Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Tender Bar, by J.R. Moehringer

The Tender Bar: A Memoir, by J.R. Moehringer

I picked this up on a whim and am very glad I did. This was an intoxicating read (forgive the pun), the story of how a boy grew up with the dysfunctional patrons of a bar as father figures. His father left him at a young age, and as he grew up he increasingly turned to his uncle, a bartender, as a mentor and role-model. Spending time with his uncle meant spending time in the bar, and eventually he found himself drinking at the bar every night. There are no apologies, no excuses, and no sermons about the evils of drink; just a straightforward account of how the author became an alcoholic.

I liked this book for several reasons. First and foremost, the style is that of a guy telling a story at, well, a bar. Every character is a real character, every action a bit over-the-top, every story seeming just a bit embellished. It is a comfortable story, even when the topics being discussed are not. The author doesn’t apologize for his drinking or preach about how he quit. He presents the choices he made and why he made them, leaving the lessons learned as an exercise for the reader. I found this a powerful technique; this book got me thinking about my drinking habits much more than one telling me about the wonders of sobriety ever would.

My favorite quote (out of many great choices): “Every bar has some affinity for boxing, because drinkers and boxers sit on stools and feel woozy and measure time in rounds.” I’m not a huge fan of boxing, but virtually every fight I’ve seen has been in a bar surrounded by other casual fans. I’m reminded particularly of the 1996 Tyson-Seldon fight, the one that lasted about 90 seconds. I was in Lubbock and the Longhorns had just beat the Red Raiders in football. After the game we hit a bar near campus and at first the locals were not to thrilled to see a group of people wearing burnt orange. When the fights started later that night, though, instant camaraderie. Good times.

First Sentence:
If a man can chart with any accuracy his evolution from small boy to barfly, mine began on a hot summer night in 1972.

No comments:

Search This Blog