FKR: Now, this is a true dive. Every box checked.
LS: And it’s still here. Especially weird when you consider how this area has gentrified.
FKR: Bar Bar exists in its own vortex. Time and culture don’t touch it. It’s even hard to find the place, due to the bizarro street layout in this part of town.
LS: This is where Yelpers who say they really like dive bars decide they don’t really like dive bars.
FKR: It’s the dive in its purest form. No compromise. It’s a stripped-down dragster. People online like to say this place is stabby, but you know what? I’ll bet only five of the seven people in here right now are carrying knives.
LS: The two being us, right? When they have music here that ratio goes way down.
FKR: Way down. Did you know this place has been a bar since 1913?
LS: They must have closed during Prohibition.
FKR: Don’t be too sure. Try to imagine how many fuckers have tied one on here. I’ve tried to drink this place open to close twice. I was going to do a column called 19 Hours in a Barroom. You know, arrive when it opens at 7am, watch the waves of barmen and boozers rise and fall, study the ebb and flow of a typical day in a barroom.
LS: How’d that work out?
FKR: The first time I made the mistake of letting the morning bartender know what I was up to and he started setting up congratulatory shots and the next thing I knew it was 7pm and I was shit-hammered. Incapable of putting a coherent thought to paper. My writing hand froze up. I lived three blocks away and it took me half an hour to get home. Because of the vortex.
LS: Of course.
FKR: So, the second time I kept my mouth shut. Cagey as hell. I brought a digital recorder in case my writing hand stopped working. I paced myself, a drink every half hour or so. I hate drinking that slow but I forced myself. Strict discipline. Then, around 8pm, a group of people I knew, who I hadn’t seen for a while, roll in and you know how that goes.
LS: Shot Tsunami.
FKR: You can’t turn them down and you can’t not buy them back. Once that machine starts up it’s hard to turn it off. So that ship sunk around midnight.
LS: It’s hard to pace yourself for that long. I’ve never been good at that.
FKR: Me neither. Another thing I can’t do? Just go out for a couple drinks.
LS: You can’t just dip your head into euphoria then walk away.
FKR: It’s impossible. I mean, it’s like there’s this Golden City in the middle of the jungle and you’re supposed to just go a tenth of the way there then turn around? Who does that? Are we going for a nature walk, or are we mounting a magnificent expedition to the Golden City?
LS: That fucking Golden City in the jungle. You try not to get eaten by the savages on the way.
FKR: Well, it’s like JFK said. You don’t go there because it’s easy, you go there because it’s hard. And because we can. And after about ten drinks or so you start getting that golden light around you. The voices become muted and the visuals became rushed and stark and that golden light settles upon you. You feel isolated and part of something much larger at the same time. Euphoria.
LS: I took my wife here for our first date.
FKR: To test her cool?
LS: Right. I had to vet her. So I take her here, we order gin and tonics, a love-triangle fight breaks out in the corner, and I yell, “Duck!”
FKR: Beer bottle?
LS: We duck and the bottle flies over our heads and she was like, “Okay, cool.”
FKR: That’s a direct quote?
LS: She was unfazed. And I was like, okay, here we go.
FKR: She’s unfazeable. I’ve never seen her fazed. Okay, next stop is the old Lancer Lounge.
LS: It’s called the Essex now.
FKR: Essex? That doesn’t sound right.
LS: It’s the Essex. It’s named after a ship. The ship from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. “Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink.”
FKR: That doesn’t sound right either.
LS: Would you like to place a bet?
FKR: I would, but your whole elaborate nautical and poetical backstory has hung an albatross of doubt around the thin neck of my skepticism.
Next: The Lancer Lounge