Ladies and Gentleman yesterday I went to the pub. This is not news to anyone really. I often go to the pub, but yesterday I had a realization while enjoying my libation: the Public House is the ultimate place of ideas and thoughts.
A picture from last night. I am the gentleman on the left performing an impromptu Puccini Aria. I was not aware we should have been armed.
It is all too common in the busy technological world that we roll around in to forget our relationship to history. Sure we read about it through articles and books (if you are one of the dwindling few who still read books). We may watch it pass by on the movie screen with Colin Farrell in a cowboy hat attempting another lame brain accent. In contact with these pseudo historical presentations and these pseudo cultural passion plays, we usually remain distanced from our local history and culture. To remedy this we could go off to local plays, but they are too expensive and usually of such dubious quality that they are not worth the effort. We could go to the library, but then again we would have to grit our teeth and bite our tongue to stop the vomit spurred on by the sea of body odour assaulting the nostrils, wafting from the may patrons that use the place as a hotel. Where do we go then? We go to the local bar.
I have many local bars surrounding my dank little basement home. The Village Idiot stands not a stone’s throw from my door. This place is a cute little pub that goes on operating as if the 30s never ended, while offering upmarket Belgian beers to attract yuppie art connoisseurs or American tourists who have found themselves abandoned by the red double-decker tour beast that strolls the city. This little place only holds my patronage once, maybe twice, a month.
Further down the dusty path that is College Street lies the trio of ‘counter culture hangouts,’ Sneaky Dee’s, Toby’s Eatery and Crown and Tiger. The first is a spicy cultural icon that I don’t often enter unless invited to accompany my more hip and with it friends. The second used to hold my patronage often, but then they hiked the terrible chanting rhythms of that sweaty urban artistic expression called Hip Hop to an astronomical level even the Vulcans can hear it nightly in their neck of the woods, if that planet does indeed exist. (I contend that it does.) The third, is for lack of a better word, a ‘dive’ that revels in the cheap bohemian patron that so often haunts the streets of Kensington Market scavenging sunglasses and copious fedoras before they go to an acoustic concert of moaning folk music. I sometimes find myself in this locale mainly to visit with my less motivated friends who are quite content with their lives slinging Ventis to passersby only to go home to the newest hot thing on HBO (something I can definitely identify with). Alas, none of this trio calls to me in any special voice.
The voice that calls to me rises up not too far from the T-shaped intersection of Carlton and Parliament. This place is a marvelous medium sized pub that serves excruciatingly good food and brilliant southern Ontario beers by the cask. Stout is the name of this marvelous place. It is a place that has board games at the ready for any socially malignant group of twenty somethings who need an excuse to see their friendzone and share a recent story about her boyfriend ‘not appreciating her.’ It is a place that serves naturally grown produce alongside extremely good meat. It is a place that keeps its music low, except for the occasional Sunday night that a Finnish transient amolodically sings Billy Joel songs that he only knows half the lyrics too. Last night he regaled me and my drinking buddy with his version of the lyric “play me a song Mr. Piano Man - Lai lai diddi kayaee.” This place is in short a haven. For you see this haven, as I just called it, is the perfect place for a lengthy conversation.
This is why we go to the pub. We don’t go to drink, for we can just buy a tall boy of Carling and sit in our room enjoying reality TV. We don’t go to find a person to mate with, for you can go to any club with DJ flipping buttons that trigger a change from one beat to the next. We don’t go to eat because we could go to a real restaurant with a Head Chef that concocts sauces and other things. We go to communicate. We hope it is through our booze filled conversation that we arrive at some answer to what ever question we are asking at the moment.
Last night I was asking why I feel a need to go to pubs to think? It can’t be just my indeterminable need to live my life ALA one of those actors of old who drank themselves silly, slept all day, then did marvelous Hamlets at night. This is not a recommended way of life as any one who has read anything about Richard Burton will agree (but he did get Liz Taylor; so there might be something to it.) Old dead Welsh actors aside, I go to the pub to think because it is a connection to my and indeed our past. If Carl Jung is right, then there is a collective unconscious that drives us to arrive on the things that we do. There have been Public Houses since Augustus rode around being a golden clad jerk and probably before him under a different name. When we go to one today and sit and watch the booze filled sloppy discourse going on around us, we are partaking in a ritual that reaches into the past. This ritual draws you closer to the ghosts of ancestral drinkers around you or the ghosts of ancestors past that enjoyed your choice of drink or the ghosts of ancestors you bring up in passing conversation. You are paying homage to the thoughts that have flowed before you in that room and any room that ever held two brains in liquor addled talk.
Dear viewer, reader or whatever the fuck you are I implore you go to your local pub. You will see what forces make your neighborhood tick and it will show you the importance of people you have never met but also share the common ground in Toronto (or wherever you hale from). Your conversations will inspire you. You will reach a state of heightened passion no matter however you define it. Hell! If nothing else occurs, you will get tanked which is always an advantage. Just as long as you know that you are participating in the oldest exercise in humanity; drinking, talking and thinking. To you I say go to your pub and drink a few for we all have much to do!