Letter from the Drinking Town 6 – Kids and Bars

Dear Worcester,

In the last letter I wrote about my time at the Wormtown Brewery (a fine place if I neglected to state that before)  and spied a kid around nine or ten with his family or extended family. He was safe in his smart phone and earbuds and had an impenetrable shield that protected him from the packs of knit capped hipsters appreciating the IPA like it was fine wine gone to vinegar.But it made me think about kids in drinking joints.

Every family has its own tradition of how to introduce their progeny into the ever present world of drinking. Wine at Sunday Dinner. Manischewitz during Passover. A can of Schlitz at their first Packers game for Cheese Heads across the globe.

My friend Bob always tried to ply beer or wine at my son, even when he was an infant. It was a joke. Especially because my response to these vaudevillian attempts was to state. “Not until he’s five.”

This was because my first beer was when I was five. I remember it clearly. A bunch of the fathers in our neighborhood were drinking Pabst in our driveway and we boys were pestering. One of the boys asked his dad for a sip and he got it. Score! So the next boy asked his dad for a sip and he got it. And I asked for a sip next and got it. Boy did I get it. Straight from the can. The aluminum did nothing but improve the taste. Then one of us, maybe Paul Anderson, asked if he could have another sip and his father responded, “No, get your own.”

Get your own. The ultimate DIY statement of independence. It’s the Beatles realizing that they don’t have to settle for Pete Best Backbeats. It was Sam Houston comprehending that this state can be their state. It was Allen Ginsberg stating that the slithery flow of words and imagery that his soul composed must be poetry. It’s Jonny Rotten concluding that music was whatever anger fit into three cords and dissonance. It was someone saying, “Hey you midwestern kid, wouldn’t more of that yellow bubbly elixir be the best way to end the day?” Get your own. Do it yourself.

Paul looked at us boys and said, “We have beer in our house. We can get our own there.” So we three boys trooped over to his house and got Schlitz and dutifully sipped at those damned cans of endless cans of unpleasantness while sitting on the back stoop. But we were now men and there was no place for complaint. We drank at our cans like dogma. When the adults realized that the evening was too peaceful, they searched for us. They found us and ducked in corners to laugh at what they saw. Only when they laughter was done did they come and seriously remove us from our beers.

That was how I came up with the “Only when he’s five” line. When my son turned five, I was petrified that Bob would keep me to it. Only last week, when my son was eight, did Bob bring it up. We were all at a Nick’s for a PFLAG benefit that he said, “You told me that he could have beer at five, we are well past that.” My wife organized the benefit up but couldn’t attend so me and the kid were there. My lame response to Bob was, “You didn’t ask him when he was five so you missed your chance.”

Bob rolled his eyes at that, so I turned to the boy and asked, “Bob wants to get you a beer, you want it.”

My son looked at me oddly and said. “I have chocolate milk.” And that was it. I felt more relief than I can say. Yes, I would not have given the beer if he did ask for it, but it was pleasant to not come across the consequence.

Off and on for three years, my son has been going into Nick’s. I run a bi weekly event there and sometimes I have to bring him. The bartender Sean, one of my closest friends, always greets him warmly and has him make a mixed fruit juice concoction to drink through the event. My son adores Sean.

A few weeks ago my kid stated that for a job, he would like to help Sean out behind the bar. He would get him the beers. Grab him the ice. Do whatever Sean needed to be a good bartender.

I don’t know, but I am not sure that a lot of high school guidance counselors recommend “bar back” as a career goal.

About a year and a half ago, he reported to us that one of his schoolmates said he wanted to be a bartender when he grew up, because a bartender gets all the ladies. We asked him what “gets all the ladies” meant, and he only stared at us.  I told Sean and he informed me that that estimation of a bartender’s life is not exactly accurate. And wait a minute? Why is a second grader interested in the ladies in the first place?

There is nothing wrong with taking a child to a place that has liquor. It is unavoidable. Last year, I went into the Oaken Barrel for a gin and tonic and there were three women at the bar drinking and swearing. Swearing like you will only see in Worcester and Quentin Tarrantino films. One of the colorful talkers had her seven year old son with her. He wasn’t on a stool, drinking and cussin. No he was running around the tables. Some of the tables had people eating there, but that didn’t matter. It was a dull uninteresting place for this kid and he was making his own fun.

