Mark Yocca

10 Things You Need To Do in Bars Before You Die

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My mother doesn’t like it when I say this, but bars and churches are basically the same thing. You get gussied up before you go. You say hi to the people you like and avoid the ones you don’t. Occasionally you make eyes at someone you’d like to get to know better. Later there will be singing, preaching, hand-shaking, hand-wringing, eating, drinking, and of course, scandalous confessions. And there’s always a couple drunk priests hanging around.

And I have to admit, I prefer the fall-down joints to the kneel-down ones any day of the week (twice on Sundays). Which is why I am going to hell. But I’m not worried (hell has Amazon Prime, right?) because I’ve already checked off every one of my spiritual goals in this life. Well, all except one.
Whether you’re a fellow stiff-necked sot bound for Satan-town or a holy roller who only drinks on the Lord’s day (because when you think about it, every day is the Lord’s day, isn’t it?), I’m here to help. There are precisely 10 things you must do in a bar before your last last call. They are...

Have Sex in the Bathroom

It won’t be comfortable, safe or sanitary. And there’s a chance you’ll be arrested (especially in North Carolina). But what bar bathroom boinking lacks in creature comforts, it makes up for in sheer bawdy boldness. Bonuses: no cleanup or cuddling.

Punch a Guy

For the record, I’m not personally advocating that you randomly punch some guy in a bar. That would be irresponsible of me. And you! I would never suggest you commit any acts of violence against another individual that could possibly be traced back to me having suggested it. All I’m saying is that if you spend enough time in bars, you will inevitably cross paths with some butt-trumpet who’s really really really asking for it. I mean, like, hitting on your girl/insulting your mother/making light of the fact that the third wide receiver on your fantasy football team just dropped an easy touchdown-level asking for it. When that happens, it’s only reasonable to be tempted to haul off and plant said butt-trumpet on his giant trumpet of a butt. If you were to give into said temptation and actually launch a devastating haymaker—totally of your own accord without any encouragement from me or the proprietors of this website, naturally—I imagine it’d feel pretty darn good. In fact, you’d be legend. Again, only if you were to do such a thing. Which you totally shouldn’t.  

Make a Lifelong Friend

You know where Ernest Hemingway first met F. Scott Fitzgerald? In a bar. Norm Peterson and Cliff Clavin? Bar. Rick and Ilsa? Falstaff and Prince Hal? John, the waitress and Davy who’s still in the navy? Movie bar, play bar, Billy Joel bar. The point is, that stranger propped up next to you on the barstool could very well be your BFF-in-waiting. The only way to find out is to strike up a conversation. Of course, Jeffrey Dahmer made lots of friends in bars too. Which brings us to...

GROSS!

Eat Something Disgusting

For years you’ve been eyeing up the sole gray egg macerating in brackish goop inside that ancient pickle jar behind the bar. It’s not the first time you’ve wondered what it’d be like to sink your teeth into that slimy, sour, squishy, saliferous scum-filled orb. It’s clearly not going to be appetizing, but this isn’t about dining pleasure, this is about willpower. It’s about winning. See, most people never even notice that egg in the jar behind the bar. And the few that do see it, treat it like an odd relic from a bygone era.

But you see something they don’t. You know that if thou gaze long into a pickled egg, the pickled egg gazes also into thee. In the time it’s been lolling there without a care in the world, unmolested and untouched, you’ve lost three jobs, a dog and most of your hair. You gotten divorced twice, been estranged from your children and held up at gunpoint in the parking lot at Macy’s. You’ve been audited, evicted and afflicted with shingles. None of your favorite clothes fit anymore, your loser girlfriend is cheating on you, and you need glasses. The egg has had a ringside seat for all of this misery, and it has remained altogether unmoved. The question is, tough guy: What are you going to about it?  

