An ode to a bar that might never have existed in the first place
Charles Village Pub in Baltimore is a gentrified version of what it used to be. They didn't used to card me, when I came in on Tuesdays and ordered vodka tonics... with a guy who later ran for Congress. Sometime after I moved to Rochester, I came back to CVP to hold office hours. I'd forgotten that Maryland hadn't yet banned smoking in bars. The cigarettes irritated my contacts and I ended up bumming some saline solution from a sympathetic waiter. I tipped him well. Nothing about CVP was good, per se, but it was great.
“They’re parents and homeowners, living in suburbs all their own, people who fall asleep on the couch after one beer on a Friday night because they had a long week.”
Just punch me next time, it’ll hurt less
The bar still exists, but it's been sold to a different owner- Penuche's Ale House, in Keene, NH. I used to close that place, which got to be weird when I'd see current past and future clients at the bar. "Let's have a discussion about boundaries. Am I wearing a tie? No? Then I don't exist. You don't see me, and we've never had this conversation. Also, have someone else bring me my chicken wings. You know why."
I do sometimes miss the aimlessness of my 20s.
My home town growing up was small and sleepy (bumpingest place was the general store). I went off to school and when I came back there were honest to goodness bars and even a winery just outside town.
A friend of mine was the manager of this winery, so besides getting the occasional free pour, I'd hang out with staff after closing. A lot of times, I'd come in right before closing, dressed like a slob with a case of beer under my arm, shooting finger guns at people obviously on dates, loving their confused faces. I'd walk into their kitchen, drop my beer off in the fridge and drink wine with my girlfriend until close.
Then we'd go into the cellar with the staff, play beer or wine pong, drink from mislabeled bottles, etc. We'd call up the general store (now a bar with a general store in it), ask to put the band on the phone, and pass the hat to poach the band to come play for our small party. That was a lot of weekends in my mid-20's.
I haven't been back in over a decade.
I'm now married to that girlfriend, with kids. The manager got married at that winery and has moved away.
I'm sure it's still nice. Given the passing years, the wine is probably better now.
I just know that if I go back, I'll be a stranger there, out of place and out of time. It's just a place now, not my place.
You have a real gift for hitting me square in the nostalgia button on a Wednesday morning man...
I'm only 28 so this is not that long ago, but first moved to Columbus right down the street from the St James, we held Wednesday "Book Club" there. No actual reading, just drinking $3 wells and cheaper beers and complaining about our shit jobs. No TVs, 2 pool tables, a TouchTunes (but they limited selections), and a gem of a bartender named Andy.
They just reopened a couple of months ago after being closed the whole pandemic, and I live on this side of town again. Really nice to be able to stop in, but not the same without the crew, for sure.
When you graduated from Boston College, you migrated from Mary Ann’s by the campus to the Beacon Hill Pub at the foot of Beacon Hill and the statehouse. Same owners and even some of the staff. The first time my friends and I went to BHP, we saw a bar back from MA’s who shook our hands and said “I was wondering when you’d show up here.”
It wasn’t an every weekend place, but as we all moved out and around to different parts of the city it became a good central meeting spot and most if not all the prominent night out stories we tell when we get back together for play dates or cookouts with the kids all revolve around that place.
My college friends and I went to a bar after an event called the 100 Days dance, commemorating that many days until graduation. It was the first night we realized our days were numbered, but unlike the final days of senior year, gave us time to be both sad (that it was ending) and happy (that we still had time). I thought we found the best bar in the world that night, deep in a dark basement we listened to live music from a band who didn't suck, drank cheap Rolling Rocks, and closed the place. After we all moved away, we came back to Boston a few years later for a football game or whatever and I suggested we go back. One of the people who stayed in Boston quickly rebuked me and said "Yeah we went there again, it either changed or wasn't that great when we were there?". BUT THAT NIGHT IT WAS
I used to live on the UES on 1st Ave above The Gaf, one of many, many Irish pubs up there. This one was just a bar, no food, with darts, maybe a pool table, a jukebox, and Irish bartenders. My first wife and I went in there a few times, but I really started going there after my divorce. I needed a place to go when I wanted to go out but didn't have anyone to go out with but I also didn't want to be alone. So I'd sit at the bar and drink Amstel or Heineken and maybe chat with the bartenders or a few of the regulars. One time I started talking to another couple and stayed there until 4 AM just to see what happened at last call. Turns out they don't yell "last call;" nothing actually happened and I went home. My most memorable night there was Thanksgiving Eve 2006, when I got home late from another bar and needed to prep turkey gravy for the next day. I put stuff on the stove to simmer and went downstairs to drink, then popped back upstairs as needed to stir, etc., bragging to everyone there about what I was doing. In my mind it was a hell of a good time (and the gravy was a huge hit the next day, as was my hangover). But I never became a regular, just regular-adjacent. But it was "my" bar.
I stopped going there when I was dating someone who didn't drink, and then I moved out of the neighborhood in 2008. The Gaf is gone now, along with that apartment building, replaced by a 30-story high-rise luxury apartment building. I think about those regulars sometimes and I wonder where they ended up.
Maloney's in Flagstaff, AZ has been closed for at least seven years by now, but I'll never forget doing stoplight shots there on my 21st birthday. On Wednesday's the bar became the best deal in town, $5 at the door for $1 well drinks all night. It had the saddest excuse for a dance floor in town but that didn't stop any of us from having a great time. I ordered my first round for my friends in the back booths there. It's gone now but the vivid memory of its carpeted floor remains.
After graduating from American University in Washington, DC, most of my friends moved out of our Tenleytown apartments and started branching out into the rest of the district. By which I mean we ended up in one of a string of apartments near the Van Ness-UDC Metro Station, a whopping one stop closer to downtown.
