When I'm sitting at the bar and staring into my beer, don't talk to me! I stopped into a watering hole last week, was gazing into my beer and getting into a good mindset to come home and get some writing done, when the barfly next to me said something. I smiled and nodded. Then a few minutes later he smugly asked if I was always this quiet. I said yes, I AM always this quiet. But I knew he felt that I owed him some small talk. It's his world, I just live in it. So I felt bad for him and chatted awkwardly. Dammit! I was going to have two beers, then go home and settle in for an hour or two of writing and reading. But Mr. Needs A Friend threw me off my game. Once again foiled by social interaction. Fuck.
Okay, not all chatty barflys are evil. A couple of months ago, the dude sitting next to me at the local bar was actually pretty cool. He asked if his cigarette smoke was bothering me. I said no, that actually the smoke from the guy on the other side of me was. We got into a discussion about bars and smoking – my position as a non-smoker being that bar smoke is part of the atmosphere. Sure, you shouldn't let your cigarette smoke drift into someone's face, but if you're in a bar smoke 'em if you got 'em – it's part of bar culture. The dude chatted for a bit, didn't expect me to contribute much, then left to join a pal at a table. Cool. But he was soon replaced by some sketchy-looking guy who: 1) thought I was some college boy, then 2) was miffed that I looked so young, then 3) got more miffed when he learned I didn't abuse myself with drugs and hence look older, then 4) asked me if I saw any pot dealers in the room, then 5) went on and on about how he had some plan to make houses out of clay and therefore save the world's trees because all these new houses are being built using lots of lumber. I made some crack about the Pharaoh not letting the slaves use straw and it went right over his head. I had to beg out and went home to sit alone in the dark and decompress. Fuck.
I'm convinced more than ever that there is a need for a bar where us loners can stare into our beer and not be hassled by all the chumps looking for a companion. Hey you wanna talk to somebody, go home and call your mom! We've got drinking and thinking to do, and this is a bar – it's about the booze, it's about the solitude, it's about staring off into space. If you wanna make friends, go get a Little Brother or Sister or volunteer down at the old-folks home – don't bother me with your inane witticisms and stoopid conspiracy theories.
My solution was right in front of me: Open that Finnish bar I'm always wishing that the Twin Cities had. There's tons of ethnic bars in St. Paul and Minneapolis based on nationalities that don't drink as much as the Finns, so why not?. A Finnish bar would be even more unique, because its atmosphere would be in the shy Finnish manner. It would be a place where staying to yourself is prized, where if you're outgoing and gregarious you're some kind of freak. Yes, the Finnish bar would be the opposite of the Irish bars, where everybody seems to be trying too hard to have fun. Who can trust 'em? And are the bars really Irish? I mean, the formula is simple: Throw up a portrait of JFK, paint some stuff green, put up a few Irish-motif plaques and prints on the walls, pour the Guinness on tap, bring in some folk singer to do some Irish tunes (all of that Euro folk music sounds the same to me, they could be singing Icelandic tunes as far as I know), and BINGO: you have yourself a genoo-wine Irish pub! Soon your joint will be filled with people convinced that they're having a great time! They'll smile! They'll sing along with the folk music! They'll pretend they're Irish! It's quaint! It's a gimmick! But it's a profitable gimmick! And if you think it's been done to death, open a German bar! Or pick another cute nationality! Manufactured authenticity sells! Congratulations!
And I want my piece of the pie. I've never been to Finland and can only say maybe a dozen words of Finnish, but I can fake being the genuine article quicker than you could put a guy in lederhosen and strap an accordion to him. I need to open that Finnish bar for those of us who don't feel that sitting next to somebody at a bar is some sort of Binding Social Contract. In fact, the construction of the bar will encourage the solitary bliss that Finns rightly prefer: All tables will face the wall and only have one chair. No booths. The bar stools will bolted to the floor and will be a minimum of three feet apart. There will be a small, separate room (the dreaded Social Room) that will have a few tables with a bunch of chairs; just in case some weirdos stumble into the place by accident. Opening night will feature discounts on specialty drinks like Molotov Cocktails and Dead Russians. There will also be a special acoustic performance by Saigon Shakes – the Twin Cities #1 Hanoi Rocks tribute band!
We'll all keep to ourselves and stare into our drinks. I can already hear nothing but my own thoughts. The silence of that room will be golden.
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