Monday, October 4, 2010

Bars Across America by John Greenfield

( John Greenfield is a fine journalist, unquestionably the most important writer covering bicycle related issues in Chicago (which may seem trivial until you consider that civil rights, vehicular homicide, and a surprising amount of bike messenger related underground rock music is in the mix). As a solid writer obviously it’s not going to be a chore reading a book he wrote, but there is one major problem with this tome…John Greenfield is a good human being. While that’s usually a plus, if you’re going to write a book about drinking it doesn’t really work out. I’ve certainly seen Greenfield in dozens of bars in Chicago, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen him drunk, and if I have he must have been a pleasant drunk. But literary imbibing pretty much has to involve out of control scumbaggery. Sure, we love Bukowski’s intellect, sense of language, and gritty misdeeds, but we wouldn’t want to be anywhere near that asshole. Greenfield does not have the chaotic vibe that makes a drinking/bar book riviting. Early on in this book (a chronicle of the author, along with various short term companions, riding his bike across the country and visiting bars in each state on his route), Greenfield’s girlfriend is perturbed by some loud singing neighbors at a campsite. Now we’ve all seen Animal House and know exactly what the proper drunken response it to an annoying acoustic guitar jam. But Greenfield goes over and politely asks them to keep it down. He even, seemingly without derision, compliments them on their choice of Smashing Pumpkins cover tunes. That is not how an out of control AA-reject would handle that situation. Of course, Greenfield is the right guy to (soberly) recommend a bar or restaurant, and as a guide book this has value. His aversion to corporate, trendy, new-fangled bars and attraction to neighborhood, old-timey, character-rich dives means I may bring this along when I travel (not by bike, however), and this book also makes a good case for the value and possibilities of bonding with your dad on bike trips. But if you want to read a book about Biking While Intoxicated and having bike brawls in bike(r) bars, this may not ring your bell. Or spin your wheels. Or change your inner tube. Sorry, I’m bad with bike metaphors.

No comments:

Post a Comment