Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Wednesday, July 24

Gapers Block

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Have a scotch with me, and it'll really, really look like I'm not enjoying myself, but I am. Believe me, these are busy, hectic times at RotSC Headquarters, after a big move, a bigger responsibility at work, and various other projects filling the time.

So a scotch, or a gin and tonic, are very welcome diversions. So come drink with me—first round on me, second on you -- but I have some ground rules about going out drinking in Chicago that you may want to take note of.

First -- and really, this is the one that matters most -- don't be cheap. Going out for a drink with friends is not about getting drunk, it's about drinking together. So don't tell me it's an absolute necessity to go to some dingy, overcrowded faux dive bar because the beers are a buck-fifty cheaper. drink less, talk more. It isn't, as they say, what goes into the mouth, but rather what comes out. Are you defined by what you drink or what you say? Pity those for whom the former applies.

To quote Proverbs 15, "Better [is] a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith." The implication is not what you think: forget the drink, focus on the conversation. So better to drink slow, and well, than consume volumes and forget why you came.

Let's go to a place that's comfortable and quiet, or at least reasonably so. A place that is diverse in age groups, economic class, and style of dress. Especially style of dress. Somewhere where nobody looks at you except to smile, and you probably don't know anybody there -- but if you do, it'll be all the more surprising, and thus pleasant.

Second, shut up about everybody else. Sure, the occasional loudmouth Cubs fan or the guy in the shimmery red Polish Eagle shirt with the sequins will deserve a comment or two. But otherwise, let's leave everybody else alone and tend to our own business. You and I, we're both interesting people -- interesting enough to dwell in our own flesh and not preoccupy ourselves with the concerns of others.

Third, let's dance. The most ancient form of celebration. Let's dance because, if the music is loud enough and we're both loving it, we respect what the eternal combination of alcohol and music was meant for: mindless but rhythmic movement with no inhibition and no thought to staring eyes. We don't need to go crazy -- we're not putting on a show -- just a little heel-toe-heel-toe and maybe a spin.

Alcohol is a great gift from nature to humanity. I have a very basic respect for it, and you'll see that when we toast to our third round on a crisp, purple autumn night. You'll note that although I'm clearly drunk, I don't drink any faster. Let's enjoy it like we've done it before. Not like animals.

Bludgeoning your liver overwhelmingly, like a brute, leads to slurred language, embarrassing malaprops and the inevitable white person hoot. "Whooo!" But slowly blending that fine Maker's Mark or Glenfiddich -- just a dollar more -- with your blood serves only to warm you up and loosen your tongue, makes conversation and playful flirtation flow more freely.

There is no badge of honor in drinking excessive amounts of disgusting booze as quickly as possible in a social setting. Better to drink less, but better -- and, of course, pool your resources.

A couple shots later, two gin and tonics, and a shallow scotch before you left the house, and you're laughing freely, standing up to spin the pretty lady behind the bar, but you can still sit down and debate, if you'd like, before returning to the jukebox to request another song. Alcohol is, really, a muse meant to lull inhibition to sleep and allow some candid joy to sneak past. Taken in excess or for its own sake, it is simply a blunt instrument, a drug, and although that has its occasional merits, it's hardly something to be done regularly. That's over-indulgence. Moderation is the mark of adulthood.

So, how about that gin and tonic? And let's go somewhere quiet -- but not too quiet -- with James Brown or Barry Manilow -- or R. Kelly -- on the jukebox.

But opening day at Soldier Field, we're grilling and I'm getting sauced.

GB store


robin.. / August 18, 2004 11:45 AM

oh yes.

Jeff W. / August 18, 2004 1:10 PM


I'll buy both rounds of G&Ts at the pub of your choice (this Friday, if you like) if you agree to chat with me about why you think Clinton is the second coming of James K. Polk, and you also agree to hear me out on Obama -- more specifically, why I think your most recent column on Illinois' next Senator was quite flawed.


Teddy / August 18, 2004 4:56 PM

I agree, however, when it comes to a good drink and a good time, sometimes the mood calls for a dive bar with cheap drinks...but maybe thats just me

Craig / August 18, 2004 5:46 PM

Well played.

C. Diamond / August 18, 2004 7:54 PM

Yawn... Well, now I know what to do if I decide to drink in public with a pompous ass. Twenty-one, twenty-two (Am i right?), and already the authority on comporting oneself public-wise whilst drinking. Opinions are like assholes, Rams.


Ramsin / August 18, 2004 9:57 PM

Jeff-- I'll take that bargain. Diamond-- Man, you've got me pegged. You're so salt-of-the-earth down. I've never heard that "opinions" line before--did you invent that? Tell us more! Yawn.

robin.. / August 19, 2004 9:16 AM

is it that opinions like to be gently prodded and tickled now and then? because if it is....

amyc / August 19, 2004 11:49 AM

Jeez, Chad, is someone forcing you at gunpoint to read this column every week? Because I'm an Amnesty member, and perhaps we could start a letter-writing campaign on your behalf.

