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Best Clean, Well-Lighted Place

It is early, and the crowds have not yet gathered. It is what they call happy hour, but the old man sees little obvious happiness here. He raises his drink to his lips. For a happy hour, it is very quiet. Quietness is good. You do not want loudness. You want the place to be clean and pleasant. You want the bartender to be pleasant, but you do not want her to talk too much. The bar is clean, with its long laminated counter. It is well-lighted, with little hanging lamps and curled-paper shades. There are neon highlights along the ceiling. There are hightop tables with stools, but the old man prefers the bar. There is music -- something by an artist previously known as the Artist -- but it is not too loud.

"Another one?" asks the pleasant but not-too-talkative bartender named Angie.

A group comes in and orders drinks. The men order something called a cosmopolitan. A pink drink that should be consumed by women, the old man thinks. The women order rum and Coca-Cola. Not the smooth Puerto Rican rum but something called Captain Morgan. A harsh, masculine drink. The old man shakes his head. If the bar were not so clean, he would spit on the floor.

"Another?" asks the bartender.

The old man shakes his head. Nada, he thinks. Now, he will have nada. Two of the bitter mixtures of gin and quinine water ($6.75 for both, at the happy hour rate) are enough. He is sufficiently steeped in gloom. But he will be back. He will return when he senses the necessity of drinking quietly in public during the happy hour.


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