The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ran a splendid ode to local bars last week. Two people, neither from Pittsburgh, recommended it to me.
It's the type of thing that could only be written by someone with a Catholic conscience, perhaps in the vein of GK Chesterton or, better, Hilaire Belloc, and their Distributist sentiments. It'd also have to be a guy with great prose style, a nerd of sorts, a guy with fond memories of Merry Ol' England because maybe he spent some time at Oxford, the kind of guy who doesn't mind whipping out his laptop while at a dive bar (which his favorite watering hole, Marroni's, appears to be . . . I mean no offense; I'm highly partial to dive bars).
It could be a guy like David Mills, one of the finest stylists to grace Touchstone's pages. He lives in the Pittsburgh area (last I knew) and had a big white beard (last I knew). I never thought of him as a big drinker, and I never really thought of him as a guy to hang out in dive bars, but his name is at the top article. His is a relatively common name, of course, but it's gotta be the same guy I knew a score of years ago. It's good to see him "still at it" (the writing game).
I highly recommend it.
"Marroni’s is a bar, all right, but also what the English call a public house. It’s like a community center with beer taps. And smoking. I don’t know why it works as a public house, except that the people who run the bar want it to work that way. They like people and like each other.
"When I first walked into the place with my eldest son, the evening bartender said hello and asked who we were. Politely, and in the course of telling us about the place. I didn’t go back for a few weeks, but when I did Sarah remembered me and asked about my son.
"The place draws upon, and encourages, a culture of connections. People who feel welcomed bring friends, who bring friends. Some of those friends become friends with each other, at least bar friends. The owner, Linda, said some people think of the place as their living room, which she liked. This is one of the things that makes the place friendlier than the chains. In the chains, you’re a one-off customer. The person who goes to Marroni’s regularly eventually enters into a network. . . .
"Unlike a chain restaurant, a townie bar/?public house pushes the average person into worlds we don’t know well. We live in small worlds, mostly people like us — family, old friends, people at church and work, maybe a few neighbors, other members of a club. Even places that claim to exist for everyone, like churches, tend to serve a specific group. It’s hard to get away from people like you.
"In a real townie place, a real public house, you can’t help it."