Bartender Wisdom 3
Originally published in FlagLive on June 23, 2016.
It’s been about nine years since I began writing the Bartender Wisdom column for FlagLive. Back then, Penelope Bass was the assistant editor and the person who conceived of a bimonthly advice column by a bartender, a Dear Abbey of sorts with whiskey. It seemed intriguing, but I had one reservation: Who the hell wants advice? In all of my years bartending, I’ve never known anyone who really wants advice. A person might ask for advice. A person might nod and listen to advice. A person might even believe they are going to act on that good advice. But it doesn’t work that way.
The other day I was walking by Blackhound Gallery and looking at various shirts, posters, and oddities in their store window. I spotted a black T-shirt that read: “What do you call a person who always ask you for advice, but doesn’t take it?” Answer: “An askhole.” Indeed, no one wants to be told what to do. So with that dilemma, how is one to write an advice column for a few weeks, much less a decade? Tell stories. That’s what Penelope and I came up with. I’d retell some stories, put together questions that I found other people raising at the pub, look at what seems to be on folks’ collective minds. Basically, I’d listen and report.
On this warm summer afternoon, as I reflect upon and glance through old columns electronically (about 200,000 words worth – about twice that never made it to print and was cut) I’m amazed at how much the arts and literature find their way into the columns. In our little Mountain Town, we have a plethora of outdoor things to do: world class mountain biking and trail running, camping, hiking, sports that can be done throughout the four seasons (five including the monsoon season). Even with all the fuel for the body, the mind takes a prominent role in the conversations I’ve heard over the years. Perhaps, this shouldn’t be surprising at all. Ancient Greek or Chinese cultures never seem to divide the body from the mind, and in fact, healthy bodies and minds tend run together. So with this reflection on the past and listening to the energy of the present, I’ve constructed this summertime list of some cautiously given advice to take or not take, as you see fit.
- Get up early. Get outside early. While it’s not 119 degrees, like in Phoenix, it’s still hot and the sun at this altitude burns the skin quickly. No reason not to hit the trails though. My wife consistently gets out and runs at 5AM. I know a host of other folks who do the same. By the time I open the pub at 1PM, there are many folks that have already ran ten miles, done some light gardening, cleaned the house, and are ready for a pint to wrap up the “work,” as it were, part of the day. The beer tastes that much better when you feel like you’ve earned it, and you don’t have a heat stroke.
- Hit the museums, the art galleries. The Museum of Northern Arizona and the Coconino Center for the Arts are always terrific, world-class art and history for a nominal fee. During the summer, the fellow viewers are a hoot. Tourists throughout Europe and Asia find their way into the galleries. They’re a blast to talk with and listen to.
- Along the lines of tourists, help folks who seem lost. Almost everyday downtown, I see someone looking confusedly up at a street sign or down at a Flagstaff Discovery Map. I ask them if they need help finding something. They do. If you drive on Milton (something I’d never advise), then the summer tourist traffic will drive you batty. If you walk downtown and talk with a tourist about where they’re going, you’ll feel good, happy that someone is curious about our eclectic town.
- Jump into the Festivals! Pride in the Pines, The Northern Arizona Celtic Festival, Flagstaff Route 66 Car Show, there is something every single weekend. Have fun with them.
- When needing a break from all those fests, grab a book. Read. The summer days are long and the light is good. I’ve been hauling a Jim Harrison book, Songs of Unreason, in my backpack lately. I pick at it whenever I can. Perhaps the reason I’m so reflective in this column is that I’ll be signing off for a few months. I’m finishing up a book and taking some of the above advice. See you all in September. Slainte.