I was at the Blue Moon Tavern, where the booths are (appropriately) crescent-shaped, secluding their occupants from the rest of the bar. My date and I had been there about thirty minutes when a wobbling man in a linen suit flopped into our booth and just sat there, staring into space. His suit was nice and his hair was an immaculate pomade sculpture, but he had about three teeth. We waited a moment for an introduction of some sort, but when none came, we resumed our conversation.
Half an hour later, he said, “I knew the moment I saw you two that you were hyper-intellectual.”
We turned to him, startled.
“You know,” he said, “Nobody cares about Chaucer any more, (he pronounced it ‘Chow-sser’) but if he had a little person to follow him around and go, ‘Heeeyyy,’ every time he made a joke, everyone would love him!”
He didn’t actually say little person, though. He said midget. You can make fun of Chaucer if you want to, but leave my short friends alone.
My date and I stared, waiting for some kind of conclusion. When none came, we resumed talking.
Another twenty minutes or so had passed when our silently swaying companion said, “My apartment is littered with unfinished time machines. I finally stopped trying to build one when I realized that if I were successful, I’d have gone back in time years ago and taught myself how to do it.”
“Would either of you ladies like a drink,” he asked us.
“Sure,” I said, “Two Jamesons on the rocks, please.”
He wandered out of the bar and never came back.
I might have been irritated that a strange man interrupted my date. Straight cis men have interrupted my dates on many occasions, going so far as to say “Can I get in on that?” It seems to be a reaction either to their belief that a relationship between two women is nothing more than an arousing spectacle, or their perception of a romance involving no penis as a threat to their own sexual worth.
The would-be time traveler’s interruption, however, was delightful.
The thing is, the Blue Moon is alive in a way that is the antithesis of the sterile bars in the new condo “mixed retail” spaces. You never know what will happen in a place like the Blue Moon, because, like a great house party, it makes you feel you have entered a dreamlike state where the rules of daily life don’t apply.
Hell, I fully believed I had met someone with a room full of non-functioning time machines. I probably had.
Being in corporate social venues is like picnicking somewhere that smells like death. You keep peering under the bushes to locate the unfortunate rat or possum, but it’s nowhere to be seen, and you forget about it briefly every time the wind shifts.
What you’re searching for in a corporate bar or restaurant is the source of the inhumanity—the sentient phone app or haunted computer responsible for the “ambiance.” But there’s no individual, and thus no personality, even haunted computer personality, behind such places. There’s a marketing department with several other departments to answer to.
These businesses are more like algorithms than places, whereas bars and restaurants owned by one individual or a small handful of them can be almost like art. Observe everything that happens in the first 20 minutes of your next visit to Pony, or the 5-Point, and you’ll know what it means for a bar to have a soul.