Wednesday, June 04, 2008
Here are the ten oldest bars in America - thanks, Frank. The oldest was established in 1772. We have many older, of course, but, precisely because they have a shorter history, Americans are more impressed by antiquity. Rightly so, antiquity is impressive and the spectacle of a hundred year old building in the midst of a townscape barely a decade old is a kind of relief, a cold drink on a hot day. It would be a spectacle even more consoling if the Americans could suppress their habit of over-restoring, but there you go.
And, speaking of old bars, I went into one in Wonder Valley near 29 Palms, California. It was, I was told proudly, 50 years old. A woman, a retired firefighter with staring eyes and long grey hair, told me the story of the bar and of Wonder Valley, a barely survivable place in the High Desert. The bar was full of Hell's Angels. I went to the toilet (Why do the Americans hate the word?), not really needing to but because the staring eyes were making me dizzy. An Angel burst out of the door and growled something at me. I assumed I had been given some kind of ultimatum, something about leaving the bar otherwise shackles and dragging behind a Harley would ensue. As I got into the toilet, I suddenly realised what he had actually said - 'No paper towels!' In fact, even this startling little kindess was a kind of euphemism, there was no toilet paper either. Bikers with spikes on their jackets can be so genteel, not to mention surprisingly inhibited. Or perhaps he was just too tough to say 'bathroom tissue'.
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 5:26 am