Some of my great ideas have come from pint-induced diatribes in bars. The problem is the ideas never came home with me so the last couple of weeks I've gone back to look for them.
Here's my bar list, we'll start with Tijuana: dancing salsa at El Lugar del Juglar, talking poetry at La Ballena, El Turistico, and El Sotano Suizo; in San Diego, not being able to get into the The Jewel Box for swing dancing back in the day, with my older, 21-year-old girlfriend; buying the one-gallon glass beer jugs at Karl Strauss and finding out that a gallon of beer is a hell of a lot of brew.
Frisco: trying to act cool as a 20-year-old in the Noc Noc in the lower Haight in SF, talking about the Fine Young Cannibals' new record with Manuel from Madrid.
San Diego: The Turf Club in still stands guard over the Golden Hill. I rolled down Broadway and got teary eyed that The Jewel Box sign was gone, downtown ballpark redevelopment's led some money people to clean up the place, paint it with thick GI Joe green paint, and probably fix the bullet hole from the night Luis and Teresa were hanging out and had to run out the back door. Down the street the 1993 Chabalaba Café building is gone to community college expansion. That beautiful mural of Stevie Ray Vaughn is in a landfill. Across the street I did an archeologist stare at the empty lot where the 740 artists lofts used to be. Boxing ring poetry readings took place there, late night salsa dancing and drinking with the Colombian painter, my hands itching to lift the set of books of Garcia Marquez's newspaper writing . He'd know it was me. Hey, that white wall in front of the cement mixer, was that part of Mario's old space? What about the wood two-by-sixes and rebar sticking out of what's left of the second floor. Was that blue wall part of Cristina's old space?
Mexico City: Pulque is the fermented juice of maguey plant. It's a lightly acrid, thick liquid, downed by the Aztecs 500 years ago and now flavored at places in Mexico City like Pulqueria Insurgentes. I wrote a dada-inspired poem for a reading there last year, you know, trying to pull at all the images that came to mind when thinking about drunken days and nights, writing, all the beautiful men and women I've met in bars. And for my father's days working at El Centenario in the Condesa neighborhood in the early 1960s. It was the first real money he made, a kid from a hamlet in Veracruz. It was a watering hole for the area's Jewish businessmen. It was the first time he'd met a Jew. Here's the poem I wrote, Para Poetas Pulqueros.
Los Angeles: Ten years ago A welcomed me to Los Angeles by taking me to the Gold Room and introducing me to the most beautiful bartender in the world. She's gone. At the Redwood the late George Ramos of the LA Times and the other California Chicano News Media Association members waxed poetic about the good old days, and about that reporter who filed fake stories from the Redwood, when it had an LA Times extension. I met Sandra de la Loza years ago at about 2:00 a.m. as she set out to glue plaques in downtown area bars that used to be gay Latino bars but now gentrified. A couple of hours later, the sunrise light crawling up from East LA, she and I ended up on the doorstep of Bar 107 near Main Street. And all that sauerbraten at Louenbrau near Beverly and Rampart. Pull the heavy wood door, the real deal, you know like Disneyland, you enter into another world. George, the dead former owner, his picture on the piano. The phalanx of steins. The plaster cherubs. And the time that they ran out of Spaten. The building's still there. George's widow sold out. She looks so much better now, I'm told.
Long Beach: Allen Ginsberg held court talking poetry at the 49er after a reading at Cal State Long Beach. And Charles Bukowski puked out his egg breakfast in the 49er parking lot before a campus reading in the early 1970s. I have literature professor Gerry Locklin to thank for these stories. When ya meet someone from Long Beach ask them why they aren't wearing their dark blue Joe Jost's t-shirt.
Que lastima, so many bars, so small the liver.