While we were there, we discovered Jake's American Grille (read: found a Groupon because I need you to know this happened in 2011 without telling you it happened in 2011). The main level of Jake's was your standard sit-down restaurant serving basic American fare with a vague nautical theme. But downstairs was the sports bar, complete with concrete floors for easy cleanup, wood-paneled walls, and about 15 tvs for the 100ish seats. (It was also right across the street from Comet Ping Pong of [the deepest of deep sighs] *that* infamy.)
We also made friends with one of the bartenders, an Army Veteran and former Secret Service Officer. He convinced us to come by on Monday nights for trivia, and encouraged us to sit at the bar and come up with the raunchiest team names, and tell stories of his time in the service and time protecting Presidents. He was also fond of slipping us the occasional trivia answer and more-than-occasional pitcher. The ritual of everyone coming home from work on Mondays and ambling up Connecticut Ave to Jake's and thinking, "Yeah, this is what adulting is!" is a perfect memory of my early-20s.
After a couple of years the bartender moved on, our leases came up and we actually spread out across DC. It seems like Jake's didn't make it through the pandemic. RIP Jake's.
RIP Garrett’s in Georgetown.
Ah, Gino’s North, very nearly under the L tracks, just steps from the Granville Red Line stop in Edgewater (and around the corner from my apartment — $1,000 plus free heat for a 2-bedroom, no questions asked so long as you paid Rizzo, the Russian mobster landlord on time) on the far north side of Chicago. An old speakeasy that the internet says still, impossibly, exists, which allowed smoking inside until 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 31, 2007. They served surprisingly good thin-crust, pub style pizza handmade by Peggy, an octogenarian who would run her college football picks each week past me, and I’d always have to talk her out of taking Rutgers (pronounced: ROO-guhrs). The bartender, West, would throw us free shots all the time and we’d drink 2-dollar MGD’s, gazing at the absurd Venus statue behind the bar, often draped in beads or glow sticks. No matter how much we’d consumed, food or booze, I don’t think I ever managed to spend more than $20 in a night there, and just as often ended up being quoted $6 or $8 at the end of the night. Can’t believe that place survived us.
I thought hard about this one, and I think the answer to this is the group house I shared with my now-husband and two of our friends for a couple years in my early 30s.
One of the casualties of marrying too young is missing the whole trainwreck 20s thing. I made up for it in large amounts in the years before and right after my divorce, and a lot of that happened in the house. The guys moved in a year before I got back to DC from law school, and when I came back newly unmarried I moved into a basement nearby to be depressed, freaked out, and lost. When I got together with the beloved, I unofficially, then officially, moved in.
That house was, for 2 beautiful years, the hub of our social circle and the place where i rebuilt my life. Our house parties in those years were the stuff of legend, with friends of friends of friends everywhere and a round of Don't Stop Believing on Rock Band at 3am to close every night. The house broke up when one of us moved to New York and the beloved and I got our own place. But I'll always treasure those disaster years for giving me back something I thought I'd lost forever.
So, I don't have bars, but I think that makes this more interesting (as I start my summer vacation with all three members of the household testing positive.)
College quiz bowl is interesting in part because it needs a crew of slightly older than folks to help keep it going, mostly as moderators. But there was/may still be also a strong pop culture or "trash" circuit that ran in the contemporaneous ecosystem.
Every year, on conference championship weekend, there was in Chattanooga a tour called Trashmasters. That tournament included a bonus feature called K-Tel Hell which is Heardle but with buzzers and no preloaded songs. After ten years of trying, I finally won K Tel Hell in 2007 when they started adding 90s music to the mix in a symbolic torch passing and end of an era.
Some of my favorite memories are sitting around in classrooms at a university a thousand miles from my home, playing pop culture trivia and talking to like minded folks.
Pop culture trivia still exists in this form, but pop culture is a young person's game and the end of the monoculture and the shifts in question writing have handed that game to a new generation. But the friends I made from those experiences I am still networked with, in ways that I acknowledge I don't really have a lot of college friends from my own school except my teammates, but I do have friends all over the country from dozens of schools brought together by a love of trivia.
So salute to the auditorium at that building at Tennessee Chattanooga near the Roundhouse arena, you are not forgotten.
The dorm room in Madrid where I studied abroad between 1L and 2L in law school. We all stayed there in private rooms with sinks and their own air conditioning, twin beds against the wall. My best friend was down the hall and it had a huge pool in a courtyard where we'd go to read and study. I'd play wall ball with the lifeguard and some graduate students who were still, falling into the pool while trying to make a miraculous shot. Nights spent watching RuPaul after we got back from a long night out.
Dominie's in Astoria. I moved to NYC at 26 with entirely unearned confidence that I was taking the first of many big steps to being "successful" (I think at the time that meant an upper east side penthouse, for some stupid reason). When NYC started doing its thing and kicking my ass, I found solace at Dominie's off 30th Ave not far from my apartment. After every few drinks the bartender would take a shot with you, and their house whiskey (some Irish blended) was surprisingly palatable. Pizza was prepared in a literal closet at the back of the place, right by the restrooms, and was the best thing in the world after working 12-hour days in Manhattan.
I met a group of fellow late night degenerates there and we ended up convening for "Tuesday Night Bible Study" which involved playing Bible trivia as a drinking game. One of my few good memories of NYC is one late January night when snow started falling slowly from the sky, the street was actually somewhat quiet. I was standing outside with a Bible Study member, smoking a cigarette and thought to myself "Damn. This city can be beautiful sometimes." I moved back home to North Carolina a month later.