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Barfly Field Guide

field-guide-to-bar-life

dive-soap

The Soap Opera Star

An attractive and vulnerable figure trembling with tragedy, her flickering eyes and winsome smile serve as a nearly irresistible aphrodisiac to lonely males. An offer to light her cigarette will be all the audition she needs to include you in the evening’s gala production.

You may expect to be cast in the swiftly revolving roles of Gallant Stranger, Keen Listener, Promising Suitor, Promising Suitor #3, Lurking Ex-Suitor, The Cad Who Most Likely Stole Money from the Leading Lady’s Purse Because She Knew She Had a Twenty in There Before She Went to the Restroom, and your crowning role, The Ruffian With the Richly-Deserved Snootful of Mace.

Distinguishing Characteristics
A very large and disorganized purse bristling with props, including pictures of her imprisoned (but soon to be paroled) ex-husband, phone number-stained bar napkins, unpaid parking tickets and an impressive selection of “self-defense products.”

Drinking Habits
Changes according to her “character arc.”

Mating Call
“Has the mace worn off yet? Cuz I need a ride home.”

Best Defense
Refuse to accept any role except Deaf Mute Bystander.

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dive-socio

The Brooding Sociopath

Always alone, always angry, this tightly wound brute is just waiting for a suitable reason to go berserk, such as eye-contact, adjusting one’s hat the wrong way or belonging to the secret society that keeps hiding his “spatula of vengeance.”

Invading his personal space is also an invitation to attack. His personal space consists of as far as he can see, including mirrors. Especially mirrors. His mood may shift radically from moment to moment, vacillating wildly from the relatively placid “Plotting Murderous Revenge” to the ferocious “Rabid Werewolf Frenzy.”

A word of caution: If he starts barking loudly at you from across the bar, it is best to refrain from saying, “What’s wrong, boy? Trouble at the Old Mill?”

Distinguishing Characteristics
Disagreeable body odor, wildly rolling eyes, “spatula of vengeance” protruding from his pocket.

Drinking Habits
Bottled beer, because it’s too easy for the Illuminati spy posing as a bartender to slip “mind-control substances” into a draft.

Mating Call
“Ruff! Ruff! Ruff!”

Best Defense
Lift your watch to your lips and shout, “Response Team! He’s here! Move in! Move in!”

dive-geniusThe Genius in Exile

Unlike the savages who surround him, this solitary soul is not in the bar to slop down alcohol and bleat nonsensical jibber-jabber. No, this genius-among-beasts is busily assembling the Great American Drinking Novel, tentatively titled along the lines of My Life Among the Hideous Dimwits or I Chortle as the Weasel-Fanged Dunces Gnash My Soul.

When he isn’t slandering present company with scathing prose, his eyes are slipping about, making shrewd character observations and fairly trembling in anticipation of the day when his magnum opus hits the stands, causing the imbeciles to warble: “I remember that intense yet handsome fellow! He used to sit right at that table! I should have bought him a drink instead of snickering at his fancy notebook!” Warning: If you befriend him, he will make you read his fancy notebook.

Distinguishing Characteristics
A carefully contrived scruffiness.

Drinking Habits
Whatever imported draft is on special.

Mating Call
“I wrote a story about you last night. Would you mind reading it while I stare intensely at you?”

Best Defense
“I’m a writer too! I’m about to get started on my children’s novel, The Choo-Choo Learns How to Poo-Poo!

dive-yup

The Xtreme Yuppie

This adventuresome fellow has grown bored of the upscale clubs and cafes that are his natural habitat, mostly because they’re full of people like himself. He will carefully dress down, cladding himself in scuffed loafers and a perfectly ribald “trucking cap” he purchased on a lark at a gas station on the way to Martha’s Vineyard. He will attempt to reinforce his disguise by ordering bottom-shelf liquor and macrobrews, though he will break character and reveal his true tastes once he gets comfortable. (“Barkeep, gimme a glass of your cheapest port!”)

He revels in telling his more cautious kin of his forays: “They only had two kinds of wine! Red and white! Isn’t that precious!” Warning: If you allow him to feel safe, his ilk will start arriving in droves.

Distinguishing Characteristics
He will resemble a Disney version of a loveable redneck.

Drinking Habits
The toughest merlot in the house.

Mating Call
“Does your trailer park or housing project allow overnight guests?”

Best Defense
Tell him you saw negroes “checking out” the BMW parked outside.

dive_sniper

The Snide Sniper

An extremely specialized creature, this wit converses entirely in “zingers” and “sweet burns.” He will drink quietly at the bar, innocently minding his own business, until a stranger utters a statement so mind-bogglingly imbecilic that the Snide Sniper is forced to fire off a brilliantly sarcastic riposte just to set matters right.

Idiotic statements deserving a sharp rebuke include, “Where’s the toilet?” “Will this rain ever let up?” and “Can I have a beer?” The snappy responses being, “In the restroom, last I checked.” “Why don’t you build an ark, just in case?” and “So long as you have a mouth and money.”

Distinguishing Characteristics
Refusal to make eye contact, three generations of facial bruises.

Drinking Habits
Bottled beer, because if he wanted a draft he’d go sit by the door, now wouldn’t he?

Mating Call
“It’s time for me to buy you a new watch.”

Best Defense
Sit within punching distance.

dive-vet

The Grizzled Veteran of Top Secret Wars

Immediately recognizable by his mishmash of martial and civilian garb, this battle relic is having a bit of difficulty adjusting to civil society. As opposed to your typical veteran, this chap was no mere soldier, airman, marine or sailor, no, he served as a Special Ranger Recon Sniper Assassin Strike Team Commander, and if you find that hard to believe it’s because you weren’t there, ya big sissy.

