There are bars, and then there are bars.
Most of them tend to be the ones where try as you and the whiskey might, the taste of A4 paper and the scent of drying permanent marker ink just does not leave you. And whatever you wear, or who you go home with, it doesnt matter- lights or bass-thumping darkness, smoke or air conditioning, the music plays but it doesn't play YOU; it dribbles by over your shoes like an old labrador around lunch time, and the absurdity increases because however far gone you are, you can still count off tomorrow's things to-do list.
See, this lacks magic. And it's boring.
A good bar is like a good cocktail- rare. Too much ice, too much sugar, or too much alcohol, and what you have is not a relaxing evening but under-dressed overloud women who speak too much, men who look like they've discovered a black hole at the bottom of their highball, and waiters who are try too hard to be Jeeves.
[NB- All those who think over-friendly waiters should be issued a restraining order, please raise your hands, NOW. Geez: Just remember my usual, mate and have-a-done with enquiring after my mother's sister's cousin's pooch, already!! Mumblegrumble...]
Hm. I'm not quite sure why, but perfectly sane, ordinary people (the kind who carefully look around to make sure no one's watching when they slyly rub the incredibly itchy nostril) turn into B-grade extras from a kylie minogue video the moment they enter an.. erm... "pub".
Forgive the hesitancy. See, its like this- Chennai has particularly amusing liquor laws. Thanks to the ins-and-outs of this legal system, it is only permissible for watering-holes to exist on the premises of hotels. Thus we chennaites, we have no Pecos... we have no Styx... we have no Hash.
What we do have are attached bars. Oh, goody.
But even with this atmosphere of over-smiling Australian tourists and badly disguised minors [viewing school juniors can give one a depressing sense of aging, really]....
Even with the curious "auntie" who has wandered over to have a vicarous peek inside the... erm... Den of Debauchery which you unluckily waddled out to that same wednesday night- The same Den of Debauchery btw, happens to be right next to the thai restaurant where the aforementioned "auntie", not to mention "uncle" AND uncle's sister from Canada have all come for a family dinner....
Even with all these convivial features, these attached bars aren't particularly bad. Except that they all close at 11:45pm. Oh yup. High spirits are frowned upon post 11:45pm here [Ye heard me, O ghost of Christmas Past? None of that supernatural soul-saving here, please. Its past 11:45 already].
In fact, in a moment of inspiration, while in the company of like-minded sophists, I even coined a term: The Pumpkin Quarter.
The Pumpkin Quarter- (N)The time between the last drink served and the purposeful waving of the bill in front of your bewildered nose. Specifically, 23:45pm-00:00am. Other characteristics of the Quarter are the sudden appearance of ceiling lights that had been absent all evening, and the beginnings of vocals n' guitars which sound suspiciously like Bryan Adams.
Thus- No bacchanalian revelry for us good little south indians. The government would rather that from these attached bars the bemused, beglittered crowd disperse to private parties within the city and on ECR, and hey- if there HAPPENS to be alcohol served, they don't see it, so all is well.
Sigh. Mum's right. Why go at all? Might as well stay at home, and argue over the rights of annexation of the remote. Or might as well just stick to the private parties, oui?
The mind rebels- what of one's need of atmosphere, of frosted glasses, of over-played Lounge music and of amusement?
-Because one must admit, there's nothing funnier watching the occasional straight-haired aphrodite bravely battle her way through experimentation with purty-coloured cocktails. Tee hee.
[Evil, that bloody goblin is. Someone tell his mother he needs a spanking. Hmpf.]
Anyway, the truth is one needs to walk into the night of neon light and music and talk and taste and way too many versions of davidoff. It doesn't happen often for me: a cable connection and free messaging usually soothes the need to go walkabout. But sometimes, you need to get out of the house. And thats all because just one annoying thing that try as you might, you can't ignore forever.
It sneaks up on you certain wednesday mornings.
it spits toothpaste on your pyjama sleeve, and makes sure your coffee is too sweet. It causes you to chew pencil ends listlessly, till everything suddenly tastes like Staedler 4B.
And then you begin to wonder about everything from post-it plans to regrets to the uncrossed out names on your hitlist. And you start to grey and you start to grumpify and nothing mum or your boyfriend can do can fix things. It pins you down with comp reboots and laughs cynically at your hair.
Its called the blues. Not the musical variety. The wednesday morning version is tone deaf. And secretly harbours vile intentions of dropping your ipod down the toilet.
Times like this, there's only one thing that can help you break on through to the other side-
Let go. Drop the remote, get dressed, get in the car with your friends and- drive. Fool-proof plan. Sometimes even an attached bar can give one the champagneish lift out of the dumps.
Most times, for me that means the leather bar at the Park here in chennai.
Geez- you need to be there. Most nights there's an air of docile palcidity about it. A design/concept hotel, its patrons belong to one of the most diverse demographics I've yet to encounter. Here you will not only get the overweight Mr. Murugan dressed in spotless white with his customary gold watch, sapiently answering his shiny ericsson which sings in polyphonic celebration of The tamil cinema, but also the young sindhi gentleman who's just discovering the nuances of how to impress the girl with one's ability to order at the bar [the 13th task of Hercules, and a rites of passage, Im told.]
In short- the punjabi business clients from soho, the cousin from Chicago, the latest smiling [and of course korean] additions to the Hyundai empire, the visiting exchange students, the sheepish movie star, the concept pop band put together by a huffing-puffing music channel and your friend's dad.... they all come here. And why not? The dj has absolute sovereignity over his music and guards his discs better than Cerberus could... thus one is sure that the bass-heavy, didgeridooed sloka one is hearing is "for your ears only". Ha. The new age table-candles are temperamental, the waiters drssed in body snuggling black [its the "leather" bar. Yes. Oh yup, their belts have studs.]
and aye, they make a passable mojito. Pronounced moe-hee-toe.
Mojitos taste like cuban women who take time over choosing what perfume to wear, and latino men in whom you can make out the salsa even while they're crossing the street.
[Of course, I've never seen the specie. But one must believe, yes? Faith and such.]
A mojito makes you think of dancing in the moonlight, all of you, the entire tribe. It turns placid domesticity into a place where everyone opens their eyes all together for the first time that night, and they smile. And it doesn't matter how ugly loaded powerful recognised or not the people around you are. Everything gets calmer, the music sounds better. Don't just take my word for it though: ask the professionals.
And you realize- quite sober- that everyone's carrying the same stories. They've all left behind unbalanced teenagers and cheque-books. They've all got in-laws who would make splendid target practice if one were learning to use a crossbow. Everyone's been duped, insulted, used, laughed at, made love to and asked for a second chance. And in a pretty old world, at 11:43pm, thats a nice thought.
And as you're standing out there in a sweltering Madrasi night, waiting for your friend's ride, you can't help but hum to yourself-
"I believe in the sand beneath my toes
The beach gives a feeling an earthy feeling
I believe in the faith that grows
And the four right chords can make me cry
When I’m with you I feel like I could die
And that would be all right, all right"
- Third Eye Blind, 'Semi-Charmed life'.
PS: To make a mojito, here's what you'll need:
2½ oz. light rum
1 tbsp. simple syrup
mint leaves (8 or so sprigs worth)
spoon, or some other utensil that can be used to mash the mint leaves
Saturday, April 23, 2005
There are bars, and then there are bars.
Posted by The Wizard of Odd at 8:12 AM