Letter from the Drinking Town #9 – Bull Mansion

Dear Worcester,

“So you are a reviewer,” the bar back said to me with a conspiratorial grin pleasantly widening on his face.

Reviewer, I don’t think that’s the proper name for me. I just go to a bar I have never been to and sit myself down and order a gin and tonic. I don’t eat at the places. I don’t stay an evening. I don’t enrobe myself in the atmosphere. I am here and gone. A dilettante. An itinerant drinker. Never to put roots down and call this stool my own.

And then I write it down like an ancient mariner with a martini olive around my neck instead of a dead waterfowl.

“No,” I said to the bar back, “just a guy having a drink.”

“You have to try the food.” This is what you say to a reviewer who’s opinion means something. Not to me. I am a blogger (a terrible person with a terrible monicker), I am a writer of letters that might as well be written to myself.

“Oh I will. But I’m just having a drink.” The bar back smiled larger and stared at me, like he knew a secret,a really cool secret.

Hell with it. I drank my cocktail quickly and walked out. I was caught. And I didn’t realize that one of the best parts about doing this tour of every bar in Worcester is that I can do this without anyone knowing what I am doing. That I am just what I appear to be, only another guy at a bar wanting to have a drink. Wanting to get lost in a glass.

The place I left quickly, was a new bistro on Pearl Street called Bull Mansion. It is actually an old mansion. Let me just say that it was lovely. The bar is small, but people are not there to drink. People were going upstairs to a Cocker Rocks show, I guess someone who played with Joe Cocker has a tribute show. Others were eating outside on the patio.

It was seven o’clock and people were dressed up and scented and ready to enjoy the confluence of pleasant weather and a Saturday evening. What a joy to have both things happen at the same time. Let’s sit in a beautiful environment and eat food, which a bar back assured was very good.

There was art on the walls, but my hasty retreat impeded my ability to tell you about it. Reviewer he called me. Would a reviewer have busted out before getting all the information on the joint? I don’t think so.

The stools at the marble bar are simple and they struck as me as perfect. No back on them, only a circle of wood attached to some metal. The bartenders were busy filling up the table order. I waited five minutes for her to acknowledge me. I must have had my“I am a very important person and I hate being ignored at a half full bar” face because she apologized to me about the wait. I tried to be cool with it. But I am not adept at nonchalance.

I got a Bombay Sapphire gin and tonic in a large water glass (a nice water glass, but I am just trying to be accurate here). She asked if I want a lime, of course I do.  This was how a drink should be. A good amount of both gin and tonic. I enjoyed the drink, but that was until I had to swig that bad boy down and get out of there because of the grinning bar back. The drink was eight dollars.

There is a relaxed elegance to the place. People dress up a little bit. They are happy to be out. To be with friends. The bar is not a place to hang out and read the paper. This is the launch area before the table is ready. People came and got their martini glass drinks and talked loud.

If I have one complaint about Bull Mansion is the smell of it. Let me explain. The other day I went into the Ghanaian restaurant in town, Anokye Krom, to have a Guinness and I was greeted not only with friendly people and a cold beer but the wonderful aromas of stews and meats and spices. The place smelled like a good restaurant. It invited you to sit and drink and wait excitedly for the food to come.

At Bull Mansion, I was not enticed with the aroma of the food. I actually got no whiff of a chop or anything else. That was because all I smelled was everyone’s perfume and cologne. Every Time someone walked by, I was assaulted with another smell from laboratories. You got Chanel and Old Spice and I’m sure one of the guys was doused in Canoe (for the seventies throw back feel). It was a lot of impressing everyone with the odor you bathe your body in. And hey? What’s that smell of Patchouli doing there?

I could not taste the botanical notes in my gin and tonic with all these invading scents breaching.

But that was a minor complaint. It is a complaint about going out on a Saturday night. Might as well complain about women wearing ridiculously precarious high heels for all the good it will do.

I think I would have given this a short but enthusiastic little write up if it wasn’t for Maitre D Mal (Mal is short for a Malcom, or Malcontent. I can never remember which one it is)  He spied me as he sets up a table. He smiled and I give him a conspiratorial nod. He knows about this blog.

It was when I had the drink to my lips and was thinking of what I would say of it, what makes this gin and tonic different from any other, when Maitre D Mal came over draping his arm around me. “Are you having a gin and tonic? Are you doing your thing?”

“I’m having a drink,” I said haughtily. “Just minding my business.”

Mal doesn’t get my leave me alone look, or rather, he doesn’t give a shit. I’m writing about the place he’s working. How Nice. He asked about the recent entries to the blog. I answered quickly. He hugged me and went off. And that’s when the bar back, who has been listening asked that question that you all recall so clearly from the top of this letter, “So you are a reviewer?”

What am I anyway, I asked, as I quickly retreat. How was it that the Bull Mansion created such a moment of existential crisis inside me? Am I critic, a blogger, a reviewer, a nuisance, a walrus, a carpenter? So many choices.

The truth is I am a writer. I am a drinker. I am guy who is putting the two together and attempting to live to tell the tale.

Let us hope that next time I will not be seen. I will just be the extra in somebody else’s drama. I am just a witness. The kind that tips and leaves.

Until next time




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