It’s like those uncomfortable kid’s birthday parties that we parents stand around, wishing to be anywhere else. You don’t know the people, you don’t what to say, all you do is watch your kid and all these other running noses and skinned knees scream bloody murder and call it a fine time. Many of them are at bowling alleys. Here in New England we wave candlepin bowling, the perfect type of bowling for kids. They can hold onto the ball. They can also easily bash them over their friend’s heads. But hey, birthday parties are so much fun.

There is something weird to me when I see one of these parents get a beer from the bowling alley bar and continue watching the kids run around like they are radioactive particles racing up to nuclear fission. I know that there is nothing wrong with having a beer in front of kids, but this is the kid’s world and an adult beverage seems like a breaking of a trust. I want one of the kids to go up to the grown up drinking the bottle of Bud and say, “Excuse me, do you mind? We children don’t traipse down to your over 21 fetes at the Ship Room at the Hotel Vernon and demand chocolate milk shakes and watch you get sloppy as you drunkenly sing karaoke, then why are you drinking your beverage at our bowling party?” Yes. These are the things I think about at these parties. I am that bored.

There are times when kids have to go into bars.

Like when they are tasked to retrieve their drunken father. I feel like I am in the first chapter of a Horatio Alger novel (before it all turns perfect) and that this doesn’t happen, but come on, we know it does.

I got a buddy in town who gets angry when we go by certain streets. That was the street, he informs me, where his Dad’s bar was. His Dad didn’t own it, he just contributed to it by drinking himself senseless. He didn’t drink himself to death there, only because there were other bars, not to mention the package stores. It was my friend’s and his brother’s job to find him and roust him home.

The bar is gone, but the anger still percolates, still bubbles, like a cut reopening becoming infected once more. I never pressed details. I didn’t ask him how often he had to go into the dark bar. How scared he was? Was it such a typical chore that the drunks on the stool would greet him by name? I am always curious about those things, but decided it is best not to ask. He still gets angry just being near the street. Like the bar is a ghost haunting him, wailing and moaning in the voice of old Patsy Cline 45s.

The only thing close to funny about this story is my friend tends bar at a few joints in the city. He sometimes pours beers to old timers, some of whom sat next to his father in the long ago bar. There is not enough liquor in all the bars of Worcester to mask the acrid taste of sad irony in those moments.

For me, I didn’t have to find my father in bars. Though I am sure he knew quite a few of them. He had a homemade bar in the basement in our house in Naperville Illinois. We kids would use it in our make believe play as the cockpit for the Millennium Falcon.

When my father came home for the day from his high clearance government job (he did something with nuclear weapons, we are not sure exactly what) he would greet me by saying my name and then raising two fingers. That was my prompt to go downstairs and get two cans of beer from the basement fridge. He would be seated at the kitchen table, removing his tie by the time I placed them in front of him. That still is the only bartending job I ever had.

By the time I turned nine, my father had been dead for six months. Heart attack. I was becoming a troubled kid. School was not going well for me. My mother thought that what I needed was a male influence.

I don’t know where she found this guy, but she got this psychology grad student to hang out with me once a week and be my buddy. I must have been a tough nut to crack because after only a few months he ran out of fun things to do with me.

So, he took me to his bar.

It was in downtown Naperville and it had the green glass and low back stools of an Irish Bar you ordered from a kit.  Ostensibly, we went there to play pool and ping pong. But really, he just felt more at ease dealing with this weird kid when he could sit at his bar and be in his safe environment.

We sat at the stools and he had me order root beer for both of us. The mugs were very foamy. By the third time we were there the bartender greeted me by name.

I am sure we played pool much longer than we were sitting at the bar, but that’s the part I recall with any clarity. It was the part that stuck with me.

He stopped hanging out with me soon after. I think I might have told my mother I was not interested in spending time with him, though I am not sure. It was a hell of a long time ago.

There are some of us who love going to bars. Adore the sensation of the stool. The grasp of the cold beer mug, the soul cool of the dark wood interior. If you are lucky to find that place you want to share it. You take your loved ones there. You introduce your girlfriend, your boyfriend, to the regulars with regal formality. Why wouldn’t you want your kid to see the place? To appreciate that wonderful world that is your bar, the bar?

So you have to watch the kid, do you have to abandon your bar life? Well, that is a fine question. A real question. It depends on what you are looking for. It depends on what you think your child needs to learn.

