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Last Tuesday

The other day, I was at a bar. 

Specifically, I was at Pappy’s Bar and Grill on a Tuesday night for my friend’s birthday.  It was surprisingly full considering it was a Tuesday.  There were probably 20 people there, while the streets and restaurants outside were empty.  We sat at the far end of the room, with the unique vantage point of being able to see everyone in the bar that night.  This was the first time that I considered Pappy’s to be a potential field site.

What are some of the cultural aspects of weekday bar hopping?  Well for one, there is a common language.  Blue Moon and Roman Coke wouldn’t mean much to a 6 year old (hopefully) but here it is the common tongue.  There is the ritual of how to order at the bar, as well as tipping procedures.  On the weekends, people are there to party, but that night, people were there for other reasons.  It was a lot more subdued. 

Is this where some of the ethical concerns come into play?  You can ask people why they are here, but unless it is for a birthday or other celebration, you won’t get far into the true motives.  Perhaps it is a form of escapism, or trying to gain social acceptance, or to forget about the past.  Maybe it’s just boredom.  But is it my place to pry into people’s personal psychologies in search of an overall bar culture?

What larger issues does this bring into the conversation?  By studying this bar, perhaps we are getting a glimpse into Middle America.  Everyone here appears to be middle class.  Those on the street aren’t allowed in, as they can’t afford it.  Also possibly the culture of drinking, and how age restrictions make it feel like a rite of passage.  Perhaps by understanding this bar, we can hope to understand what causes alcoholism and offenses of excess with the intent of preventing such occurrences. 

Anyways, that’s what went through my mind Tuesday at Pappy’s.

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5 responses to “Last Tuesday

  1. I love this topic! I considered this idea, but chickened out after realizing I’d have to go up to strangers and talk to them about their bar experience and afraid that studying a bar subculture might encourage nightly drinking (haha). I never thought of ordering drinks as a “common language,” but it totally is. The certain understanding between bartenders and patrons and what comes with a quick drink order. I am definitely interested to see where this goes and what you uncover. While you work to uncover deeper meanings behind this bar, I think it is also important to remember that a bar like Pappy’s and Kip’s are unique in that they are in college towns, and for some, a lot of college revolves around drinking. Thus, you may find different motives and psyches behind students drinking at these bars then you would find at a bar in a suburb or city where they are no students, and possibly a different reason for coming to the bar that night. Good luck, maybe i’ll see you at Pappy’s. I’ll say hi to the guy taking notes.

  2. Justin,

    I love the series of questions that you posed regarding the intent and purpose of those who go to bars during the weekdays, and I especially like how you differentiated the interesting point of how the culture of weekday barhopping is a culture distinct from that of barhopping during the weekends. However, perhaps what resonated to me most of all was your question to yourself it is your place to ask about other people’s personal psychologies in your elucidation of weekday bar culture. I don’t really know if it is your place or not, but logistically, this might be difficult to actually practice onsite. If those that are weekday barhopping really do have personal troubles that they’re trying to drink away, it might be difficult to ask them questions regarding why they’re there. That’s just my two cents anyway. I already want to just give you props for entertaining the idea of going to up random stranger at the bar and asking questions, heh. In any case, I’m really curious to see how this all turns out. I never would have thought of Pappy’s to be place to do fieldwork, but now that I see it, I can’t unsee it. Best of luck!

  3. blanchpk ⋅

    I like that you have brought up the possibility that studying this one bar might shed light on larger issues. It is interesting because there are so many different reasons why people drink (and why some don’t). You might uncover cultural, psychological, and social aspects. Studying bar culture during the week could uncover certain things that might be harder to see on the weekends. I think you have a great topic here.

  4. Cool idea! I’m really excited to hear more about your fieldwork as it comes along. I’ve never thought about how there might be particular behaviors or rituals associated with weekday patrons of bars that differ from those of the weekend crowd, but I can now imagine that there are plenty. I also had a similar thought to Anna- being in a college town, Pappy’s culture is likely intertwined with that of Berkeley and the university. I’d be interested to see how it’s identity as a college bar informs the culture of the place. Good luck researching! And perhaps take an occasional break to enjoy a beer…

  5. good observation about a common language; that might be something to focus on as you develop this?

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