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Old 31-12-2005, 01:23 PM posted to rec.food.drink.beer
 
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Default "Spirited look at pleasures a favorite bar can provide"

Spirited look at pleasures a favorite bar can provide
When my mother would rag my father for stopping after work to have a
drink with "the fellas," his less-than-perfectly-logical defense was,
"It's not the alcohol, honey, it's the camaraderie."

Spirited look at pleasures a favorite bar can provide
Published December 25, 2005

THE TENDER BAR
By J. R. Moehringer
Hyperion, $23.95, 368 pages
REVIEWED BY JOHN GREENYA

When my mother would rag my father for stopping after work to have
a drink with "the fellas," his less-than-perfectly-logical defense was,
"It's not the alcohol, honey, it's the camaraderie." Memorist J. R.
Moehringer wouldn't just understand that response, he'd think it was
perfectly logical. But then in his case the big attraction, at least at
first, was the fellas; then it was the fellas and the alcohol; and,
finally, once again it was just the fellas.
"My personal list of needs was long. An only child, abandoned by my
father, I needed a family, a home, and men. Especially men. I needed
men as mentors, heroes, role models, and as a kind of masculine
counterweight to my mother, grandmother, aunt and five female cousins
with whom I lived. The bar provided me with all the men I needed, and
one or two men who were the last thing I needed."
As the author -- a national correspondent for The Los Angeles Times
and a Pulitzer Prize winner for feature writing -- explains, in as
entertaining and enjoyable a voice as I've encountered in quite a
while, that need was met throughout his childhood, adolescence and
early adulthood by a motley crew of regulars who populate a bar run by
his Uncle Steve.
The desertion of the boy and his mother by his father, a
peripatetic radio personality the child knows only as "The Voice," a
disembodied presence he tries to find by spinning the dial, has left
him emotionally adrift, very vulnerable and hurting. Unfortunately,
this is a memoir, not a novel, which means that some of the funny
scenes -- and there are very many of them in this coming of (drinking)
age tale -- are more than a little bittersweet.
In addition to the bar and what it comes to mean to the author,
there's one other constant, his devotion to his mother. The
disappearing act of Moehringer senior not only messed up junior's life,
but also that of the boy's mother. Nonetheless, thanks to her son's
writing skills, she comes across as a very strong character who manages
to play the terrible hand dealt by her no-good husband without folding.

When things get too much for her, she's forced to move herself and
J.R. back into the aforementioned house of women, which is owned and
occupied by her mean and eccentric father. It's an establishment as
devoid of fun and good fellowship as bar is filled with it.
No matter how many times she gets defeated in her truly heroic
quest to establish a home of their own -- at one point even moving to
Arizona -- she never stops trying. Seeing this as a young child, J.R.
vows to get into a good school, become a lawyer and realize that dream.
But the further he gets drawn into the life of the bar, the more the
reader fears it will stay just that, a dream.
The bar in question, called Dickens, and then later and for much
longer Publicans, both names in tribute to the owner's Anglophilia and
his love of books and writers, is located in Manhasset, Long Island,
which Mr. Moehringer describes as "my hard-drinking hometown," and "the
backdrop for 'The Great Gatsby' . . . . We strode each day across
Fitzgerald's abandoned stage set."
The romanticism suggested by those two quotes, which appear at the
very beginning of the book, suffuses the narrative to a degree some
readers may find off-putting, especially readers who've had first-hand
experience with the casualties of the drinking wars. The great comeback
lines are everywhere, but there's hardly a black eye or a split lip in
the joint.
While all the men in "The Tender Bar" may not be good-looking (in
fact, several border on the freakish), they are all fascinating, most
of them are funny, and, with a couple notable exceptions, they are
excellent drinking buddies, nothing if not convivial.
This is exactly what draws J. R. Moehringer to the bar, well before
he's of legal drinking age. With the help of this ragtag bunch of
father substitutes, many of whom are also damaged goods, the
author-narrator manages to get his act together. He's accepted by, and
eventually graduates from, Yale, and then finagles a menial position
with The New York Times that, against great odds, leads to a tryout as
a reporter.
At that crucial point, the wheels start to come off. I won't spoil
things by revealing how it all plays out, but I do feel duty bound to
warn that when it comes to describing the drinking life, the mood of
"The Tender Bar" is closer to "Las Vegas" than "The Lost Weekend."
Enormous quantities of booze pour down the throats of the regulars
of Publicans, and though the author gets a late start because of his
youth he wastes little time overcoming that handicap. But it's not
until 26 pages from the end of the book that J.R. asks himself, "Am I a
drunk?" He wastes no time in answering, "I didn't think so. If I was
dependent on anything it was the bar. I couldn't imagine life without
it. I couldn't conceive of ever leaving. Where would I go? And if I
went, who would I be?" Who indeed.
A decade ago, Pete Hamill wrote a good book called "The Drinking
Life" which dealt with the same subject matter (his father wasn't there
for him either; he just didn't bother to leave home) but his take is
quite different. With Mr. Moehringer you get the shank of the evening,
but with Mr. Hamill it's the morning after. Perhaps it's meaningful
that two books singled out for high praise in "The Tender Bar" are "A
Fan's Notes" by Frederick Exley and J. P. Donleavey's "The Ginger Man."

Those who know them will recall that each one featured a
protagonist who, on any given day, wouldn't have a prayer of passing a
D.C. Police sobriety test. Let me put it this way: While I might give
copies of this eminently readable book to my sons, I'd probably hold
off until after the holiday season.


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Old 01-01-2006, 05:23 AM posted to rec.food.drink.beer
vincent p. norris
 
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Default "Spirited look at pleasures a favorite bar can provide"

When my mother would rag my father for stopping after work to have
a drink with "the fellas," his less-than-perfectly-logical defense was,
"It's not the alcohol, honey, it's the camaraderie." Memorist J. R.
Moehringer wouldn't just understand that response, he'd think it was
perfectly logical.


I can too! Although I'm reading this newsgroup because I enjoy beer
(and wine), I get together with a bunch (ranging from a dozen to as
many as 22) of other pilots and former pilots every Thursday for
lunch; no alcohol is consumed.

On Saturday morning, as if we hadn't already had enough of each other,
we meet at the local airport for coffee and donuts. Again, no alcohol
is consumed. We've been doing this for years.

It's the comaraderie.

Sometimes we even talk about airplanes!

vince norris
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Old 02-01-2006, 12:43 AM posted to rec.food.drink.beer
Mike
 
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Default "Spirited look at pleasures a favorite bar can provide"

vincent p. norris wrote:
When my mother would rag my father for stopping after work to have
a drink with "the fellas," his less-than-perfectly-logical defense was,
"It's not the alcohol, honey, it's the camaraderie." Memorist J. R.
Moehringer wouldn't just understand that response, he'd think it was
perfectly logical.



I can too! Although I'm reading this newsgroup because I enjoy beer
(and wine), I get together with a bunch (ranging from a dozen to as
many as 22) of other pilots and former pilots every Thursday for
lunch; no alcohol is consumed.

On Saturday morning, as if we hadn't already had enough of each other,
we meet at the local airport for coffee and donuts. Again, no alcohol
is consumed. We've been doing this for years.

It's the comaraderie.

Sometimes we even talk about airplanes!


Same with a bunch a woodworkers I get together with for KAUPHY and Doughnuts.
We seem to make it a point to rarely talk about wood.


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