Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Whose Bar Is It, Anyway?

I've only had one person ever tell me to "stay out of my bar." The bar was Harefield Road, and the person who told me this was a girl who was upset over the fact that I'd gone on one (1) (uno) (terrible) date with her ex-boyfriend. What's even lamer is that she didn't even say it to my face. She had a mutual friend forward this brand-new information along to me. I was also informed by said friend that this woman would fight me if she ever saw me in person. Well, none of those things happened: I love Harefield Road and I go there most weekends for brunch. I was never attacked by this woman, either.

"My bar." What makes a bar "yours"? It's silly, and we know it's silly, yet we say it, or at least think it, anyway. There are two ways to delude oneself into believing that a bar is "yours":


You stop in after work and stay for a couple beers. You get to know the regulars and you are on first name basis with the bartenders. It feels just like a big living room filled with a bunch of friendly semi-toasted people with whom you'd never associate outside of this setting. If you're there often enough, people will know where to find you. They'll know that you're at "your" bar. Except, as I've stated before, it's not your bar. All you're doing is sitting there getting loaded! The worst thing is running into somebody who really doesn't like you in "their" bar. You know what, I don't care if I come into "your" bar and you're there giving me the death stare and thinking that you're really teaching me a lesson by not talking to me. Chill, bro.

A few years ago I dated a guy who was a bar regular- and a full-blown alcoholic. It was bad news. I knew that I shouldn't be hanging around him, but he was an ex-model and oh-so handsome and I just couldn't tear myself away from him. Soon I became a regular in the bar, too, and shit hit the fan. We were wasted all the time. We had a horrible fight when we broke up. He said mean things to me and I slapped him. "Get out of here, Randall," he said. "Just go, get out!" I was devastated and I felt like a monster. I pleaded with him to stop saying the things he was saying and to not tell the bouncer to kick me out but then he said, "fine, I'll leave." and he was gone. It was awful. That's when I realized: you should never be in a bar all the time. Once a bar becomes "yours" in this way, it's time to get the fuck out of the bar. At that point, the bar doesn't belong to you: you belong to the bar.

From that incident forth, whenever I went to that bar with my friends, all of the regulars would glare at me. At first I felt very uncomfortable, but as I started getting closer with my current group of friends, the regulars receded from my life and their presence stopped mattering. The regulars have since disbanded. The man I dated is sober now, I think. Once in a while I'll drop in to unwind from work and write in my journal. When I do, I sit in the seat I used to sit in when we were together. It makes me sad to think about everything that happened, but it feels satisfying to think that I'm a little wiser than I was back then.

Ah, romantic entanglements. Once you throw a bar into the mix, anything can happen! This brings me to the next rationalization of bar ownership:


Okay, so you went on a date. It doesn't even have to be a romantic date. It could be a friend date. You and the other person perhaps frequented this bar on a regular basis once your relationship began to flourish. But then it all went to shit, and now you are both wondering: who gets to keep the bar? 

I ran into a guy I just broke up with at a bar this past weekend. I knew it was going to happen sooner rather than later because that little strip on Wyckoff Avenue off of the Jefferson stop is TINY and there are only so many neighborhood bars to go to. (Plus a friend of his is a bartender there and if there's one thing that friends of bartenders love, it's free drinks.) We only live two stops apart, but the bar is definitely more in his neck of the woods than mine. We both party in Bushwick, so shouldn't any bar around here be fair game? But then again, we went on our first date at this bar. I'd never been there before. Should I stop going there just because he started going there first? Then there's the whole bartender friend thing. I like the bartender friend. I do not feel awkward seeing him. But does he feel awkward seeing me? Does he think I'm stalking my ex? Does he think to himself, what is she doing here? 

All of these things were on my mind upon going back to the bar for the first time since we broke up. I was having a cocktail with my girl Kelly, and we thought we were home free. But then he appeared. Out of fucking NOWHERE. Seeing him for the first time since it ended was awkward as fuck and it made me sad. It was a night-ruiner, but I steeled myself and resolved that I would not lose this bar in the divorce! Those margaritas? That rad mac and cheese dish? Yeah, I don't think so. Get used to it, yo. Move over, I'm not going anywhere. I do suppose that the laws of bar ownership dictate that this bar is his for the keeping, but, like I've been saying, the laws of bar ownership are bullshit. This is a public space, y'all!

I guess running into somebody you don't really want to run into is part of the risk you take when you refuse to relinquish a bar you once shared. However, we are all adults, and as time goes on things gradually get less awkward. One day maybe you won't even care or notice that the other person is there. Maybe you'll even have a drink and shoot the shit with them for a while. But there is a more complicated element to sharing a bar with someone, and that is the memory of you being there with that person. Maybe you made out all night at the dark end of the bar or played drunk scrabble or crammed into the photobooth to take stupid pictures, or maybe you had a horrible fight at that table right over there, the table you will never ever ever sit at again because of all the awful vibes emanating from it. These kinds of things make me very wistful. Returning to the bar sometimes feels like returning to a crime scene. Some of these memories always make me want to come back to the scene. At times, some of them also make me want to run away.


In the end, nothing good can really come of claiming a bar as one's territory. It only makes things weird and awful. Instead of "owning" a bar, we should just love it. It's nobody's bar but it's here for everyone, and aren't we all just trying to have a good time? Cheers to that! Now drink up, fools.

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