Warning: If you question his credentials, he may threaten you with the Quadruple Ninja CIA Elbow Flip taught to him by Bruce Lee’s dad.

Distinguishing Characteristics
Battle scars, especially in the proximity of the appendix.

Drinking Habits
Anything but vodka, ya commie-lovin’ bastard.

Mating Call
“Wanna see where Charlie shot off my foreskin?”

Best Defense
Every time he starts telling a war story, declare: “I was there! I was right next to you! I’m the guy who pulled you out of that burning Huey! You owe me a drink!”

dive-reg

The Salty Regular

This garrulous fixture defends the gates of his dive with the surly yet resigned disposition of an xenophobic customs agent. He knows he can’t stop the uncouth foreigners from filing in, but he can stamp their temporary visas with undisguised disdain. There is a well-defined pecking order in the bar and he will make certain you’re aware that he is one of the head peckers.

Distinguishing Characteristics
He has become so at one with his surroundings he is easy to mistake for furniture.

Drinking Habits
Cheap drafts ordered with nearly imperceptible nods.

Mating Call
“That’s Tom’s stool, but you can sit there ‘til he gets here.”

Best Defense
“This your first time here?”

dive-sports

The Sporting Fellow

This boisterous creature will be found perched near the television set, intently watching the colorful antics of large sweaty gentlemen. Notoriously moody, his emotions will mercurially swing in direct correlation to which sweaty fellow did or did not do with some manner of orb. Though quite gregarious (he is quick to form a herd with others of his persuasion), he can react violently if you make the mistake of cheering out of synch.

Distinguishing Characteristic
He’ll wear vestments very similar to exactly half the sweaty fellows on the television.

Drinking Habits
Domestic beer by the pitcher, interspersed with shots of liquor to celebrate exceptional orb-play.

Mating Call
“If the sweaty fellows to which we are allied earn points, will you spontaneously display your mammaries?”

Best Defense
“Can we turn the channel? American Idol’s coming on.”

dive-tick

The Beer Tick

Eternally penniless and parched, this affable parasite receives liquid sustenance by attaching himself to unwary host creatures. A practiced master of overt flattery and unburdened by any sense of shame whatsoever, the Beer Tick will probe a potential victim’s sympathy and sensibility with sly mentions of “What a tremendous fellow you are! I’d buy you a drink, but I’m broke!” “You should get a pitcher, it’s much more economical,” and “You look just like that one actor, the one who’s dating that hot actress.” A word of caution: if you succumb to his wiles, nothing short of applying a white-hot fireplace poker will detach him from your person.

Distinguishing Characteristics
Wide never-met-you-but-damned-glad-to-see-you grin; often confuses his empty vessel for your full one.

Drinking Habits
Oh, whatever you’re drinking is fine.

Mating Call
“I’d give you my card, but I can’t find my wallet.”

Best Defense
Within earshot of the saloon keeper say: ”I’d buy you a drink but then I wouldn’t have enough to tip the staff.” He will be eased through the door in due time.

The Story Teller

By the time you figure out why this fellow is so disarming and friendly it will be too late. Like those grotesque deep sea creatures with glowing appendages and huge mouths, he will lure you near with amiable banter, then swallow you whole. Sitting down within earshot is provocation enough for this gregarious raconteur to launch into a lively tale. Pretending to nod off or feigning deafness are no defense, they will merely encourage him to speak in louder tones. Whatever you do, do not let him place a hand on your arm, because you will have to pry it off.

Distinguishing Characteristics
His powerful jaw will nervously twitch while he’s waiting to speak.

Drinking Habits
Just a little something to “wet his whistle” between stories.

Mating Call
“This reminds me of the time I went home with that hot model! Talk about deja vu!”

Best Defense
J’ai regret! Je ne parle pas anglais!

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dive_gangsta

The Suburban Gangsta

Though pale of skin and perhaps resembling your cousin from South Dakota, this homey is “down wit’ it.” He may be straight outta Fargo, but he’s studied sufficient hip-hop albums, movies and music videos to feel fully qualified in informing you what’s “phat as da Cat in the Hat” and “ill as a three dolla bill.”

Completely immune to sarcasm, any attempt to mock him will only convince him you are, in fact, one of his homies. He may even ask you to join his “mad crew,” which involves learning a time-consuming and complicated series of handshakes.

Distinguishing Characteristics
Commonly wears a hoody to disguise the fact he’s a honky.

Drinking Habits
Cheap beer, but bet he’ll be gettin’ all up in the bartenda’s grill for not pimpin’ Courvoisier and fo’ties a malt likka.

Mating Call
“Dang, girl! It my duty to get up on dat big booty!”

Best Defense
Send him reeling to his MTV Raps video collection by addressing him in a dialect that sounds like the latest ghetto slang but has no actual meaning: “Yo, dee rama bolohama is triddlin’ wit ma sausolito, gitmo a shing-a-ding-dong, yo.”

dive-stranger

The Stranger in a Strange Land

This fish out of water is confused by the local customs, such as tipping, chipping in on tabs, and the queer resistance to letting an utter stranger sleep on your sofa. He delights in numerating just how wonderful his home of origin is, but has a difficult time explaining why he left that veritable Paradise to wander amongst the savages. He will, however, raise many great toasts to his host country, so long as one of the savages is buying.

Distinguishing Characteristics
An aggressively loud accent that slips in and out in accordance to how likely you are to buy him a drink.

Drinking Habits
Liquor or beer from his native land, even though it tastes ten times better back home.

Mating Call
“In my country the making of love and the buying of drinks for strangers are considered great arts.”

Best Defense
Remind him that if it weren’t for the good old U.S. of A. his people would be speaking German right now. (Note: Not effective on Germans.)

Frank Kelly Rich

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