Out with the New | William Hanigan
I am against bartenders who are younger than me. I will continue to be against bartenders who are younger than me until the day I die. When I am ninety and sitting in a bar copping feels off the waitress, I expect my bartender to be at least ninety-six years old.
I know of a bar where the owner/bartender is at least eighty-five years old. I think the place is called Johnny's, although I am not too sure about that, as there is no sign claiming it as such. The only reason I call it Johnny's is because the owner's name is Johnny. This place is old-school Chicago. When you get to it, you have to buzz at the door and wait for Johnny to peer through the window to let you in. If he is occupied at the moment, you buzz then wait around a while, because Johnny is not exactly the fastest thing in the world. Once you're inside the place try not to dance, because the floors are uneven and the jukebox has a listing of songs that even the most obscure music lover is left dizzy over. Also, when you order your second drink, try to have at least half of your first drink left in front of you. Johnny takes his time.
But the truth of the matter is, Johnny has some of the best stories in town. The guy has seen it all, and if you probe enough you might get a couple of those tales out of him. Not that Johnny gives a damn either way. He's been running this joint longer than I have been alive.
That's one of the reasons I like my bartenders older than me. When they kick me out or just plain ignore me, it's not out of some wanted coolness. They truly don't care about my presence. The feeling of indifference is calming to me. If my bartender gives a crap about me, he is more likely to tell me to stop killing myself with the amount of booze I drink. A younger bartender might ignore you because he thinks you look like someone he doesn't like.
Also, a younger bartender has not lived long enough to have better stories than me. A younger bartender talks more than he should, and usually has opinions about everything under the sun and is damn sure you want to hear about them.
Like all of my theories, I have tested this one over and over. (I am a very diligent researcher when it comes to this magazine.)
Recently, I have been able to test my theory on a daily basis. Moving out of my apartment and into a different neighborhood, I have not been able to go to my old local, Joe's on Broadway, as much as would like.
Fortunately for me, my new local is in my apartment building. Unfortunately for me, my new local sucks the big one.
Strolling into my new local, I discovered that the bartender was younger than me. (I soon found out that all three of the bartenders are younger than me.) I went to the bar with my book and ordered an Old Style and a shot.
“No Old Style. Do people still drink that?” the bartender asked.
“I was just kidding. I bet you have Amstel Light though.”
“Coming up,” he said.
The Cubs and White Sox were both already on when I walked in (something that only happened at Joe's when Roger worked), and the sound was on the Cubs (something that always happened at Joe's).
I decided comparisons would get me nowhere. I had to just try and enjoy my new surroundings. I decided to talk baseball with him.
“So who do you like, the Cubs or the White Sox?” I asked him.
“I don't follow baseball,” he said.
Spitting out my drink and coughing, I said, “Pardon?”
“I don't follow baseball. It's just not that exciting,” he said.
“Can I have two more shots, please?”
“Who are ya buying the other one for?” he asked.
“Myself,” I said.
“Hey,” he said, smiling and pouring the shots, “we got ourselves a drinker.”
I opened up my book between the innings.
“Whatcha reading?” the bartender asked.
“It's a how-to on serial killing.” I paid my tab and left.
I was going to go home, but the games were still on and I wasn't that tired. I walked a block or two until, almost instinctively, I jumped in a cab and headed for Joe's.
When I walked in John was behind the bar. He turned his head and said, “Shit! I thought we got rid of you!” He walked over with my beer and a shot.
“You're a funny guy, John,” I said. “Can you put on the Sox for me?”
God it felt good to be home again.