And please do not disregard that last statement. There are lessons for little ones to learn at any bar. That drunk adults are silly. That bartenders have the coolest jobs and that will be a fine thing to be when and if you grow up. That “get your own” is a worthy concept, but that is different from help yourself (bar owners tend to frown at that). Remember that “get your own” is the first step on the road to “be on your own.”  That drinking root beer at the bar might be the basement make believe version of feeling like a man. That despite the countless times you are sent into the bar to bring your father home, you might never find him.  No matter how many doors you open, or how many pint glasses you lift to see what hides underneath, nestled with the coasters, forgotten in the well.

Until Next Time

Dave

Letter from the Drinking Town #5 – The Usual

Dear Worcester

Last Sunday, I celebrated a little time off with a trip to Shrewsbury Street. I have a few new places on that ever mutable street to try. I am not going into the British Beer Company for a gin and tonic because it’s a chain and the world is too big and my liver is too small for me to include chain joints on the tour of places to drink. Case in point, I went into the Usual for a highball cocktail. It is located at 166 Shrewsbury Street. Before the Usual, this was the spot for the Fix. Before that it was Mezcal Cafe. Before that it was Goodfellas. And before that it was a ground level entrance to the Underworld (little known fact).

The Usual is a high end, gourmet sandwich place. It’s fine dining between two hunks of bread. Ah the humble Sandwich. According to a reliable source, namely Jack Palance in an episode of Ripley’s Believe it or Not, the Sandwich was created in order to continue gambling. It was a convenience to throwing your money away, like the Instant Scratch Ticket.

The story that Jack Palance said in him ominous voice was that the Earl of Sandwich loved gambling with cards. Loved it. He was just lousy at it. One night he was losing hard and someone asked to stop playing so they could repair to the dining room and have supper. But Earl was having none of it. He was feeling a lucky streak coming on and he didn’t want to stop, not when the luck was returning. It wasn’t, of course. Earl was an easy mark. He said, “Nuts, I ain’t leaving with this hand burning my fingers. No way. Just cut up some roast and put it in between two hunks of bread and bring it to me here.”

And that, my friends, is how genius works.

And like most stories that stick with you for decades, it has nothing to do with what I am writing about. I just wanted to prove that I know the real skinny about the Sandwich. And now, so do you. Believe it, or not.

The Usual. I walked in at 1:45 on this Sunday afternoon. Four or five of the tables were occupied. At the bar were three groups of people drinking and eating. The bar is in the same place as it was in the last two restaurants that squatted at this address. There was still a tiered dining space, with the top section empty except for an employee of the joint texting on her phone.

It is a clean, simple design. Perhaps we can say boring, but we don’t have to go there. Let’s call it minimal and leave it at that. Two guys were on my left drinking Heinekens talking passionately about people and business. On my right were two other guys hardly speaking to each other. They drank their waters and waited for their sandwiches, occasionally looking up from their phones to tell about a show they streamed or a video that is pretty funny. They might have come from a run or a work out. Or they might have just stumbled out of bed from a long heroic night of Saturday evening carousing.  It was impossible to figure out which was true.

The bartender was bubbly, full of smiles and interest. I got my 8 dollar and forty cent gin and tonic and drank it like it was any gin and tonic. That’s the nice thing about a cocktail. It doesn’t care how much money it is sold for. It is a happy worker and could care less if it goes for three bucks or nine. It supplies the taste and the bubble and the hint of lime no matter what the sticker price states. A gin and tonic is a proud thing and doesn’t care about worth.

The Usual was a lazy, sleepy sunday bar. The food looked fine. Everything was sedate. But it is Sunday after a long Saturday, does anyone want loud laughter and music. I actually was not sure if there was any music playing there. For the most part it was silent like a liquor license monastery. On rare moments with the wind, I could swear I was hearing eighties pop lightly going on somewhere else in the room. This place was made to nurse hangovers.

I left after about twenty minutes feeling that the place was alright, a nice upclass joint for common man food. But I was vaguely dissatisfied. Was this what a Sunday afternoon bar was? Sedate to the edge of coma?

I was walking to my car, parked further down on Shrewsbury Street, and on one of those whims that I wished I trusted more, I walked past my car and looked for another place on the Street that possibly could be more lively. Or maybe I would find every place dead.