Commandeer the Jukebox

Back in the day, us olds used to make mixtapes. Today it’s PandoSpotiTube playlists. But how good are they, really? There’s no better place to find out than a crowded bar. You owe it to yourself at least once to go put waaaay too much money into the jukebox and program a good solid couple of hours into that thing. Got songs ahead of you? No problem. Hit “Play Now” for each and every number. Sure, it’ll cost you a week’s pay, but it beats having some jumped-up One Direction fan shaming your game. Maybe you come straight out the gate with some Taylor (Swift and James double feature), then hit ‘em with Bon Jovi and the Beebs. Then bring it down ever so slightly (“Gangster’s Paradise” and some Glenn Frey Eagles) and then—boom!—tear the roof off the sucker with a Parliament banger into some early Lil’ Wayne. Unless, of course, you’re in a nightmare fern bar, in which case just play “Piano Man” 30 times followed by the Sid Vicious version of “My Way.”

Have a Heart-to-Heart With a Bartender

It’s been said that a good bartender is a therapist, preacher, philosopher and best friend all rolled up into one.

Find your Lloyd. Treasure him.

Pretend to Read a Book

Sure it’s a pose, but as a wise, frosted-mulleted man once said, image is everything. Note, however, that this move is deceptively difficult to pull off. Making sure your coolly detached nonconformist act isn’t perceived as an insufferable turdsack act hinges upon three things:

Timing
Reading in bars is acceptable between the hours of 9 a.m. and 7:30 p.m., excluding lunchtime and happy hour. Cracking a book after 7:30 is a sign you’re either trying way too hard or you’re a serial killer. It’s never OK to read when a live band is playing. That’s just rude. Unless they’re doing ‘80s covers, in which case throw your book at the lead singer’s head and shout, “I’m never going to give you up!” Reading is also a no-no during spoken-word performances. Not because it’s rude, mind you, but because you should have left a half hour ago.

Bar type
While reading is acceptable at most pubs and speakeasies, in certain drinking establishments, it’s strictly off limits. These include sports bars, karaoke bars, leather bars, nightclubs, music venues and T.G.I. Friday’s (who’s got time to read when there’s an Ultimate Blueberry-Pom Long Island Iced Tea that needs drinking?). Most cities have at least one spot called the Library Bar. Reading at the Library Bar is like donning black leather boots, buff breeches and a hunting coat when drinking at the Fox & Hound. It means you went full turdsack. Never go full turdsack.

Reading Material
Your choice of book is the most important determinant of whether you’re The Man or The Mook. Here are some examples of acceptable literary fare:

  • Fundamentals of Poker by Mason Malmuth (shows you’re into athletics)
  • Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson (you’re a foodie)
  • Cujo by Stephen King (you love dogs)
  • The Long Walk by Stephen King (you’ve got a sensitive side)
  • Pet Sematary by Stephen King (you’re also into dead dogs)
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (you’re probably a virgin)
  • Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson (you’re definitely a virgin)
  • Living Loaded by Dan Dunn (you’re a goddamn sex machine)

The following books should never see the inside of a bar:
  • Hollywood by Charles Bukowski (If the laureate of American lowlife were alive to catch you flipping through this at the King Eddy, he’d punch you in the crotch himself)
  • The King James Bible (for the same reasons you don’t bring a handle of Beam to Sunday service)
  • The Game by Neil Strauss (unless, of course, you’re reading it ironically, in which case you’re still a turdsack)
  • Hard Choices by Hillary Clinton (you’re sad, we get it. But you gotta let it go)
  • The Art of the Deal by Donald Trump (OK, now you’re just being an asshole)
  • American Wino by Dan Dunn (your hobbies include drinking wine and being extremely attractive)

Drown Your Sorrows

Therapy. Support groups. Pestering your friends and family. Hysterical Facebook posts. These are all valid ways to cope with serious emotional distress in the modern world. But if watching old westerns with my grandpa as a kid taught me anything (besides the fact that old people smell gross), it’s that a perfectly valid way to quell inner pain is to hunker down at an old saloon with copious amounts of rotgut whiskey. In the event you can’t find an old saloon or you can’t stomach whiskey, any old place and poison will suffice, so long as you’re convincing when you growl, “Keep ‘em coming.” Bonus points if you’re wearing chaps.

Buy a Round for the Bar

You know how you keep saying you want to do something for charity? Well here’s your chance.

And finally...

Pay Tribute to a Fallen Friend

If you get 25 percent of the way to this, you’ve done your job. 

Dan Dunn played the butt-trumpet in his high school band. Check out Dan’s latest book, American Wino: A Tale of Reds, Whites and One Man’s Blues. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram

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