If you're just a cranky fight-picking freak, though, then grow up maybe. You can always skip the articles you don't enjoy.

C. Diamond / August 19, 2004 7:01 PM


Why don't you just discuss the column, and stick to what you know, and leave your opinions wherever the f-ck.

How would I know whether I would enjoy the article without reading it? I might as well ask you if someone is forcing you to read my commentary. Did you think of that? Of course not. I happen to disagree wholeheartedly, seriously, and violently with the article in question, and it would be unfair to everyone else if I were to let it stand without counterpoint.

So please feel free to assault my rights to freedom of speech and expression whenever you feel the need. And kiss my ass.


Shylo / August 19, 2004 9:48 PM

Calm yourself, little sunflower. Nothing soothes the savage heart like a candy bar. Eat up, Chad.

uh / August 19, 2004 10:33 PM

How can you be in "violent disagreement" with someone who says we should sit down and enjoy a conversation over drinks? Are you antisocial?

C. Diamond / August 19, 2004 11:10 PM

uh- To answer your first question, I am in "violent disagreement" with anyone who would have the effrontery to pretend to limit my social behavior to that which is merely legal, bourgeois, P.C., socially acceptable. To limit my leisure-time options to drinking slow in establishments "diverse in age groups, economic class, and style of dress." I'll talk about whoever strikes my fancy, and I don't care if they talk about me. I don't need to drink before I dance. Second, the article is badly written. I could go on, but I won't. The author knows how I feel.

And yes, I am anti-social, and the anti-social have a right to be heard. Some people call it negative; I say the form and content of the column negate themselves. Only the weak call violence negative. Violence is a natural, positive, life-affirming reaction to bad writing, vulgar sentiments, and the will to negate the individual. Got me?


uh / August 19, 2004 11:19 PM

Man. Sucks to be you. See a psychologist.

Ramsin / August 19, 2004 11:34 PM

CD, nobody's telling you how to act when you go out drinking. I know it is monumentally difficult to understand this, but I didn't write this column with you in mind. I don't "have" to drink before I dance, either, and I didn't insinuate anybody did. This was a friendly little column about the atmosphere I, personally, enjoy when I, personally, go out drinking. You don't have to be bourgeois to go out and have one Glenfiddich--you can get a glass of it for $5 at a lot of places. My point? I prefer two $5 Glenfiddich to five $2 beers. That is my preference.

And, believe me, I have no problems getting violent at bars. So if you and I are you drinking at the same time, and I hear you talking loud about me and my companion, you can find out all about that.

miss ellen / August 20, 2004 9:27 AM

uh-huh, it's ON!

i say, we take it to the dancefloor & have a good old dance-off.

nice read, ramsin. although, i gotta say "violent disagreement" sure does sound fun.

JA / August 20, 2004 11:06 AM

See you at the party. Nice try, AH.


Shylo / August 20, 2004 12:11 PM

Oh my God. Can you guys do a face-off like in Breakin'? Or You Got Served? Please say yes!

UofI Sigma Chi / August 20, 2004 2:37 PM

It's about getting as drunk as possible and taking any woman you want home for your personal pleasure

"T.J." / August 20, 2004 2:39 PM

If at least 50% of the sausage aren't wearing Abercrombie or a backwards baseball hat and 50% of the tacos aren't showing skin or breasts, it's not worth going to

Lyle from Lisle / August 21, 2004 12:35 AM

This Chad vs. Ramsin (& everyone) rhubarb is the most exciting GB action in memory. I can certainly understand what got Chad's goat -- Ramsin's column was pompous as hell, and that "diverse in age groups, economic class, and style of dress" is the kind of self-congratulatory liberalism that GB should be (self-)skewering.

(We welcomed the derelict to our table -- this is a humane drinking establishment that would never think of giving a bum the bum's rush -- patiently listened to his hard-luck tale, and finally ponied up $15 between us all. I was in the bathroom when J came in just to wash his hands, which didn't strike me as odd until much later. When we got up to leave, Jenna couldn't find her purse, *but we're not saying it was that guy.*)

Upon first reading I left open the possibility that R had scotched tongue in cheek, but apparently not.

I love the extremity of C's rancor, but I also love crank call recordings. C's retorts are rude as hell, but they do infuse GB with the untidyness that makes for a healthy online community, a little ass-kicking to go along with all the ass-licking.

Like everyone else on this comment thread, I too would give anything to join a block of gapers a few tables over, when R and C meet over drinks to clear the air. R with his blue blazer, ascot and Glenfiddich, across from C with his leather jacket and Pabst tallboys.

"They both just went to the john and had it out with each other . . ."