I heard voices and aimed for it. I went into the Wormtown Brewery Tap Room. The place was pretty full. About 40 or 50 folk were in there drinking the beer, showing off their flannel shirts and knit caps. If Shrewsbury Street was charted by antiquarian cartographers for a navigational map to sail successfully through this restaurant row, they would have labeled Wormtown Brewery with the admonition, “Here there be hipsters.”  

People were in groups laughing and telling tales and explaining why this beer is superior to other beers and giving long winded evidence for their opinions. I got their Belgian White and it was good, perhaps too hoppy for a white in my tasting, but I was still charmed by the people and the talk and cheer found on a rainy Sunday.

There was a kid, about nine or ten, with his family. The kid was not drinking (officer) but was focusing on his earbuds and his music. He didn’t seem put out, he was happy enough being ignored by the grownups. On seeing him, it put me in mind to all the times I have seen kids in bars. I was lost in thought, leaning against a small tract of wall.

I finished my beer and finally got back to my car. So I saw two types of Sunday afternoons. Silent, sedate, quiet and empty. A place to regroup from a long weekend. Decent food in a decent place. And then there was the place to have the new beer and talk loudly to be heard. A reminder that Sunday afternoon does not mean that the fun and the socialization has to be over.

Neither of them are bad. I can see myself picking either of them on different days, with different moods.  It depends on the place my head is at.

That’s it for now, till next time.

Dante

Letters from the Drinking Town #4 – Leo’s Ristorante

Dear Worcester,

Leo’s is a neon sign on Shrewsbury Street. It’s a fancy curlicue sign with red letters that states “Leo’s.” It makes you think of old times on the shore with the family back when men wore hats. That’s all it ever was for me in the near two decades I have lived in and around Worcester. An art installation more than a restaurant.

The restaurant proper is a few hundred paces back away from the street. I never felt the need to go there. I never heard of anyone recommending it. The only thing I might have been told is that it used to be a great old school Italian place but now the kids are running it and it’s not what it used to be. You hear that thing all the time. “The kids don’t have the heart the old man had for the joint.” That has been said as long as there have been family businesses. It doesn’t mean that it is true.

I have had no desire to try it out for the gin and tonic tour. Maybe because every time I mentioned it, people would pshaw it and say it ain’t worth it. So I skipped it when I hit 144 places for gin and tonics and the world did not break asunder.  I came back to do the new bars and restaurants last year and Leo’s didn’t even cross my mind. Now here I am on the third go round of bars in Worcester and I figured that I might hit the places I overlooked or ignored. While sitting in a doctor’s waiting room, I made a list of joints to hit and get a gin and tonic. For some reason, I caught myself writing down Leo’s. And so that is how it happened.

At 6:45 on a Wednesday (during restaurant week) I parked the car and walked down what felt like a back alley to the front of Leo’s. I wasn’t sure. I felt like a lobby to a forgotten hotel. I found the door and on my right was the mostly empty dining room. Greeted me was a mass produced sign that said, “Seat yourself.”

Okay, call me a snob. But if I want to seat myself, I will get my dinner at a food truck and find a nice bench to rest upon. If I am going to a restaurant that is not known to be cheap, I want someone to greet me at the door with pleasant efficiency. I want them to look at the table chart and find me the best and proper table. I want a smile and a, “This way please.” Is that so much to ask?

Apparently so. No one even acknowledged my confused presence.

I had to navigate the strange old setting myself. I looked down a short hallway and thought it was a good bet there might be a bar there. The pictures on the wall were family portraits, the owner and his wife I guess. It was more like going through a hallway in a friend’s family house, looking for the bathroom then looking for a place to have a drink.

I did find the bar and had an eight dollar gin and tonic. Do I have to even state that it was okay at best. The bartenders seemed preoccupied. There were three couples there at the bar, all eating and drinking. None of the food looked appetizing. They were just pasta with red sauce glopped on it like it was an Italian Restaurant themed horror movie: On Top of Satan’s Spaghetti!!!!

Outside of one of the bartenders, I was the youngest one there by about two decades. And I’m in my late forties. No one was excited to be there. It was the day to go out eating and so they were. I tried to think of something to write about but was stymied. The place is a tired joint filled with tired people.

To make my point, the bathroom has an ad on the wall for Charlton Manor Rest Home/ Assisted Living. I’m not knocking it, they know the right place to advertise. The copy reads in part “We are a small elegant home with many special feature, you will feel like you are visiting a Bed and Breakfast or an Old Inn.” Which is different from the feel at Leo’s – the Neon Sign that Walks Like a Dining Location.

