The text comes in as I’m driving through Ohio back to Chicago. It’s an offer of a job at my favorite bar. I’d thought I was done with all that almost two years back when I quit the Skylark. True, I’ve done the occasional fill-in shift, but bartending every week felt like it was in the past. Yet I call back right away and say I’ll take it. It’s surprising to me how quickly I accept.
A month in it still feels right. The reviewing racket has become increasingly an uphill battle. There’s a new editor I’m miles apart from and the whole critic business has never been a perfect fit. There’s always a part of me that feels while writing a review and rendering judgments as if I’m working for the enemy, betraying the people who make things. It’s not a chicken/egg situation. In the best-case scenario, a critic can help point the way toward something good, but their writing can never be anything but secondary; a reaction rather than an action. Plenty of good work done that way but it depends on someone else to take a chance and express themselves and can’t exist without it.
As to my own efforts in that arena, they’re fine but nothing to write home about. At my best I write clearly and easily, but I can’t and won’t ever give all my heart to it. It’s sort of like going to the gym rather than playing a match to win.
With that in mind, pouring drinks becomes a more attractive way to make money. There’s no mistaking or blurring the lines with any sort of creativity. It just doesn’t use the same muscles. But just like every service industry job, it’s a great vantage point from which to look and listen.
I already wrote a bar book and doubt I’ll gather enough impressions for a second, but one never knows. I’m not there to gather material, yet it can’t help but accrue. My antennae are always up.
The fact I’ve had an art show up the first month bartending at the Rainbo Club complicates matters. When a drinker finds out I made the pictures on the walls it makes them look at me differently. They ask questions they wouldn’t otherwise. I feel exposed in a way I don’t care much for. But by the time you read this, that will no longer be a factor. The show comes down August 6th.
It’s still a new part of my weekly routine but being at the bar every Sunday at 8pm feels right. Come by and have a drink sometime.
I talked with Joe Judd about starting Myopic Books, then Tangible Books thirty years later.
Went to Nero and watched the covers for my book come out of the Heidelberg. Should have copies by the end of the month.