April 13

Only other guy at the bar is thirtysomething and says to the bartender, tall woman all frecklespeckled with red hair, he’s surprised by how relaxed it is in here. He says this is his first visit.

“Place looks so fancy,” he says, “everytime I get near it I feel like I gotta book.”

She shrugs, wiping the counter in fast circles, “We’re not so fancy.”

He asks where she’s from.

“Virginia. What about you, you’re Cuban?”

“Yeah but I was born in New York.”

“I lived there for a while.”

He grins and does some clicking thing with his mouth. “It’s the best, I miss it.”

Bar tender puts a tender hand on the small of her back while straightening, and tossing the rag into the liquor well, exhaling. Strain of work written in her posture, her breathing, sweaty face. “Ahdunno.” She shakes her head slowly and looks either tired or defeated. “Wish it wasn’t so expensive.”

April 12

You’re in here for happy hour just to sate a two-year curiosity, even though it’s clear from just the front room that you can’t afford it. The place has thick green carpet and emanates class and the meals seem to start at $22 but all the men here are in shorts or jeans or t-shirts or fairly-casual button-downs.

Sit at the bar with your $6 Miller and flip through your phone after a quick glance around. Photos of famous people and of newspaper clippings are framed and hanging everywhere. Some loud guys in shorts at a corner table are talking about a judge. Golf is muted on a TV over the bar. Pink Floyd playing from overhead speakers at so low a volume it’s almost pointless. Take out your phone, start scrolling. Couple minutes later one of the grayhaired bros int he corner slaps the table and lets out a clipped cackle.

“It’s not Smoke,” he says. He’s remonstrating a friend. “Snoke. Lord Emperor Snoke.”

April 11. Didn’t We All.

The two of them, off now by themselves, came in as a group of six, probably straight from the office, and even though they’re still sitting with the group you can feel how they’ve kinda removed themselves.

The other people in their party have turned inward toward their new grouping of four. It’s the kinda scene where you can tell that the other four have been trying to get these two together. Maybe it’s the whole reason for the happy hour outing.

He’s explaining something to her, longwinded, and at the end of it she seems more curious than impressed when she says, “You know a lot about bars.”

Lifting his beer he says, “Yeah.” Coy in a way that might or might not be sincere.

“Were you a waiter?”

Sets his glass down. Beer from the tap. Pausing to swallow. “That’s the part I actually don’t like to talk about so much.” He clears his throat and makes a gesture with his shoulders like he’s a guy with a troubled past or something. “I actually…” dramatic pause for a weary sigh, “I used to have a business…”

April 8. Talkative.

You’re back in the habit of listening to podcasts for the first time in years and find that it makes for pleasant company at bars. Kevin Smith in particular. If gab is a gift, he’s got it. You listen to his stuff when you’re sober and marvel at how seamless he is, moving from topic to topic, and how he just takes off, soon as he’s prompted, and talks without cease and with so much energy, urgency, humor, comfort. Then you drink and he gets funnier.

You wish you could do this. Talk so well.

Start thinking about talking and about the friends of yours who are good at it, and don’t you even sometimes find a bad speaker interesting? Sure. Often. You cross paths with a few of them at work or the coffee shop. They speak in cliches and they’re the bad kind of vulgar and they’re narrowminded and short on vocab — but they’ve got energy. Character. You’d like to hear them talk with an option to pause, and without actually having to engage.

It’s one of those weeknights where everyone at the bar is by themselves, dressed for work, scrolling their phones. Smirking at something they read. Place feels alive with the lighting and the music and the twelve TVs on blast.

Takes a minute, coming up from the podcast, to realize nobody’s really actually talking.

Which is fine. To have a place where you can go and relax and be respected without having to talk.


The maitre’d points you toward a narrow door you hadn’t noticed when you first came in. It blends in with the wall. Ask him where it goes and he gives you a tough look, hands you a card, walks away.

Cross the lobby and go through the door and inside there’s a phone on the wall.

On the card there’s a number. 0424. Dial it.

Phone rings twice and then, on the other end, the loveliest voice:

Thousand Movie Project.”

April 7. Crystal Ball.

You and this other guy who do standup have a seat at the venue, each with a drink, and he says he’s reached two conclusions about you. “And you tell me if I’m wrong.”

“Sure.”

“The first is that you’re pretty smart.”

“Thanks.”

“Second one, no offense, is that you’re probably the least successful of your friends.”

April 4. Keep it to Yourself.

Lunch with dad at an Argentine restaurant that the family hasn’t been to in years but that once upon a time was maybe a monthly staple. Early on a Friday evening we’d come here as a family and complain about the bread being stale and as a kid I’d get the cherry off my mom’s tres leches. One night when the manager noticed the trend he started bringing me a plate of cherries for dessert. You were little then but not very. All through the meal you’d be checking your watch because you didn’t wanna miss ABC’s Friday-night kid-centric programming. Boy Meets World, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, a show about a genie that you can’t remember the name of.

Dad asked a few minutes ago if you were upset about something but you’re not and you tell him you’re not but he doesn’t believe you. Drink a beer and now you seem fine. Have another beer and you’re finer still.

He follows you to the house afterward to pick up some stuff. He hasn’t been here in weeks and asks lots of questions about it. In the driveway he seems sad for a minute and then starts saying indiscreet things to make that sadness clear. Hugs you too long, says he misses having someone to drink wine with.

Leaves.

April 1

A few years ago I started a blog that focused on stuff I saw and overheard at bars, and I had lots of fun with it, but, for a handful of reasons from the past couple years, I’ve let it languish. In those couple years since I was actively posting I think I’ve changed and that I have a better sense of how to write these things.

For the month of April I’ll be posting to View from the Bar every night at 10 pm (DST). They’ll be quick entries for somebody who, getting out of work late like I do, might be sitting at the bar, alone, and for lack of company find themselves in the mood for it. My hope is that it does catch you when you’re by yourself, whether in bed or on the couch or at the bar, and that our solitude, paired, might mix well.