On the wall of the bar area was a large painting that no doubt was purchased at Home Goods. It had a young stylish woman in a black dress at a bar. The bar was classic wood and was inviting. The view was from behind. Her head was turned so you spied her in profile. She held a martini glass aloft. She seemed poised and pleased. I thought to myself, “Why can’t I go there?”

Well that was snarkier than I thought it would be.

Until next time,

Dante of Worcester

A Letter from the Drinking Town #3 – Poetry in Bars and Towels

Dear Worcester,

Every now and then, heading for home, I will stop by Breen’s Cafe to have a beer and watch a little of the Bruins game. I only want to stop there if the Bruins are playing, don’t ask me why. For whatever reason, if I get the chance, that’s where I want to watch hockey.

Last week, the Bruins were playing and I was driving by, so I stopped and got a beer (this is not one of those letters where I write about a new bar to try a gin and tonic in. This is a letter about being at a bar in Worcester and what I and others find in those moments. I figure I will share these with you, if you don’t mind.) The Bruins were doing just fine and the beer was cold. People were talking and having a nice time.

And then I had to use the men’s room.

It’s a bar. There is beer. This is an act that occurs often in such an establishment. I went into the stall and noticed a linen tea towel framed and hung above the toilet. There was a poem on the towel, an old yellowing thing. Around the words were the pearly gates, bottles of spirits, a glass of wine. The things you expect in a bar. Well, maybe not the pearly gates. But that is in the poem.

 

Let me give you the words to the poem that greeted me in the bathroom stall in Breen’s.

He deserves a hero’s medal for the many lives he’s saved, And upon the Roll of Honour his name should be engraved. He deserves a lot of credit for the way he stands the strain. For the yarns he has to swallow would drive most of us insane.

He must pay the highest licence, he must pay the highest rent. He must battle with his bank and pay their ten percent. And when it comes to paying bills, he’s always on the spot. He pays for what he sells, whether you pay him or not.

And when you walk into his Bar, he’ll greet you with a smile. Be you a workman dressed in overalls or a banker dressed in style. If you’re Irish English Scotch or Welsh, it doesn’t matter what. He’ll treat you like a gentleman, unless you prove you’re not. Yet the clergy in the pulpit and the preacher in the hall. Will assure him that the Churches are against him one and all. But when the Churches plan to hold a ballot or bazaar. They start by selling tickets to the man behind the bar.

When he retires a job well done, to await six feet of soil, Discards his coat and apron, no more on earth to toil. As Saint Peter sees him coming, he will leave those gates ajar. For he knows he had his Hell on Earth, THE MAN BEHIND THE BAR

Now let me say that I didn’t read the poem there. I just realized what it was and took a picture of it on my phone. I then did a search and found it on the internet. Cut and paste and here it is. I didn’t do much heavy lifting. I learned that this poem has been around for a long time. In some places, the poet is Hasty Peter. Hasty writing from Hasty Peter. But for the most parts it is an anonymous poem to be read in a bar for a bar audience.

Which brings up the question, was I expected to read it right there in the toilet stall? Was I going to give me much respected private time to the reading of bar poetry? In the past, were there lines for the john as people finished reading the fine literature waiting for them there?

Before cell phone cameras and internet searches, how did anyone read poetry in public? Did people stand in front of framed tea towels in bars across the county and quietly and conscientiously study the words of the beer soaked bards? Was there slurred discussion of metaphor and hyperbole? Well, there is always metaphor in hyperbole in every bar conversation.

Have we lost one of the great joys of bar going. The reading of accidental literature? I have already said that there needs to be an art walk of bars. Do we need a poetry walk through bars as well? I don’t know if that’s necessary, there is so much poetry in bars to begin with.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love that Breen’s has this piece of doggerel in the bathroom. It feels like what an Irish sports bar should do. It is honest and fun. I know of a few bars that put up the sports page behind plexiglass above bathroom urinals. Getting a tea towel poem is just so much better than the Red Sox box scores.

The poem ain’t much. And it is a little exaggerated about the plight of the man behind the bar, and the rhyme scheme is a little haggard. But like I said, a bar should always have poetry in it, even the stilted kind.