Ramsin / August 21, 2004 3:58 AM

I think its hilarious that because I, who works hard six days a week for subsystence level income, prefer to drink fewer good drinks than many lower-quality drinks, I am now a wearer of blue blazers an ascots. You don't have to be Thurston Howell to go out drinking and spend $10 on two scotches, as opposed to $10 on four beers. It just means I drink less and enjoy my drink longer. I also go out drinking less often--exactly because I can't afford it, like many people. If only everybody could afford to go out and get their booze at a bar five nights a week like you, Lyle from Lisle.

So all of these sentiments that I'm some sort of plutocrat swirling brandy are ridiculous. Everybody is so infatuated with this culture of heavy drinking cheap booze that they think anybody who drinks to enjoy the drink is a millionaire.

What is so pompous about saying that I, personally, feel going out drinking is about enjoying your company more than the boozing?

And the reason I want a place "diverse in age groups, economic class, and style of dress" is that I don't want to hang out with a bunch of white hipster kids exclusively, or any one specific group of people (unless its Assyrians, but you know we stick together).

Your little weird caveat about the bum stealing the girl's purse is nonsensical. Trying to sneak some of your bed-time journal fiction in here? Your and others' attempts to transform me into an elitest, PC bourgeois Fauntleroy are ludicrous and baseless.

Look, this was supposed to be an unremarkable, non-threatening column about what I enjoy when I go out drinking: one or two good drinks (not spending $300 on a shot of Louis XIV or whatever you are imagining as you gulp down your Pabst Blue Ribbon and looking around to see whose impressed), spending time with my friends, and cutting loose a little bit.

What I don't enjoy is hard-ons who are being aggressive and loud, disrupting other people's good times because they don't know how to comport themselves in public. Perhaps you think that is "pompous," to dislike it when some loudmouthed punk kid is making an ass of himself; but I don't. Maybe if you go out to drink with a ladyfriend and some guy is hollering obscenities at the top of his lungs you'll give a little golf clap. It causes me to get angry. You're in public: you have no right to mess with somebody else's good time. Perhaps when you progress into maturity, you'll find that that "Who cares what people think of me?" disrespectful attitude towards other people results in things like getting thrown out onto the street by the skin of your balls.

Perhaps in your nerdly, cloistered world, posting boneheaded self-important threats to women on a weblog is "ass-kicking". You know what "ass-kicking" is in the real world? Chasing a guy down four blocks and beating him so badly he's blind in one eye. That is ass-kicking. Talking loud about how fast you can drink Pabst or how much of a ruckus you can cause in a bar is not "ass-kicking"; grabbing the loudmouth hassling the nice young lady at the end of the bar and using your belt to choke him until you feel his trachea crack is ass-kicking. Threateningly insinuating you're going to show up at a weblogger meet-up to cause trouble and then not showing up is not ass-kicking; actually showing up would have been a good first step, though.

I just wish all of you tough-guy on-line commenters, who fancy yourselves the guardians of some sort of proletarian street cred you invented in your mind while commenting on weblogs would knock it off with this posing. Tough guys don't need to let everybody know just how loud and "in-your-face" they can be. I've known a lot of tough sonsofbitches, and you know them because they're the ones quietly enjoying themselves until they've got a fist in your throat.

Go into any real dive bar or blue collar after-work tap, and see how many people you see hooting and causing a raucus, disrupting other peoples' conversations or privacy, and disrespcting the joint. Better yet, do it yourself and see if you make it out. That stuff may fly at the L&L, but not the places I've been to.

You've got an over-active imagination, there, Lyle. But if you really think drinking fine liquor and keeping to yourself is the province of the pansy aristocrat, I know of a few Vice Lord hang-outs where the cognac is flowing you can go to. Or you can head over to Roosevelt and Washtenaw and tell the Gangster Disciples they're "pompous" for sipping Alize. Why don't you see if they like your little short story about your friend's purse?

Steve / August 23, 2004 12:38 PM

When your comment boards begin to host flamewars that have little to do with the topic of contention and way too much to do with the personalities of the contenders, then your website has arrived in the big leagues.

Congratulations, Gapers Block! Drinks all around at my favorite imaginary bar, Cactus Leaf, which hosts boring traders, tit-barin' hotties, Andersonville "pioneers," andthe poor huddled masses. 101 cheap beers on tap, plus some awe-inspiring single malts.

C.Diamond, you're no Michael Diamond.

waleeta / August 24, 2004 4:57 PM

Nice article. You seem to have made a few alcoholics angry, but whatever. I heart fruity martinis with huge portions of fattening pastas, meats, rice dishes and ginormous salads. mmmmmm......


About the Author(s)

Ramsin Canon covers and works in politics in Chicago. If you have a tip, a borderline illegal leak, or a story that needs to be told, contact him at .

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