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Morality plays in an age of Bacchus 

Wednesday, Dec 13 2006
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Bacchus, or Dionysus, depending on your Greek or Latin bent, was the best character in Disney's original Fantasia. (He was the jolly fat guy with the donkey and all the grapes in his hair.) He is not only the god of intoxication and all of its glories, he is also a pacifist and the patron deity of agriculture and theater, which were pretty much your only two options for fun back in his day, meaning this was one swingin' guy. According to Wikipedia, he was also known as the Liberator, having had the power to free one "from one's normal self, by madness, ecstasy, or wine." I'm mad, MAD dammit! And yet I feel so very free!

"The divine mission of Bacchus," continues the entry, "was to mingle music of the flute and to bring an end to care and worry." This proves, of course, what I have always suspected, that Jethro Tull was divinely inspired.

Of all the great names for bars in the City — the Napper Tandy, Sadie's Flying Elephant, and Aunt Charlie's — one mustn't forget the Bacchus Kirk on Bush Street near Taylor.

"It's a butt," I said from a distance, trying to decipher the artwork on the bar's sign, which looked like a tallish, rounded "M" atop the name itself.

"No, it's titties," said my friend Lucas.

"No, it's two dicks side by side," I shot back. This could've gone on all night, or at least until we ran out of body parts. (In retrospect, perhaps it's a "B" on its side.)

Once inside, the Bacchus Kirk is surprisingly clean-lined and inviting; not something you'd envision in the TenderNob. I was told to expect a sort of chalet theme, but the place didn't really strike me as alpine. Cozy, yes, with a fireplace and a big Christmas tree, but not exactly eliciting any yodels from my fair mouth. I had also been told that the bartenders were all undecipherable Scots, but we were instead met with a very sweet American babe, who graciously agreed to "talk funny" to us anyway.

The Bee Gees were on the jukebox, which is my favorite band of all time, and it was even my favorite era of the group, the '60s. This alone has exalted the Bacchus Kirk onto my Top 10 List.

Lucas and I continued our earlier discussion as to whether or not people are inherently monogamous. It seemed fitting to discuss free love in the bowels of Bacchus. I have been embroiled in a debate on this subject with an attached man who I would very much like to bang. He in turn is debating his own urges to cheat, which he thinks may be biological in nature. This has, of course, brought up the larger question of morality — what is moral, what isn't, and is it all relative? Certainly the part of me that wants to experience this person on a physical plane believes that it is all very relative. Jean-Paul Sartre was really onto something. He and I (the attached guy, not Sartre) could have an experience that is completely self-contained to the two of us in a certain time and space, separate from any other bonds he holds dear with another, and therefore not inherently "wrong." In short, that's his moral trip, not mine. But is that merely a convenient way for me to justify a potentially immoral act?

"No, it's not right," said Lucas firmly. He is a very sexual guy who also insists that he is very monogamous. He is a one-woman man, and he thinks sleeping with the same woman for the rest of his life sounds really great. "I don't think people are monogamous, however," he threw out suddenly, in what I might add was a surprising twist. "It's not natural." He then brought up ostriches, who apparently take in as much semen as they can from as many birds as they can in the hopes of creating a superior ÜberStrich; a Lebensborn that, try as it might, will still be butt-ugly and unable to outrun Biz Markie.

People were starting to trickle in to the bar at this point, filling up the booths that ran the parameter of the place. They looked vaguely Marina, which is apparently not the usual crowd at this place, if the regulars I met were to be believed. When you watch another group of people dressed up for a night out in a bar, you can't help but wonder what their motivations are. When it comes right down to it, the drive has to be about getting a buzz and getting laid, or what Bacchus would call "wine and ecstasy." On a really base, biological level, that is all that truly motivates any of us (outside of agriculture and the theater, natch).

So, since those things are such an essential part of our makeup — the need for wine and ecstasy — why then must we limit ourselves to only one of each? We can sample from a whole bar of liquors, but once you are married you cannot move beyond Coors Lite? It makes no sense to me.

"Yes," said Lucas, "it makes no sense. But it comes down to lying to a person, to betraying another person. And that is separate from any moral arguments surrounding open sexuality."

Dadgummit, he's right. Even Sartre would have to agree. Maybe. Bacchus, however, would probably lay out a nice spread of bread and cheese, put on some late '90s trip hop, and fluff up the pillows for me and my sinful paramour. Heck, he might even throw in the donkey. OK, Bacchus wins. Plus, I'm a big, big fan of agriculture. Theater, eh. But earth husbandry? Count me in. —Katy St. Clair

TONIGHT, Wednesday Dec. 13, come to Elixir in the Mission at 9 p.m. The Bouncer will be bartending! All tips go to charity. Morality optional.

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Katy St. Clair

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