Till Next Time

Dante of Worcester

 

Letter from the Drinking Town #2 – Yummy Steak House

Dear Worcester,

Since the last time, I went to two more bars and had gin and tonics. Well, they are both restaurants with bars. There is a big distinction. It’s the big question of this walking around and settling in for a drink and then walking to the next place. The question, are you in a bar with food, are you at a restaurant where you can get a drink? It’s where you place the emphasis. Like how you say Aunt. Do you say it like Ant or Ahnt. I say it like Ant, which must mean I prefer to go into a bar with food. If the bar doesn’t have food, or if the kitchen has been accidentally phased into another realm of existence and then only thing available is liquor, I am fine with that state of affairs.

I went to two last Wednesday. I hit Yummy Steak House and Leo’s. Both of them are
definitely Restaurants with bars attached to them. For this letter, I think I will only talk about Yummy. I have enough to say about Leo’s and I don’t want to overwhelm with my comments, because you know me, how I do go on and on. There is no stopping me.

Actually, that is not completely true. I have one drink on this expedition of bars and then I am done. I don’t do food, I just have one gin and tonic and move along. I always write like I walk from bar to bar. From place to place. Like some western Palladin, Have Drink Card Will Travel. But the truth is, there is no way to go from place to place in Worcester without a car. It kind of takes a little of the mystique out of a bar excursion.

Yummy Steak House is a Sushi Bar, Hibachi joint, and Asian restaurant. On its off hours, it also fights crime. 1121 Grafton Street is where it is. Another Asian restaurant was there before this. The bones of it is what you would expect. A large area for hibachi tables, a room with a colorful bar, tables for diners and an area for the sushi to be made. There was keno and sports on the flat screen. There were bright neon colors for accent. Nothing out of place. Well, maybe I was out of place.

Because I wasn’t eating. There were folks at the bar but all having drinks and appetizers, as you should. The bartender gave me a menu. The manager asked if I needed some little snack to help soak up all that good booze sloshing in my belly. He actually didn’t say it like that, he was very polite. The drink was alright, good enough, for 7.50. If you are at a restaurant with a license to sling booze, you are truly odd man out if you just want a drink. I mean, how many people come to this place you have to drive to and is known for their hibachi and not their cocktails and just get a mixed drink? Not a hell of a lot. They didn’t throw me out, naturally, I was there and it was fine.

I hear good things about the food. That it is a really good hibachi joint and the sushi is good as well. But that is all hearsay. But that’s not what I want to talk to you about. It’s about the name. Yummy.

The place is called Yummy. I can’t help myself. I want to mock it. I want to make fun of it. I want to say that that is the dumbest name for a restaurant ever. That is courting so many dismissive comments. It’s an accident waiting to happen.

That’s what I want to do, and I guess I did. But I want to couch it. One is a friend heard I went there and said its cultural. That some Asian places name themselves that way. My friend said the best sushi he ever had was a place in California called Happy Sushi.

The next thing is that I have a bartender friend who says yummy. He will make a complicated cocktail and taste it and say, “That’s yummy.” That’s right, the only person I know who says yummy on a regular basis is referring to coladas and mojito variations.

Maybe we should say it more. Maybe we would be a happier people if grown men and women could go to a place and call it yummy. Were there less wars? Would racial antagonism dissipate and recede like a summer rain? Would be worthy of being yummy in a yummy world?

I heard the food is yummy. The well gin and tonic was basic and just passable, but that’s just a well highball. We are not judging it by its sushi or its hibachi flaming onion. We are judging it on its side effort. It’s a nice place to sit and watch the Keno numbers. Maybe the food is yummy. One would hope.

Until Next Time

Dante of Worcester

A Letter from the Drinking Town #1 – The Ballot Box

Dear Worcester,

Hi Worcester, it’s Dante and I am happy to write to you after eight months.

What is it about March that makes me thirsty with curiosity? Three years ago in March of 2014 I started a silly project where I was to go to every bar in Worcester and have a gin and tonic and then write about it. I went to 144 bars in 18 months. This is no world record but it was fun. Then last March I got the itch, the urge to check out other bars I had not gotten to. I went to 13 bars in four months. That was fun and I thought it was over and my itch had been scratched but here we are, in March once more. March, time to go out and see bars. Have a gin and tonic and try to live to tell the tale.

