Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

It wasn't all Proust and Ulysses

In Britain I’d have (reluctantly) identified H as working-class. But this happened to be Pittsburgh and so he was blue-collar. H’s origins were one reason why we became pals. Since both of us were appallingly under-educated our friendship depended on what we said rather than what we were. He saw me as a foreign exotic, given to useless long words and my pretentiousness tickled him. I delighted in his concise one-liners seemingly riven from a William Goldman script.

Most of these are now lost, one remains. I mentioned that X, a vertically challenged colleague, had a remarkably tall wife. “And X wouldn’t have it any other way,” said H lubriciously (an adverb he would have poked fun at).

H was brought up in Mount Oliver, on a cliff to the south of Piitsburgh overlooking the Golden Triangle ( At the confluence of Allegheny and Monongahela rivers; Mount Oliver to the right.). As a result we spent laddish evenings there in a bar called Moike’s which I would never have dared enter alone. Moike communicated via insult, it was all he knew. We always drank 25-cent beers and I asked H what would happen if I ordered a martini. “Moike would slam the gin and vermoot bottles on the bar and say: make it yourself.”

Political correctness may not have been invented then but it would been badly received in Moike’s. Mostly the talk was coarse or of sport. I liked baseball and football, could get along with basketball but Moike’s customers liked hockey (the qualifier “ice” was unnecessary in the USA) and I was often left out. Nobody cared about that.

Evenings ended with a hot-sausage sandwich which was impossible to eat tidily. I would give my right eye for one just at this moment.

7 comments:

The Crow said...

Ah, red hots and cold beer - nothing finer. I like dark beer with mine, but haven't had either for far too long. Thanks for the memories, both yours and mine, stirred up by this post.

Plutarch said...

How well I rememember your talking me to a high spot and showing me the confluence of the Allegheny and Monogahela rivers. It was the best geography lesson I ever had.

Relucent Reader said...

Fantastic location,great rivers; probably very nice now that one can see it as the mills have all gone to China.
Haven't been in a blue collar bar since I moved south-- they are not as prolific. There are several fern bars and sports bars around. The only sport I will see these days is baseball, preferably college ball. When March madness for college basketball comes around, I get the thousand-yard-stare. As to hockey, was a rabid fan once, went to many games in the old Boston Garden, not the new Fleet Center. Paul Newman's movie "Slapshot" (q.v.) ruined the game for me-- can't watch a game now, esp. when it gets 'chippy'. Just as well, expansion watered down the talent pool.Good post, tahnk you for posting, high point of my day.
O yes, congratulations!Saw a pic of Katy and mother, good BP.
Regards.

Barrett Bonden said...

The Crow: Although I post for what I hope is the widest possible audience, I suppose I sub-consciously had you and RR in mind when I did this one. And lo, you were both kind enough to respond. You probably recognise that this piece had a different rationale behind it. It's all very well me going on about highbrow books and music but every so often a little balance is needed. I should be ashamed of these visits to Moike's bar (and certainly of the return journeys, driving, rip-roaringly drunk) but the fact is I was still in thrall to this incredibly multi-faceted ball of string called America and I grabbed every opportunity to pull at another of its ends. I appreciate the resonance.

Plutarch: By the time you arrived in Pittsburgh I'd been there for four years and was using the patois simply because it saved time during human intercourse. You seized on my use of "downtown" and tried it out, savouring it like a wine-taster, thereafter applying it but with a tiny bit of self-consciousness.

RR: The high point of my day is an imaginary encounter between you and me at Moike's, whispering about books and Public Broadcasting, careful to keep it down so that none of the other drinkers became cantankerous. Except that such a meeting would inevitably exclude Mrs RR (as well as Mrs BB) and that would be sad. I often try and recall what we talked about in Stratford and haven't got a clue. My conclusion (reinforced by our experiences on meeting Lucy and Tom for the Brittany flight) is that such meetings merely represent a clearing of the decks, the writing of an agenda covering what we're really going to talk about. And then, oh, it's time to go home.

Hattie said...

I've never been to Pittsburgh, but my grandfather was from there. He came out west. And now there is a renaissance going on of young people from more expensive places out west coming back east, buying property very cheaply and renovating neighborhoods. This is also happening in Detroit. Musicians, artists, and such. I think they call themselves urban pioneers. Of course there are a lot of the usual downtown makeovers: condos, etc. too. that have taken place in large American cities.
There is a good novel about Pittsburg, *Emily, Alone,* by Stewart O'Nan, about the decayed "aristocracy," The pearls and country club set. And I enjoyed his very funny novel about crap family life, *Wish You were Here,* too.
So obviously there is life in the old burg yet.

Barrett Bonden said...

Hattie: I have a soft spot for Pittsburgh which became even softer when I returned there after two years spent in Philadelphia. Extreme contours gave the city its character and wild countryside was less than half an hour's drive away. The people in particular were hospitable, funny and supportive. I immediately became a Pirates fan but never took to the Steelers. Excellent libraries.

Rouchswalwe said...

... 25-cent beers ... !!!