Because bars were a part of everyday life growing up, I am surprised that only recently have I got a regular, local bar. Of course, there were drinking establishments along the way, but I frequented them infrequently for hosts of reasons, and none became the local. When I retired, however, I tried on different activities to see what different activities might please now that I had extra time. I started going to some local bars. One had music on Monday nights that was quite good, but often there were other things to do on Mondays, and my visits were sporadic. I went to another place where I met some interesting people, but the bar did not have food, and I was often going out for a beer and a bite. In addition, the place had no beer on tap, and my father always told me to order the draft beer in a tavern, so I did not become a regular. I went to a few other places, but I found myself going every ten days or so to DSK.
It felt comfortable for several reasons. Although I was usually the oldest person in the place, this was not a pickup bar, and I seldom felt (too) conspicuous because of my age. It had one projection TV that was seldom on. I already had enough sports and news channels in my life. It had beer on tap, a selection of German brews, and it had German-style food that often appealed to me. Music, generally an interesting mix from a bartender’s list, played but at a low enough level that I could concentrate on a book (I always bring a book with me) or have a conversation. The discussions turned out to be the key. Not every time I was there, but often enough I would have an interesting conversation different from the kinds I had elsewhere. I was encountering kinds of people I did not meet the other areas of my life.
There have now been many amusing and informative talks—with a Buddhist monk, a retired firefighter, a public defender, German-Turkish Muslims, an opera singer, filmmakers, comedians, news writers, a couple from the South Dakota who spends the winters in New York, a militant vegan, an ad man, and more—but the conversations started with a bartender
Stuart, the bartender, was the first person I got to know in DSK. When I was there at slow times, he started talking with me. Like many New Yorkers, he was not from New York. He grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and I don’t remember how he came to New York or what his father did, but his mother was a school teacher, high school English I think. Stuart knew a fair amount about literature.
Like many who worked in the bar, Stuart had another interest besides the bar life. He, with two other guys, created humorous podcasts, which I ashamedly admit I never listened to, but I discussed often with Stuart. I learned about their concept—mostly discussions of bad movies—and how the podcasts were made and distributed.
Their podcasts were clearly successful. In the year or so that I knew Stuart, he and his two friends did several live versions at fairly large venues and sold them out. Stuart on occasion mentioned the podcasts, but not often. However, one day a young man came into the bar and asked Stuart for “Stuart.” Stuart replied that he was “Stuart.” The young man, from somewhere in the Midwest, gushed that he was a Stuart admirer because of the podcasts. On one of them, Stuart had said where he tended bar. The young man was visiting Manhattan and had made the trip to Brooklyn specifically to meet his podcast hero. He lit up when Stuart shook his hand. Stuart was self-effacing, but pleased, and I was impressed that I had a sought-out celebrity serving me a Hofbrau dunkel. I also recognized that outside DSK I knew no one who did podcasts, and I had learned something about this world because I had been going to that bar.
When Stuart and his wife opened another bar, Stuart left my local to operate the new establishment. I have not seen him since.
(To be continued sporadically)