“I think I’m now officially sick to death of the ‘Keep Calm and…’ meme. Why can’t people just keep it classy and stick with the original meaning? Why do you have to add every single geek reference to it? ‘Keep Calm and Chive On?’ What the hell?”
It was another day at Boston Comic Con, where my faith in humanity was daily shattered by attendee’s fashion choices (“oh.. that must be his fancy dress Batman tshirt.”) I have no problem with kids wearing these shirts, but people over 30? Even 40 years old doing it? I just find something really ‘off’ about that.
While sales were steady, I started debating with myself if I should have spent a couple days the week before working on portraits of Tom Brady or David Ortiz. I would have been more comfortable with doing something like that then with doing some random superhero illustration, which you couldn’t swing a dead cat finding seven different copies of from artists around me. Could probably cover all the bases if I did a Steampunk Tom Brady.
In the end, I did a quick illustration of ‘Lemongrab’ (from ‘Adventure Time’) which turned into a sort of blessing and a curse. It was very sweet seeing a fair number of children that passed by my table and pointed at the drawing with a huge smile upon their face. On the other hand, the amount of people (all adults) that passed screeching ‘Unexceptable!’ was fairly annoying and had me debating some of the artistic choices of my life.
It was a bit after 7pm, with the Con over, that Kelly and I walked by Drink (348 Congress St.) with the idea of getting a cocktail. Over the last year or two, Drink has been getting a lot of press about the high quality of their craft cocktails (including on David Wondrich’s list of ‘Best Bars in America.’) We had visited the new cocktail lounge late one Monday night on our last visit to Boston. While the decor of Drink is very minimal, the drinks were excellent. However, this time there was a line out the door and we passed it by. There was no way we were going to wait in line (I hate waiting for the bus as well.) Kelly and I needed a drink now.
So, after a quick T ride out of South Station, we made our way into the South End and another favorite haunt: Delux (10 Chandler St.), which was back in operation after a short hiatus.
After many years, Delux was sold and had closed its doors earlier in the year when we were last in the city. Images of slick mainstream high end cocktail lounges serving the club crowd rapidly passed through our minds. Thankfully however, this was only a temporary event as the business was sold to some of the former employees, so it had “stayed in the family.”
This was one of the first bars that I took Kelly to during her first visit. Because of that, this is one of the places that epitomizes Boston for her.
“It’s exactly the same… but cleaner,” Kelly commented as we walked in and sat down at the end of the bar. … And it was. Delux was still Delux. Sure, it looked as if it was given a good scrubbing, clean wood and a new dark ceiling, but the old Elvis memorabilia and Christmas lights were still scattered about the bar. The record sleeves and nude oil paints covered the walls, joined by a large portrait of Nick and Nora Charles (how apt!) The lone TV set high up on the right hand side of the bar was no longer set to the Cartoon Network, but to TV Land. Old Partridge Family episodes played that eventually bleed into the 80’s film ‘Beat Street.’
The whole place gave me an instant feeling of nostalgia of when I lived in the area. This was one of the first bars that I took Kelly to during her first visit. Because of that, this is one of the places that epitomizes Boston for her (the other place being Bukowski’s, which we’ll get to soon.) Kelly ordered a Long Trail Ale while I went again for a Narragansett. I only had a couple days back in Boston, so I was drinking it as much as I could. I knew it would be months before my next trip back.
We start chatting with Thomas, our bartender, about all the changes and how the bar was back in the day. He tells me about a ‘Myrna Loy’ cocktail that he and the other bartenders came up with late one night. Of course, I instantly wanted to try one. He grinned and told me that he would make me one if he could actually remember the recipe (he never did.) After a quick break, Kelly told me that even the restrooms were also cleaned up. The women’s room had been papered entirely in pages from Kay Thomson’s ‘Eloise’ which Kelly loved. She said it was ok, though – they may have taken away “Eloise” but they replaced it with framed vintage bra ads, which was just fine. I wondered how the men’s room fared. When I opened the door, sure it was cleaned up, but… it was exactly the same: Old comic book pages covered in years of graffiti. I mentioned it to Thomas. “Oh, there was no way that we could have changed that. It’s iconic.”
After a couple texts, some of my cartoonist friends from Colorado stumbled out of a cab and joined us. It was their first trip to the city and I thought we would show them a little slice of Boston. We also met a great young lady named Maddie at the bar, who was interested in comics, Comic Con, and wondered how the day went. After another round and a quick snack, all of us decided to hit the road and work our way up Boylston.
As I was paying my tab and saying goodbye to Thomas, the waitress approached me. “Didn’t you use to drink at Flash’s? About ten years ago…” Christ… where did the time go? Yes, I did indeed use to drink there… and after a moment (it was slightly out of context) I also recognized the waitress. I was more shocked that, not only was this the second time during this trip to be recognized, but also after ten years.
We headed out, through Copley, and up Boylston on our way to Bukowski Tavern (50 Dalton St).
I have friends in Colorado who, when I mention this bar in Boston, get all uptight. “Why would they name it that?”, “Would Bukowski even drink there?”, “Can I get a whiskey there? Bukowski loved whiskey. You can’t call a bar Bukowski’s if you don’t serve booze!” These friends are missing the point. No, they don’t serve whiskey. Just beer… great beer. In fact, they have about 20 taps, and more bottles than you can count, all from a diverse range of breweries from the locals to the imports and everything in between. Trust me, if you like beer, it’s good.
Bukowski’s door is right on the edge of an overpass, and the few windows it has look down onto the highway below – the only thing distinguishing the bar from the gray concrete surrounding it is its bright red paint. Oh, and a neon sign reading “Dead Authors Club”. It’s a long shotgun space, with a bar that runs most of the length. Hanging above the bar, for the whole length, are large glass mugs, and the back wall is lined with bottles. So, it’s a small place, and a well-loved place. And a crowded place.
Luckily, our usual table by the window was free, so we crammed all of around it, looked over the beer book, and the daily specials. I continued with Narragansett, and Kelly went for an Avery Ellie’s Brown. The rest of the table ordered their beers and soon, snacks started arriving – tater tots, white-trash cheese-dip with fresh made tortilla chips, sweet potato fries. The next few hours were a blur of more beers, tater tots, and comics talk. Lots of comics talk.