.  I love to hear their aspirations and their deepest fears.  I can’t get enough of people letting me into their heads.  Which, of course, leads to me thinking about how those details all fit together to make the person as a whole.

I really don’t enjoy drinking like I had in my youth, but I love the bar.  In a world where society barely interacts with each other outside of head nods and facebook, I love that people will come up to me with absolutely no reason to interact and start telling me their life story.  Don’t get me wrong, it gets annoying, but I love the idea, I love the fact that they are in the place mentally where they are willing to open up as a person, removing themselves from the WASP mentality that so many of us today are within.


And since they’re drunk, it’s incredibly easy to dump them onto other people once you’ve tired of hearing the same story over and over again.  🙂 (or, you know, call them a cab if they’ve reached the point where they are a danger to themselves)

Anyhoo, I spent a great deal of time this weekend thinking about these few interactions I had with completely random folks, and I found myself getting rather inspired for adding characters to future works.  We’ll see how it pans out, but my little text file of notes for future projects got a little further padded this weekend.


Have a good one!


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