I Think, Therefore I Drink

Asking the Big Questions at a working-class Latino dive bar with chafing dishes full of beanie weenies

To paraphrase John Kerry, you can be very certain about something and still be very wrong. This has been bothering me for quite some time. Right-wingers are (usually) intelligent people who are sure they are correct on many issues about which I believe the opposite. For example, things like gay marriage, the role of government, and euthanasia.

How do we know when we are actually right about something? I'm sure some insular academic has figured this out, or copped out of the whole thing by saying that everything is relative and there is no truth. (Jeesh, talk about putting the “lazy” in “laissez faire.”)

Maybe it's all the B12 I have been taking, but this week I felt like heading into the Big City with a notebook, a pen, and a smallish scarf tied snugly around me neck (alas, I could find no beret) to figure out the Answers to the Big Questions. I jaunted down the street with a spring in me step. O Great Knowledge! O sage Learning! No, thank you, I don't shoot smack. O grand wisdom! O lucky man! No, sorry, I don't have any change.

I may have looked like a total douche bag, but I knew where I was headed on this late summer's eve: to the joint right next to El Rio on Mission. It's called Nap's Only — it used to be called Nap's 3, but apparently Nap's 1 and 2 split — and it has a backyard patio like El Rio's. In fact, my friend Justin often buys a pitcher at this place and sits out back to hear the bands next door for free. (Jeesh, talk about putting the “lazy” in “laissez faire.”)

Sure, some may say that the Answers to the Big Questions cannot be found in a working-class Latino dive bar with karaoke and chafing dishes full of beanie weenies. Real thinkers, it has been suggested, frequent places with interesting woodwork, dark beer, and happy-hour jazz trios that cannot find gigs anywhere else. But Nap's is different. Not only is the inside area cozy and warm, full of assorted folks like grandmothers, gangbangers, and postmen (oh the scene Chaucer could have created!), but also the outside is really big, and, most important, no one is ever out there. A Thinker such as myself could really get things done. Plus, I had brought a philosopher's most important accessory, my dog, and she needed a place to wander around.

I perched atop a stool with my Negra Modelo, bearing down on my pad of paper like Ebenezer Scrooge over his accounting books. At the top I wrote in all caps: BIG QUESTIONS. Then I just sat there. I didn't feel so much like thinking very hard anymore. My scarf was starting to dig into my neck uncomfortably, and all that sitting up straight was straining my lumbar. I decided to change my notes to read: STUFF I ALREADY KNOW FOR SURE.

Just then, a family wandered outside next to me: a mom, what looked like her daughter, and what looked like her daughter's boyfriend. He was wearing a Staind T-shirt. Inside I could hear a guy singing “Kokomo” on karaoke. I tried desperately to make eye contact with the family so that I could maybe strike up a convo and not have to Think, but they never looked my way. There is a certain resentment that comes from being ignored. Which led me to my first Thing I Knew for Sure:

1) Beware of women with hyphenated names.

Followed by:

2) Avoid applying to places with permanent “Now Hiring!” signs posted in the window.

3) There has never been a small-breasted woman named Brenda.

4) If you loved the Lord of the Rings trilogy, you will love the Kate Bush catalog.

5) People who like Staind tend to drink … OK, just let me lean over a little … OK … yes, they tend to drink MGD.

At this point smoke was coming out of my ears from thinking so hard. I wandered into the bar again and watched a middle-aged woman sing a Roy Orbison song. She was doing the side-to-side swish with slight knee-dips in time to the music that karaoke singe — OH!

6) People who sing karaoke invariably do a side-to-side swish thing with dorky knee-dips in time to the music.

A hefty gent was helping himself to the buffet. He reminded me of a big ol' Pac-Man; the bill of his baseball hat was cocked upward off his head, and a cocktail napkin pointed to the floor off his tiny plate.

Back outside my doggie was getting love from the family. The last time I was here, the management kicked me and my dog out. “Take your time,” the lady said, referring to the fact that we hadn't finished our drinks. Then she stood next to us with her arms crossed and stared until we abandoned said drinks and got up to leave. Looking back, I bet she had a hyphenated name.

I shoved my scarf into my jacket pocket and left before I met up with the lady again. I began to walk to the left, and my dog went to the right, pulling me and turning back to make sure I was coming. I had been going the wrong way to my car.

7) My dog is smarter than I am, and I shall abandon this whole Thinking thing and get back to some serious drinking and the occasional pedicure. Humans only try to figure stuff out to drown out the sounds of their own mediocrity, something that can be just as easily accomplished with a case of Old Style. Of that I am certain, which means, of course, that I could be wrong. — Katy St. Clair

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