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On Solo Barcrawls

Christopher Martin'sOne of the most interesting things that’s happened since Jillian began her career as hostess at the hottest restaurant in town, with her new friends, neon lights, cosmopolitans, and fabulousness, is that I am spending a lot of time by myself. We work completely opposite hours, now, with her heading off to work at about the time I am getting done, at night. And though I have never been a fan of going to bars solo, I find that when 11:00 at night comes around, and boredom sets in, it is something I am doing more and more. Many of the problems I had with drinking solo (feigning interest in the game on the TV, staring straight ahead, looking only at your reflection in the bar mirror) have gone away, however, with my recent trips to Christopher Martin’s.

I don’t love Christopher Martin’s. The scene? Generic bar, carved into a commercial space on State street. The crowd? Meatheady New Haven dudes, shouting, wet, and too drunk. The bartenders? Friendly as all hell, but no buybacks. But what sets Christopher Martin’s apart, is it seems to be a bar where a LOT of people go by themselves. Indeed, you can go there by yourself, but you won’t be by yourself for long. The fella next to you will engage you in conversation after only a few moments of size-up time…fake knowledge in the Barry Bonds home run breaking record, and you’re in. And you probably have a friend for life…or at least, for the duration of your sit. I also discovered the wonderfully deadly combination of Black Label on the rocks with a Stella back…perfectly refreshing, $10 a round (god bless New Haven bar prices), and two is enough to do you.

But the best part of my solo bar-crawling has been the unexpectedly pleasurable experience of walking into a bar, dead sober, late at night. It is only under those circumstances that you can truly appreciate the tiny dramas that are playing out through the entire room. Like tonight, for instance, when there was a tiny Mexican (who, rumor had it, used to be a busboy at Dempsey’s), who was asking strangers in broken Spanish if they would buy him another beer after the bartender had cut him off. This little fella was the kind of late-night bar treasure everyone loves, but few are sober enough to remember. Walking around, incomprehensible, the sad delight of everyone in the room. And, friends, that is not the kind of thing you notice if you’ve been in the bar since 5PM with the rest of the patrons. It only makes sense and takes a special place in your heart if you are witnessing it dead sober, late (for this town) as it may be.

Bars are special places, and are completely different based on what state you choose to enter them in, the crowd you are with (if any), and how long you choose to stay. I think if I ever fall into full blown alcoholism, which is inevitable with my DNA, one of the biggest problems I will have is that I really genuinely like drinkers. A bunch of guys, sitting around a public space, all running from something or someone…and, thanks to the alcohol, not too shy to say hello to a sympathetic ear. Though I got over my Bukowski phase a long, long time ago, there is a certain honesty here…one that will keep me coming back, alone or in groups, for a long, long time.

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