The other day some friends were discussing which bar to go to on a Saturday night. “Hey, how about such-and- such bar?”

“I hate that bar,” I said.

“What about that place over on Fullerton?”

“Latenight place?” another friend said.

“God, I hate that place,” I said.

“What about the joint on the West Side with the cute little waitress who wears those halter tops?” they tried.

“I look forward to a prostate exam more than I do going back to that place,” I said.

“What type of bar do you like to go to?” one friend asked.

Another friend answered for me: “Cheap beer and no women.”

A laugh was had by all at my expense, but there was more to it than a little joke. I couldn't help but think that my friend was right. Almost all the bars I like have cheap booze and no women hanging out there. I hate the yuppie crowd, but not as much as the yuppie crowd that doesn't know they're yuppies. I hate discos and boom-boom music scene. The idea of seeing a band playing anything other than jazz annoys me. I am twenty-eight years old, a teacher by trade and I drink Old Style beer. I am not going to a bar that is the equivalent of a bumper car rally and wait in line more than ten minutes to get a five-dollar home brew with a piece of fruit floating in it.

At my local, the old timers get going about this and that and everything under the sun. They've been drinking together so long that there are inside jokes, half sentences and lots of break-out laughter when certain names are simply brought up. They don't do it all the time, but when they get going, I like to be around.

My favorite thing they talk about is old Chicago bars. When they get going on this one, I sit on the edge of my stool and wait for any tidbit of information on the story of my favorite bar I've never been to: the Midget Bar.

The Midget bar closed down in the seventies and was somewhere on 63rd Street. There was a midget bouncer, a midget bartender and, maybe, a midget owner. The bar and the bar stools were half as tall as a regular bar. Everything in the place was set up for little people. The Midget bar was exactly what it advertised, a bar for midgets.

When I hear this story, something inside of me burns with envy for anyone who has ever been there. When the old timers finish the story of the midget bar, I always drift off and daydream about being able to go to the velvet shorty lounge. I can picture it all in my head.

It is the same as my local only smaller. Most of the clientele are men, but there is a woman or two. Every now and then a married couple comes in. They know the bartender, they laugh and tell stories with him. The atmosphere is friendly. Autographed pictures of Eddie Gaedel decorate the walls. (April 19 was the 50th anniversary of his historic little at-bat for the St. Louis Browns.) Every once in a while, I will play darts, but I have to play on my knees and the marble floor hurts too much to play too often. Mostly I talk with everyone. I love to hear the stories. At midnight, every night, the bar plays Randy Newman's “Short People”—an anthem of sorts.

 I imagine taking a date to the midget bar. Introducing her to all my midget friends. Maybe she enjoys a game of knee-darts. She even flirts with a couple of the locals and dances a tune or two with them.

 I'd be a giant amongst kings.

The closest thing to a bar in Chicago with that much character is a place in Lincoln Park. Although I've never been there, I've spent several nights wandering the area trying to find it. The place is called Tommy's; it's run by a guy named Tom. The thing is, it's not a bar. It's Tom's house. The story is that Tom put a neon sign in his front window, put a bar in his living room, and whenever he's home, he opens his front door and any schmuck off the street can come in for a drink. Whatever is in the fridge is what Tommy is serving. For anyone who has always wanted to own a bar but didn't want to deal with all the hassle, Tom has found the ultimate loophole.

Chicago is a bar town. If you are looking for a certain type of bar, chances are you'll find your niche. My thing has always been character. I like my bars to have strange history, weird patrons and cheap booze. And although I love the city and I love the bars I go to, I sometimes I can't help but miss some of the bars the old timers talk about. I wonder which bar would have been my favorite. I wonder where I'd want to go on a Saturday night back then, in a different time.

I love my local, but sometimes I wish it were just a little bit smaller. 

More by William Hanigan...>
COMMENTARY | POETRY | FICTION | CHICAGO         ARCHIVES | REVIEWS | ABOUT | SUBMISSIONS | ALERTS | BOOKSHOP | SUPPORT | CONTACT |Poectionary.htmlPoectionary.htmlPoectionary.htmlContact.htmlArchives.htmlReviews.htmlContrary.htmlSubmissions.htmlSubscriptions.htmlBookshop.htmlWritersFund.htmlContact.htmlshapeimage_3_link_0shapeimage_3_link_1shapeimage_3_link_2shapeimage_3_link_3shapeimage_3_link_4shapeimage_3_link_5shapeimage_3_link_6shapeimage_3_link_7shapeimage_3_link_8shapeimage_3_link_9shapeimage_3_link_10shapeimage_3_link_11