So…let’s talk about beer.
OK, it’s not about beer, not exactly, it’s more about how to drink when you travel. More specifically, it’s about how I drink when I travel. Because, let’s face it, there are a lot of places that you can go for a pint & its best to be prepared.
Now, I’m not a hipster, I’m not that “cool,” & there is a lot of shit out there that I like that is far too “mainstream” to fall under the hipster label. I still dress like I did in high school, I still wear flannels, I still wear jeans & Doc Martins, I still like Nirvana, despite the fact that they are popular.
The hipster crowd makes my drinking strategy difficult, at least in America. Hipsters tend to know shit about shit. They are the people that like Ron Paul because they don’t know their history & history is how I like to drink.
Because of history, I like the dive bars. I like to drink where the townies drink. The hipsters get in the way of that. They like dive bars too, you know, because they are dive bars & for some reason that makes them cool & then they become popular with the hipster crowd & if you live in the community, you have to wait until they become too popular & the hipsters leave & the townies return.
What I look for when I’m out wandering are the townies.
There is a bar in England, on the Southeast side. I want to say it’s a little town called Tavistock. Tavington? Tavinstone? Tavitown? Tarliton? Fucked if I know how to spell, but I do know how to find it. It is in a nature preserve.
To find it you go off to see the moors & then you get lost as shit. Once you have absolutely no idea where you are, Tavistownshireburg is where you’re going to end up when stop for directions. It’s really easy to find, just get lost in a nature preserve & after a couple of hours on back country roads, you will happen upon it.
It’s a townie bar, because, honestly, the town is smaller than Sharon Wisconsin. If you blink, you’ll miss it. Gone.
There is a circle burned into the bar & the people that drink there are the types that will give you three routes worth of directions, confuse the hell out of you, & then tell you the story of the burn, if you want to hear about it or not.
Don’t take their directions, just ask them to show you where you are on the map & figure it out how to get to London for yourself. If you follow their directions, you’ll never find your way out of the moors.
If they tell you the story of the burn…when they tell you the story of the burn, stop & listen. Buy the narrator a pint. That’s the reason you went traveling in the first place,
It turns out that the devil came to Talrvillelockshire & he was as lost as you are. He came into the pub a few hundred years ago, ordered a pint, & asked for directions. When he drank the beer, it sounded like water thrown on a fire. Then he put the mug down, paid in silver that turned into a dead leaf, & left to go claim some soul in a nearby town.
When the bartender picked up the glass, it burned his hand & it had burned a circle onto the bar that is still there to this day.
The people in that little English hamlet will offer up the story without prompting. It’s probably the only exciting thing that had ever happened in that town. Most of the time, however, you have to ask for those stories.
Everyone has heard of the Green Mill. Well, no, everyone in Chicago has heard of the Green Mill. Capone drank there. Dillenger drank there. It was the hot spot in the heyday of gangsters. Everyone has heard of the Green Mill but no one has ever heard of Fox River Grove.
Fox River Grove is a little town due west of Chicago (as the Metra flies). It’s a small suburb in one of the collar counties. The townie bar there, just off of the Metra stop, has a history just as rich. If you ask, the townies will tell you about a shoot out, right down Route 14, between Baby Face Nelson & the FBI. Capone used Fox River Grove as a hide out. There used to be a posh hotel by the ski jump that the gangsters visited as often as they did the Green Mill. Dillenger drank there when he heard about the famous Bohemian Lodge in Wisconsin. Fox River Grove used to be a mob town & the townies know all about it & love to tell you those stories.
Those stories are the reason you travel.
In Southern Illinois, not far from Hannibal Missouri (where Mark Twain lived), there is a little town called Quincy & a townie bar not far from the square. It turns out that Lincoln & Douglass had a debate in the town square. It’s easy enough to find, there is a monument to the debate in the square. The square is the reason people like me go to small towns like Quincy.
The townies will tell you a different story.
“What can you tell me about the town?”
“We love Mormons.”
It’s not something you often hear. It turns out that, some time before the Civil War the Abolitionists & the Slave groups from Missouri fought their own little war. The battle they had involved artillery. It tore the little town of Quincy apart. When the Mormon’s came to Quincy, on their trip to Utah, they stopped to rebuild the town & then left.
There is a little statue of Brigham Young in the town square, but, again, you’ll miss it if you blink. The townies, however, will tell you all about it.
These stories are the reason I like to travel, but you don’t hear them at the tourist stops. You don’t hear them at the flash clubs or the good bars. You have to go where the beer is cheap & the people are working class folks with nothing better to do than tell each other stories.
Almost every town has a bar like that, even in the tourist traps. If you find that bar & you talk to the patrons, you hear the stories you won’t hear anywhere else. You get the hidden history & it might be a bull shit story of the devil & a pint, but it could be a story of a shoot out that cost a bank robber his life, or a story of the Mormons, marked only by a humble statue in the midst of a monument to Lincoln.
So when you travel, drink in the dive bars & townie pubs, that’s where you’ll find the best stories.