“Alcohol is probably one of the greatest things to arrive upon the earth,” Charles Bukowski once said. Of course, in Bukowski fashion he added, “alongside of me.”
But he was on to something. The drinking life has us by the horns, and it ain’t easy to escape—nor do we all want to. Every night of the week we pour in and out of our favorite holes—our reasons are all different, the methods all the same. It’s a human desire, visceral need. A coping mechanism, a dangerous catalyst of courage. You banned it. We did it anyway. You can’t take it away from us. Prohibition didn’t work.
The smell of the bar. My father, after a long day of putting on roofs, took me to our neighborhood Chicago bar to play darts, a 6-year-old surrounded by these dirt-fingered men. The ale, the nuts, the overwhelming cigarette smoke. I never lost that smell. Ten years later my friends and I, snotty, cocky teenagers out looking for trouble, stumbled into another neighborhood joint—the one with no name, just the Old Style sign—asking the patrons if they wanted to put some money on a foosball game. They stared hard at our youth. The smell was there. The stench of hard years. “You don’t even know, kid,” their faces told us. We were out the door. I’ll never forget it.
The following is our ode to the night—and morning—of the drinking lifers. Long live Benedict’s. Children on the loose. Sip all day and all night. Tip your doorman. Find love. Lose it.
These are the lessons we learn from the Chicago days of wine and roses. (Tom Lynch)