Saturday, May 6, 2017

Nurse the Hate: Pubs of Old London

I stood by a table near the bar of the old pub.  It seemed like a reasonable thing to do, have a pint at a pub.  The bartender called me “mate” when he slid the pint glass to me.  It annoyed me slightly, like being called “buddy” or “guy” in the States.  I noted to pay attention to the circumstance of being called “mate” in the future.  If someone was using the English version of calling me “Pal”, I wanted to know for sure what was going on.  It’s all the context.  “Here you go Pal” is fine if you are getting a beer from someone in 1948 or in a Raymond Chandler novel.  It’s a little game being played on you if it’s 2017.  I had a guy call me "Big Shot" one time and it still stings.  I'd like to know if it's a little game so I can come back strong if I get another round.  If he hits me with a "mate", I might swing back with a "superstar".  Here ya go mate!  Thanks Superstar!

“You here on holiday mate?”  There is almost no doubt I am American when in a crowd of Euros.  Just like I can always pick out a German or an Eastern European in a crowd at a train station, I’m sure it holds true that an American stands out to everyone else there.  Of course, I was in a cowboy shirt with my filthy cowboy hat.  (kidding)  Americans carry themselves differently, like this has all been prepared for us like a giant amusement park.  We're dicks like that.  I would like to point out that at least we aren't Eastern Europeans in track suits with gold chains.  I'd much prefer to have a pint with a pointlessly confident American with little self awareness than a guy in an Adidas track suit that reeks of Drakkar cologne. 

I confirmed with the bartender I was here on holiday.  We had some small talk about the bar.  These Euro bars have been there hundreds of years in some cases, and in London they really play up to it.  This didn't really have an authentic feel to me.  It almost seemed like something the Disney Corporation had built for an Epcot Center and then shipped out when they decided not to open the "Sort of Boring London Sidestreets" exhibition.  That's when the bartender hit me with the litany of famous people that used to post up in the place.  He was very proud about it, like these great authors were his personal friends that he had maintained very close relationships.  Most of the names I vaguely recognized, but T.S. Eliot stood out.

T.S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock" was required reading in all high school and college lit classes.  I remember it being one of the first poems to catch my eye.  I had not really considered song lyrics to be poems then, so they don't count.  Plus, as I was probably listening to a lot of Sabbath at that time, I don't know if "Fairies wear boots and you got to believe" counts as great literature.  I remember a few of Eliot's lines.  "I should have been a pair of ragged claws scuttling across silent seas" is great.  I remember a great debate, as much as a great debate is possible in a freshman college English class, regarding the line "Do I dare to eat a peach?".  A heavyset guy in a sweatshirt was furious about it.  "Do I dare to eat a peach?  What the hell does that even mean?  This is bullshit.  The whole thing is bullshit."  The poor grad student instructor was flummoxed.  "Well...  Maybe he meant that as people age their teeth begin to deteriorate and that is why he was afraid to eat a peach.  That he would crack a tooth on the pit!"  This is a great example of why you should study hard and not end up at Kent State University for a college education.  The level of discourse was slightly above an argument with a homeless person at 3am.

I stood there looking out the window.  People passed by looking at their phones.  Two men smoked outside holding their pint glasses.  I saw a couple of American tourists walk past, Milwaukee Brewers baseball caps betraying their identities.  Locals ending their workdays hustled past trying not to make eye contact.  I kept scanning the crowd and thinking about TS Eliot coming up with his peach line here that resulted in a pointless argument in a charmless classroom decades later across an ocean.  The bartender took clean glasses from a plastic rack in a steady fashion.  I placed my empty glass on the bar and left.  "Goodbye mate!"  He got me again.

I looked up the pub later, interested in the history of the place.  Turns out it had been opened in 1971, remodeled from an out of out of business real estate office.  That fucking bloke.  I knew I should have called him "pal" or "buddy".  I probably never should have looked it up.  The illusion might have been better.  I could have waxed on about how I found this little pub where TS Eliot used to tie on one.  Hell, wherever Eliot drank his pints they probably told him Bill Shakespeare used to roll in for Jager shots every Friday Happy Hour.  Oh well...  I can't let it get me down.  Maybe Ozzy had written Fairies Wear Boots there.    


At May 10, 2017 at 10:30:00 AM EDT , Blogger kk said...

Check out The Coal Hole, Pal!
(No, really...)


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