March 9, 2002
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The Corner Bar

I left Chicago before I was old enough to drink, but as a child in Chicago I somehow absorbed the peculiarly midwestern custom of the corner tavern. In Chicago, small neighborhood bars have always been the rule. They are meeting places for workers, mating places for young people, cooling-off places for feuding spouses. My parents rarely went to a tavern, and only to the ones with really good food, like Gene & Georgetti's. (When we got married, our rehearsal dinner was held at the Golden Dome Hickory Pit, which isn't a corner bar but comes close)

Corner taverns aren't pubs, though I'm not sure precisely how they differ. I always enjoy pubs when I'm in England or Scotland, but they're different, an alien world. Cheers was set in Boston, but Boston doesn't really work that way -- the Bull And Finch was a politician's bar, more the Northern annex of the Willard Lobby than The Laugh Inn where Mamet used to hang out.

And so it felt perfectly natural that two old school friends took me to an updated corner bar last night for a good cry in my beer. It was Hoegarden, not Blatz or Hamm's, and they had a fireplace instead of a television, but it felt right.