“He was in Guanajuato, Mexico, he was a writer, and tonight was the Day of the Dead ceremony. He was in a little room on the second floor of a hotel, a room with wide windows and a balcony that overlooked the plaza where the children ran and yelled each morning. He heard them shouting now. And this was Mexico’s Death Day. There was a smell of death all through Mexico you never got away from, no matter how far you went. No matter what you said or did, not even if you laughed or drank, did you ever get away from death in Mexico. No car went fast enough. No drink was strong enough.”
—- Ray Bradbury, The Candy Skull
Molly’s was home to the demimonde, to artists, journalists, retired teachers, lawyers, politicians, cops, and people of uncertain description. Laura and I wrote poetry together there, sometimes with other poets. For a time I became addicted to the video poker machines in the bar and lost a lot of money. I once brought Philip Glass, the musician, to Molly’s, and he sat before one of the machines and became instantly fascinated by their Zen randomness and sounds. We had a hard time getting him away from it. We snapped great moments in Molly’s photo booth, when there was one, immortalizing the goofiness and sweetness of ourselves.
—- Andrei Codrescu, Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans – Some Prefatory Remarks, from New Orleans, Mon Amour, Twenty Years Of Writings From The City
A year ago, for the month of June, I wrote about an online short story each day for the month. It seemed like a good idea at the time. My blog readership fell precipitously and nobody seemed to give a damn about what I was doing – which was a surprising amount of work.
Because of this result, I’m going to do it again this year.
Today’s story, for day Six – A Clean, Well-Lighted Place, by Ernest Hemingway.
Read it online here:
Like yesterday, we have a story about the desperate perspective of age.
Unlike yesterday the point of view isn’t the person themselves, but a pair of waiters, one young and one old, one impatient and one unhurried, as they observe their last customer of the night, an elderly drunk stacking up saucers, one for each brandy.
I am so much in awe of Hemingway – for the pure efficiency of his prose. The story is very short, told almost entirely in tiny snippets of dialog – yet it is so full of complex subtlety and power. Where a lesser writer might describe in careful detail and attempted elegant metaphor the sound of metal on wood echoing across the darkness, Hemingway simply says, “They were putting up the shutters.”
He cuts out everything that isn’t absolutely necessary and in that gains an unparalleled dynamic efficacy.
A Clean, Well-Lighted Place is a masterful collection of mostly unattributed dialog. So skillfully constructed with subtle inconsistencies that long-standing literary controversies have arisen over who actually said what.
A work of fiction should not spell everything out. The reader has to work for his entertainment, for his wisdom.
And then, like a clever piece of music, the text explodes into one final big paragraph which throws the lonely sad desperation of the older waiter onto the page with devastating effect. Finally, the reader understands what the waiter, and the author, and humanity itself shares with the poor old man that only wants to sit there and quietly drink his brandy in a clean, will-lighted place.
He only wants to put the darkness off for a few more minutes.
“Good night,” the other said. Turning off the electric light he continued the conversation with himself, It was the light of course but it is necessary that the place be clean and pleasant. You do not want music. Certainly you do not want music. Nor can you stand before a bar with dignity although that is all that is provided for these hours. What did he fear? It was not a fear or dread, It was a nothing that he knew too well. It was all a nothing and a man was a nothing too. It was only that and light was all it needed and a certain cleanness and order. Some lived in it and never felt it but he knew it all was nada y pues nada y nada y pues nada. Our nada who art in nada, nada be thy name thy kingdom nada thy will be nada in nada as it is in nada. Give us this nada our daily nada and nada us our nada as we nada our nadas and nada us not into nada but deliver us from nada; pues nada. Hail nothing full of nothing, nothing is with thee. He smiled and stood before a bar with a shining steam pressure coffee machine.
From left to right:
Velvet Hammer, from Peticolas Brewing Company – One of my favorites. If you buy, say, a whole growler of this be a little careful. They don’t call it Velvet Hammer for nothing.
The Temptress, from Lakewood Brewing Company – I consider The Temptress to be one of the best things in the world. Not one of the best beers… one of the best things.
Inspiration, from Community Beer Company – Actually, I’m not sure if I remember this one correctly. I do love stuff from Community, especially their Mosaic – my favorite IPA.
Quakertown Stout, from Armadillo Ale Works – I liked this one a lot. You can tell, it’s empty. It’s a new favorite – near the top of the list.
“On my tombstone they will carve, “IT NEVER GOT FAST ENOUGH FOR ME.”
― Hunter S. Thompson, Kingdom of Fear: Loathsome Secrets of a Star-Crossed Child in the Final Days of the American Century
“Sometimes it’s a little better to travel than to arrive”
― Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values
New Orleans is over a hundred miles from the ocean, but it is barely dry. Rain comes quickly and unexpectedly… except it is always expected.
Luckily, there is a source of refuge in the Big Easy – whenever the skies open up, there is always a bar handy to seek shelter and good cheer.
The Avenue Pub is beer heaven. Open 24hrs. 7Days (never know when it’s going to rain). Their list of beers on tap is three pages long.
The Beer Buddha says:
“Honestly this category really isn’t fair; but why punish one bar because all the others can’t hold it’s jockstrap? We all know The Avenue Pub is THE beer bar in not only New Orleans but in Louisiana. Nothing against all the other bars in the state but you ALL know you have a long way to go to be mentioned in the same sentence with AP.”
Draft Magazine lists it as one of the 100 best beer bars in the country. They say:
“Only in New Orleans will you find a beer bar open 24/7. The staff is militant about clean beer lines and proper glassware, so even when you stumble in at 4 a.m. you get the best pint in the city. Choose from more than 47 rotating taps and about as many bottles, all focusing on American beer. Go for an exhaustive introduction to local NOLA Brewing or to people-watch from the balcony.”
The Complex City Guide has it at 12 in the 25 best Beer Bars in the country. They say,
“Louisiana may not be the first state you think of when you think of beer (sure, they’ve got Abita), but when you change state to city and beer to drunk, it’s no wonder that New Orleans has one of the best beer spots in the country. Avenue Pub features a rotating 47 taps on two floors (so you can get your exercise in between rounds) and once you mix that with some amazing Louisiana cuisine, you won’t be thinking about Bourbon Street no more. And the most important part, here in the land of to-go cups, the Avenue is open 24 hours a day. Yup.”
And all this is right there, right on the Streetcar Line, right when it starts to rain.
My only complaint – they don’t have Deep Ellum Brewing Company’s Pollinator on tap. Maybe I can send them an email.
Some people at the SODA bar on top of the NYLO hotel.