People go to bars for different reasons: you have those who truly like bars. And you have those with other intentions in mind. The latter, by the way, are now better served by the online dating services that inundate the web these days. If you fall within the first category, there is no doubt this is your book. If you are kind of on the fence, this book may help dissipate your hesitations. But if you, sorry my friend, don’t feel particularly attached to bars, you’d probably be better off reading about the reproduction of mammals in the African savanna.
The Tender Bar
by JR Moehringer
Hachette Books (July 26, 2006)
Throughout the history of humankind, our collective imaginary has come up with dozens of mythological places –Atlantis, Shangri-La, Valhalla and many other remote and legendary destinations– for regular folks to dream about and for the most intrepid ones to undertake extraordinary adventures and risk their lives in search of them.
In this time when there is barely a corner of the planet left to escape from the omnipresence of social networks, in this time when our imagination is sending signals of exhaustion, one has to look somewhere else to replace the old and no longer exciting and not necessarily credible myths we used to long for in the past.
For that reason and in order to be saved or at least temporarily disconnected from our tedious routines many of us look today at the most revolutionary and at the same time humble of human creations: the bar.
(He) blurs the lines that separate the art of literature and the not always properly pondered art of drinking
In fact, now that I am warming up, I dare to compare the thrill as you leave the office and get on your way to your favorite bar, the uncontainable excitement as you push the door open and enter the sacred place where your favorite bartender (the equivalent to ancient times oracles) acknowledges you with a slight nod and starts mixing your favorite drink, the genuine kick as you sit at the bar and say hi to the folks and take the first sip of the evening, with those of our primordial heroes as they set out on their uncertain journeys.
This unique joy, the love that someone can feel for these shady, murky and often smelly places, is really hard to put in words. That was, until modern day Ithaca, also known as The Publicans, crossed paths with its own Homer, JR Moehringer, who in this book masterly blurs the lines that separate the art of literature and the not always properly pondered art of drinking.
Similar alignments of the stars, let’s be honest, have happened before and Moehringer is definitely not the first writer to sit at the bar. And he probably won’t be the last one either. But it is in this particular case, that I felt the epic stories and lives of those who bravely occupy the front line of the bar night by night (this ungrateful job that someone had to do), the special bounds created between them and the inexplicable magic that takes place in these unpretentious settings every other night, were finally understood and brilliantly represented.
In fact, Moehringer does all this in such a captivating manner that The Tender Bar was able to accomplish what my patient wife has been unsuccessfully trying for years, that is, to actually keep me away from the bar for a few nights.
Paco Vique is a civil engineer, poet, writer, voracious reader, radio enthusiast and co-founder with Javier García del Moral of The Wild Detectives.