I was driving into Worcester today to see a friend, to sit down at a bar and write up a report for work and then out of nowhere, I said, “It’s time to have a gin and tonic.” And like that, I have started up these letters to you. I know of a few new bars so I will have places to try. The closest place for my needs was The Ballot Box.

The Ballot Box is located at 9-17 Kelley Square. It is where the Grey Hound Pub and for a little bit a hot spot called Varsity resided. Even though I went there, I couldn’t remember its name and had to check my notes to remember Varsity. Former Sheriff Glodis has now created the Ballot Box. In one of the articles about its opening, Mr. Glodis stated that he wants it to be the Hard Rock Cafe for the political set. I’m sorry, but he should aim higher.

I went in the middle of a Sunday afternoon. Around two. Yes, Worcester, I know that is not the best time to see a bar and get what it is about, but that is the time I had. Also, if a bar is open, it is open. The off hours is a time a bar shows its real face, the time it greets you without its makeup on and wearing only a worn housecoat.

I went in and there were three or four at the bar and in the second room, at tables there were another ten or twelve or so. Not bad for a cold Sunday. The bartender was good. Friendly. Greeted people when they came in. I got a tall gin and tonic for 6.25. He asked if I wanted a lime. It was fine. Nothing special, but pretty good.

The place is clean and open. The second room is great. It has black leather furniture to sit and move and shake Worcester politics I suppose. I suppose. Or talk about the Bruins or the Red Sox or why that girl won’t call him back. You know, the important inebriate conversations.

The walls are full with wonderful old Campaign Posters. There is an old ballot box on the floor. I spent a good time looking at the posters. They were awesome and worth the time to go and have a beer.

Seeing the posters is like going to an art gallery. Which made me think that what we need is a walking tour of Worcester Bar Art. All the places where you can see interesting art and have a shot of whisky. Ballot Box will be on the tour, as well as Nick’s, Vincent’s, Ralph’s, George’s, Electric Haze, Guertin’s. (I’m not kidding, I want to make this happen. A tour of art you can see in a bar in town. A little guide book and a description of the art. More on this as we move forward)

There was an old school bar shuffle board in the second room and it was cool, but I do recall a bar owner looking down on things like that. It takes up room and doesn’t make money for the bar. Not a good thing, in the opinion of this one bar owner. On the other hand, it was pretty cool.

Before I go on. I like the bar. It was clean and presentable and fun. And now…

Here is my problem with it. The idea that the bar has a theme. That it is a political bar. I don’t like the idea that the bar can force a theme on any establishment. How can Mr. Glodis say that it will be a political joint. Are people forced to talk about Trump or Warren or McGovern? Will they pass out conversation starters? Will you be cut off for talking about movies or sports or knitting techniques?

It brings to mind when I take my eight year son out for dinner and he looks at me seriously and states, “Now we will have a talk Daddy. We will talk about our favorite characters from the Harry Potter books.” Or we will talk about what is the best Star Wars movie. Or it is decreed to be only what the best part of the Dr. Strange Movie was.

And for my son, I will jump into that conversation with crazed enthusiasm. But going to a bar, where I paid more than six bucks for my gin and tonic, I don’t know if I will be so enticed. “And now, Daddy, we will talk about the issues of the second amendment in regards to immigration.” I guess we could have that talk, but I don’t know if I would like it as much as saying that Lucius Mallfoy is my favorite Harry Potter bad guy.

Give a bar credit. Let it be what it wants. It might be called the Ballot Box. But the only politics of it is that it is a Meat Market, or a Gay Bar, a Sport Bar, or a high end joint to have a good drink in a clean glass. None of those are bad, of course. But all of those are not pushed upon the bar by the owners. Let the customers determine what it is. Let the customers tell you what kind of a bar they are drinking in.

Until Next Time,

Dante of Worcester

The Return is Over

Hi, Dante here. This was fun. 13 new bars in Worcester. I wrote about them. I drank gin and tonics. Things are good in the universe.

I think I will go back into my secret lair and perhaps reappear for another go at new places.

I have enjoyed returning, and I really enjoyed allowing myself a different way of writing these up. I hope you liked reading them.

I want to keep on writing about the Worcester bar scene, but I haven’t figured out if I want to keep on doing what I have been doing or try a different approach. I am still unsure.

The answer will come when i return in a few months.

Keep going out. Keep discovering. Keep Gin and Bearing It.

Thank you all so much for reading and commenting. It has been a pleasure

Dante