My bar cohorts
The theme of my dinners in Sacramento was Sitting Alone at a Bar. Now, I don’t mind this at all. When I travel by myself, I usually sit at the bar because I like being close to the service and chatting if I feel like it. I always bring a book in case I need to send the “leave me alone” vibe. I also don’t want to take up a whole table from a server, even a 2-top, because I know that my tab won’t make for a very good tip. The only risk of being by myself is that I might attract the random weirdo, but thankfully, with the exception of one creepster, my bar cohorts in Sacramento were very pleasant.
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On my first night, after ordering my dinner at Grange, I pulled out my old, used copy of Gone with the Wind. The bartender noticed and asked, “Are you reading at a bar? Like an actual book?”
“Yeah, I flew over from the east coast today, and I just had to go to a networking event.”
“Oh, okay, I’ll leave you alone, then.” He turned to wipe something down.
“It’s okay,” I said quickly, “I won’t read until I get my food.”
The bartender came over and examined my book. “Gone with the Wind! Whoa. I’m more surprised that you aren’t using an e-reader. I love mine. I read so much more because of it.”
At this, I perked up. I love hearing about other people’s books. “Really? What are you reading?”
“I just finished a book called Just Kids,” he said. Yes, I nodded, I’d heard of that one. “Yeah, it’s by Patti Smith. I really liked it.”
Then my porcini gnocchi came, so I held the book in my left hand and ate with my right.
- – - – -
I was signing for the bill when the guy next to me said, “Gone with the Wind! At a bar? That’s kind of heavy.”
I could tell that he and his buddy had been waiting for me to put the book down, so I laughed and said, “Yeah, but I’m here for work, so I just wanted to relax.”
Then, the inevitable question: “What do you do?”
And the spiel: I’m a medical writer. I write articles that appear in medical journals. I’m here for a medical writing conference. I finished the elevator speech with my usual conclusion, “It’s okay, everyone thinks it’s boring.”
The guy said, “Everyone thinks my job is boring! I work for the state legislature.”
“Oh. Well, I don’t think that’s that boring.”
- – - – -
The next night, at River City Brewing Company, I ordered a flight of beer samples and proceeded to work my way through them. First, I went in order of lightest to heaviest, but once I determined which ones I liked and didn’t like, I finished the ones I liked least first. That is, I started with the IPA. Ick.
The older man to my right knew the staff by first name, and they all greeted him warmly — clearly a regular. He noticed my systematic beer tasting and said, “So you’re a real beer nut, eh?”
“No,” I shook my head. “My husband’s the real beer nut. I’m still learning, though.”
The man pointed to a shorter guy behind the bar, and said, “That’s Brian, the brewmaster here.”
“Yeah. Hey, Brian!” he called to the guy. “Come here! This lady’s learning about beer!”
Oh, my. I was a little intimidated. Brian came to our part of the bar, and I got to talk to him about how long he’d been the brewmaster at River City, what he thought their best beers were, and how it felt to win prizes. He even pulled some brewing magazines for me to take home to JG. I told Brian how I’m not a real beer nut. It’s more like, I figured out what I like (wheats, Belgians) and don’t like (anything hoppy), so now I know how to order.
At the mention of my taste for Belgians, Brian leaned in and said, “You know, I made a Belgian white for a staff wedding coming up soon. It’s in a secret keg, but I’ll give you a taster of it.”
Sure enough, he opened a steel cabinet in the back side of the bar, filled a small glass from the keg within, and slid it to me. I would have enjoyed the beer under any circumstances, but knowing that it was a secret beer made it even better.
The bartender noticed the surreptitious, extra glass and said, “Well, you might as well try the Oktoberfest, too.” That was the only other beer on tap that I hadn’t tried yet. Okay, then!
- – - – -
About halfway through my rosemary portobello pizza, with the Rams/Cardinals game on in the background, I sort of asked the bar if the quarterback from the Cardinals was the same one who used to be on the Eagles. They had the same last name, but I couldn’t remember what the first name was. The guy on my left said, “You know more about this game than I do. Are sports your thing?”
“No, not really.”
“You don’t play sports? No volleyball, soccer…?”
“No,” I said firmly. “I can’t catch, throw, hit, or kick a ball correctly. But I’m a pretty good sport spectator.”
Then he asked, “So if sports aren’t your thing, what is your thing?”
Interesting question! I said that reading was my thing. “I’m always reading. I have a book with me now, but I haven’t had to take it out.”
As it turns out, this guy loves historical books. He rattled off a handful of war books I’d never heard of, but he had never read Unbroken! Unacceptable. I gave a brief, eager summary of the book as the guy finished his drink, and by the time he settled up his tab, I convinced him that he should read it. “I’ll remember that, Unbroken,” he said.
“And Seabiscuit is good, too!”
I can never leave well enough alone.