So I went to George's Bar and now I want to quit my job and move to Hobart
Thursday January 21, 2016·
Here's a blurry picture of me standing next to George Constanza. He's calling me a jerk because I don't like his bar. Or rather, I don't like the fact the bar's real owners have used his identity to sell drinks. I'm feeling incredibly awkward because my photos with George keep coming out blurry and the woman I've asked to take them is clearly running out of patience. I'm also stressed about the fact that I made my dislike for George's Bar very public and I'm assuming the people who work here don't like me very much. Every flash of my camera feels like this beacon of obnoxiousness that isn't helping my cause at all. That said, I'm not avoiding the people who work here. I went here expecting to meet the owners. In fact I strode in all gung-ho ready to be all like: “hey, it's me, I'm sorry for writing off your bar without even visiting it. Here I am! Prove me wrong!”
But the first person I speak to isn't one of the owners. She's this girl who's very sweet and friendly (I think she says her name is Lauren). She's from Sydney and she has no idea what Three Thousand even is. And as I find myself explaining that I wrote something mean about her workplace without visiting it, I start to feel really strange about my life and my profession. And I can tell she can sense my anxiousness because as I explain all this she looks at me like I'm a bit deranged. But she's incredibly cool about the whole thing and says she thinks it's fine that I take photos and she serves me a Budweiser.
So I sit down by myself with my Budweiser and I try to take in the George's Bar experience. I look around and it occurs to me that this place really is just very standard bar. It's a bar full of normal Fitzroy people having a pretty good time and bar tenders with big beards (apart from Lauren). There's Frogger and there's even a George-like guy playing Frogger. There are Seinfeld quotes and pictures everywhere but there's also this really big mural that's like something out of a graphic novel about witchcraft. So I finish my beer. And I start to feel even weirder because I know this isn't my kind of bar and I know it's not even George's kind of bar (come the fuck on guys, George would never be entrepreneurial enough to open a successful bar) but I also know that these things don't necessarily make the place a bad bar. The people drinking here seem to really like it.
But I'm an experienced food writer. Surely I can tell if a bar is objectively good or not. By now my Budweiser is nearly empty and I have this great idea that if I order a cocktail and it tastes really fucking good then the bar must be good too. Budweiser already tastes good. This will be the litmus test. So I order a 'Bloody George' (which is like a Bloody Mary but it's a Bloody George). But my first sip only leaves me feeling more confused and stressed than before. I worked at a bar for about six years and the one drink I took a lot of pride in making was a Bloody Mary. And this is not a bad Bloody Mary but it's also not a very good Bloody Mary. It doesn't have enough lemon. (But maybe for a 'Bloody George' it is good!?) And it costs eighteen dollars.
So I sit and I keep drinking my Bloody George. And I'm sucking it down through this standard black plastic straw that's been cleverly inserted inside a fancier red and white paper straw. And I'm thinking, is the fact that this regular straw is disguised inside a showier straw some kind of metaphor for the bar itself? I take another sip and congratulate myself because this straw metaphor thing is a writerly trick I can use later to disguise the fact I've written another click-baity article about why I don't really care for George's Bar. The straw is also my disguise! I take another long, congratulatory sip and I realise my Bloody George is half empty and that the metaphor is stupid because paper straws look cool but get soggy so the plastic one is actually quite clever and practical. I also realise I've been drinking this Bloody George really quickly because I'm starting to get nervous about these owners who don't like me actually coming to talk to me. And I'm thinking maybe I can just finish my drink and leave before things get even more awkward than they are.
Then a woman sits down in the seat opposite. She shakes my hand and introduces herself as Tina (at least I think her name is Tina, the Bloody George isn't that good but it is very strong and I'm not being as perceptive as I'd hoped I'd be). Tina owns the bar with her husband (I think). Her husband doesn't want to meet me but she does. After we shake hands she slides this little set of Seinfeld pins across the table as a kind of peace offering. And from this point on I start to really like Tina. I can tell she's a woman who doesn't take shit from anybody and here she is with this peace offering taking time out of her night to suss me out.
We get talking and she tells me George's Bar was originally named after her father but the Seinfeld thing just kind of took off so they ran with it. It was just supposed to be a bit of fun, an antidote to all the bars that take themselves too seriously. With this knowledge the incongruous mural makes more sense. She talks about her bar and I try to explain my side of things. I try to say that my mean article wasn't even really meant as a critique of her bar (how could it be, I hadn't even gone there!) it was an argument about how our culture's obsession with 90s nostalgia might be damaging the city's overall creativity and sense of self. I try to explain that I don't want to run a publication that just emptily hypes stuff like all the others. I try to express all these intelligent arguments but I don't think I'm very clear because by this point I'm drunk. And I can tell she understands I want to set my publication apart but she doesn't really buy the other stuff I think I'm trying to say. From her perspective she just loves Seinfeld and this is just a bar she opened for people who also love Seinfeld.
I drink and we talk and I start to realise that Tina kind of feels a bit sorry for me. She worked in fashion publicity for ten years. She knows how demoralising the hype cycle can be. Here she is now, many years later with her George's Bar “making a shit ton of money” (which, when she says it, makes me like her even more). And here I am running a (semi) respected publication paying her eighteen dollars and giving her free publicity. I sense her pity and I start to feel a bit sorry for myself too. After all, I'm not making a shit ton of money. In fact I'm earning slightly less than when I worked at a bar and studied full time. I start to feel terrifyingly hemmed in by my career choices.
So I finish my drink and on my drunken ride home I see some purple flowers. They make me think about how one of my best friends just moved to Hobart with his beautiful girlfriend to raise a child and work outdoors. And I think about how bad my posture is. And I think about how when I visited him in Hobart last we went on this walk and there were wallabies and the same purple flowers I'm seeing as I ride past. And I think about how some of my closest friends are so sick of Melbourne's bullshit that they too have skipped town completely. They've gone to the northern hemisphere where people are witty and ambitious enough to write shows like Seinfeld rather than just quote them. I think maybe I should just fucking give up on this whole Three Thousand thing and join them. Or maybe that whole idea is just another plastic straw disguised by a paper straw and I don't know how lucky I am.