Friday, February 27, 2009
Which is more depressing? Having two bars in your neighborhood, Chili's and Applebee's? Or having just one bar in your neighborhood, Applebee's?
Here in Terra Linda (developed before builders were required to know Spanish) we're now stuck with just Applebee's. The other apostrophe restaurant, Chili's, closed. Such is the recession.
Even when I'm going through an alcohol-free phase, I do enjoy bars, just as I enjoy coffeehouses. Both offer observational and conversational opportunities, and bars offer more of the latter. And here's my theory: If you've never been to an Applebee's, you cannot claim to understand America.
Who was the conservative pundit who said Obama didn't seem "like the type of guy who would fit in at Applebee's salad bar"? It was David Brooks who wasn't aware that Applebee's doesn't have a salad bar. Just a bar. If he'd hang out there, he might get a little closer to his nation's pulse, even though the pulse is slightly occluded by cholesterol.
Not long ago, during happy hour (23-ounce beers for $3), a burly guy looked around Applebee's horseshoe-shaped bar and said, "I'll bet none of you have been to work today."
One guy ventured that he had. Another guy said he had been engaged in child care. Five other people, and the burly questioner, an electrician, admitted they were out of work. A couple of the people had worked in stores in the half-shuttered mall and couldn't stop returning to Applebee's for happy hour, even though they were unhappy.
The electrician said that naturally he knew I hadn't been to work. Five years of retirement can do that to you.
Since then all the happy-hour conversations seem to come back to lack of work, shrinking prospects for retirement, closing businesses and failing newspapers. As a former newspaperman I am pleased to report that working-class Americans, the Applebee's clientele, are connoisseurs of daily newspapers and will miss them.
No, they may not be connoisseurs of food. But the chips and salsa aren't bad and go well with three-buck Bud.