Taking the Bar

As a regular contributor to this blog (I hesitate to use the word “writer”), I have developed a certain sensitivity to how words are used and arranged, and my current reading of Les Misérables has exposed me to a high level of both. This sensitivity, however, means I find poor use of text that much more offensive, and near the top of the list of misused missives is the tagline for Browns Social House:

Restaurant. Bar. Socialize.

I have ranted to friends about this before and I’m trying very hard to prevent this post from dissolving into another one. Now, I am not trained in marketing or branding, but it seems to me a better tagline would read:

Restaurant. Bar. Social House.

or

Eat. Drink. Socialize.

To combine nouns and verbs, as Browns dares to do, is awkward at best, and confusing at worst. I used to boycott the Browns Social House across the street, this grammatical faux-pas besting my appetite on every occasion, but convenience and televised sports eventually wore me down. As such, I ventured into Browns last night to watch the BC Lions and left with a new understanding of both social houses and community.

I used to scoff at the ingenuous interaction that flies around the bar, the painfully absurd displays men employ to impress the girls behind the bar, and the bonding that happens over something so trivial as a fondness for alcohol. This was the scene that greeted me as I took the last seat at the bar, which had a great view of a NCAA football game between LSU and Alabama, but no view of the Lions‘ game. Eschewing my usual tendency to keep to myself, and eager to see some CFL football, I asked the middle-aged guy beside me if he was actually watching the NCAA game. It turned out he was an American here on business and extremely invested in the game (of course), but he was willing to change the channel, recognizing that he was the minority. I declined his offer, and implored him to lay out the context of the match so I could join in his investment. In short order, we were joking around, him dispensing tips of the game and life-advice while slapping me on the back, and calling me “Bud“.

During this cross-cultural experience, I was introduced to Mike, a late-thirties man I’d seen several times in Browns and in Starbucks (and he confirmed as much) but had never met. In past sightings, I had noticed his taste in shoes, for I have a couple of the same, and I mentioned this as we shook hands. We got to talking about footwear and he pulled out his phone to show me a picture of his latest purchase. The three of us exchanged jovial banter until I noticed that some seats had opened up on the other side of the bar where I could better view the Lions’ game. Eager to watch a familiar and superior form of football (cue the arguments!), I excused myself and sat down between two vacant seats.

To my left, next to the empty chair, was a typical Bar Star: short cropped, gel-spiked hair, Ed Hardy knock-off T-shirt, obscenely huge arms, and a collection of jewelry as tasteless as his comments to the bartender. I did not strike up conversation with him.

Instead I got to talking to Gary, another middle-aged man who sat down to my right shortly after I pulled up my seat. We chatted about football for a while then, since the game was turning into a blowout and the music was getting louder, I decided to make my exit. As I gathered my things, Gary shook my hand with the salutary, “Nice to meet ya, Jay. Take it easy, bud!” On my way out, I patted Mike on the back, “See ya ’round, Mike!” He turned and stopped me mid-stride to shake my hand before I left, “Yeah, nice to meet you Jay!”

Overall, my interaction with these guys didn’t amount to anything other than the usual social house repartee, but you know what? I enjoyed it. I didn’t expect to, but I got something out of jumping in and engaging the others at the bar. Sharing a drink and conversation with strangers, discussing nothing heavier than the injured players on the home team, in a bar where everyone is named Bud – this was all something of a personal experiment in my ongoing crusade of personal development, and a successful one at that. It taught me that community is a varied and colourful word. It taught me that engaging only with close friends, while fulfilling and valuable in its own right, can leave overall social development lacking. It taught me the value in accepting others, not just where they are, as if progression determines worth, but simply because they are, and that that’s how you build community.

I also learned that I better engage with others after a bit of alcohol, and that maybe that’s true for everyone at Browns.  It is, after all, a Restaurant, Bar, and Socialize.

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About jaybrandsma

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3 Responses to Taking the Bar

  1. Kristin says:

    such a great entry, Jay. It never ceases to amaze me the joy and inner warmth that comes from taking the time to step outside my social boundaries and chat to the person next to me. I’m trying to take more time and be present when I’m walking on the street or on the bus instead of listening to music or playing with my phone. We thrive on interaction and connection, and you never know… you might just make someone’s day by saying ‘Hi’ with a smile. :)

  2. Liv says:

    Well said Jay! Not being a part of ‘a couple’ these past 8 years, has brought awareness to the fact of how much I value, not only those I love and deeply care for, but also those I randomly encounter and have the pleasure of enjoying conversation of the daily news or a common interest in a sports team. Thanks for writing this!

  3. Mark Witten says:

    Nouns and verbs. Now it’s going to bother me too!

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