Friday, September 19, 2014


Quick and nearly meaningless observation that may be of some use to some of you.

Bars in small towns or super-suburban neighborhoods usually have an apostrophe in their name, a possessive to indicate that the owner has a cool, hip name and has seen a lot of the world and will sell you a kicky multi-colored cocktail and maybe you can dance.  So you get bars named "Hollywood's" or "O'Reilly's" or "Chance's."

Bars in actual cool hip places don't use the apostrophe.  The possessive isn't there.  The bar is named after a state of being and not a person.  The most famous of these is Cheers, which was actually a TV show: but note its not named Cheer's, as in There's a guy named Cheer and this is his bar, but Cheers, just the toast you give when you're drinking. 

A long time ago I used to frequent a bar in San Francisco in what's now probably called the "upper-to-mid-Market" neighborhood (or Umm) called The Lucky 13.  Great bar.  I practically lived in another bar called The Armadillo, which effectively killed my hopes of being a great graduate student.  No possessive on either, and that is, I'm now convinced, what made them great bars to drink in. 

Because here's an easy test to see whether you'll like a bar.  The test requires some time, so its not going to resolved right away.  But go into the bar's neighborhood, and listen to people talk about it.  If they use the possessive, as in "Are we going to Lucky 13's?" or "How about Armadillo's for a beer?" then they're the kind of people who drink their Bud lite with a lime and there will be a lot of popped collars in the clique. The blondes will not be dirty; the tattoos will be pretty butterflies.  Those people should go the nearest O'Reilly's or Bing's and commence to mixing.  That may be what you prefer. 

But if people put the definite article in front of the bars name - and no one ever said "The Lucky 13's", because that's just obviously dumb - then the bar shows promise.  If they shorten and use The, as in The Dillo, then they're talking about a place to go because its cool and not because the owner is some kind of goofy loser who accommodates the wealthy riff-raff.  Those are definitely stops.

One exception to this rule is the bar Rudy's, at the tale end of University Avenue in Palo Alto right next to the train station.  Rudy's is dark, malevolent and existential, a red-hued entrance to the Hell under those innocuous Venetian-style villas housing shadowy government-funded institutes on the Stanford campus, where they pass out heroin on the first day and lock you into the basement until they've sucked your soul into an intelligent dissident surveillance system.  Rudy's is just pretending to be the kind of place frat boys go to drink, in the way the funhouse entrance is often painted to look like a clown's mouth.

Otherwise, I think the theory holds.