Bob Patterson by Bob Patterson
The face on an Oakland threshold
After receiving a tip that some Phd's are staying in a local shelter, and rejecting the possibility that it's unlikely that a Republican majority United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) would issue a game changer liberal ruling, and wondering if some third party countries might be goading North Korea into a hostile action against the USA, why would a teetotaling columnist think that a new gin mill for journalists in the Oakland area would make the best topic for a new column? The oil spill in Mayflower Arkansas isn't getting any media mentions so scratch that off the possible topics list. Updates on the nuclear plants in the Fukushima area of Japan won't interest anybody but the treehuggers. Kim Jong Un seems to have spoiled the news value of sequester cuts because there seems to be plenty of money available for Obama to do some "saber rattling" type diplomacy.
In a media market that has been inundated with analysis of the Gay Marriage issue, the fact that we have not encountered any commentary that points out that it is very unrealistic to expect a ruling from a conservative majority SCOTUS that would hand the liberals a "walk off grand slam" ruling and since there has been a surfeit of punditry that tries to keep a "think it through, Agent Utah," outcome shrouded in a veneer of "anybody's guess" mystery, writing a column with a tone of predestined inevitability seems like a waste of time and effort.
What good would it do to point out that some nefarious country with an Eddie Haskel type sense of humor might think it would be amusing to goad the leader of North Korea into renewing hostilities on the Korean peninsula because that would make it more difficult for the USA to resort to some of the "all options are on the table" solutions to the task of preventing Iran from manufacturing WMD's? Didn't the USA show that they could successfully handle the challenge of a two ocean war back when FDR was President?
The possibility of doing an article about finding people with Phd's in shelters located in close proximity to a world famous University might have some potential for landing a long and arduous assignment from the editor of the New Yorker magazine but doing all that work just to get a column for the Internets that would be just three e-takes long, seems a bit too Pollyanna-ish for the World's Laziest Journalist. Didn't we already mention the New York Times writer who now lives in People's Park?
The Don Quixote challenge of starting a new establishment that will gain a place on the list of the mythological watering holes for word slingers -- now that's worth writing about.
To write about that topic, wouldn't the abstaining columnist have to have some first hand knowledge of places such as Hurley's bar in the Rockefeller Center area of New York City where Frank McGee would huddle with his co-workers while members of the staff of the AP's New York Bureau gathered at a separate table nearby? Check.
Wasn't The Keg near the Santa Monica Evening Outlook a legendary drinking place?
Wasn't the hotel in liberated Paris, called the Scribe, the setting for some amazing feats of alcoholic consumption?
Didn't the war correspondents in Saigon gather at the Hotel Continental each evening to watch the artillery shelling of the city's outskirts? Were journalists permitted entry into the Purple Porpoise bar in Vientiane Laos, if that city actually existed?
We noticed in the New York Times Arts & Leisure Section for Sunday March 31, 2013, an article about a new Broadway play titled "Lucky Guy," which is based on the life of Mike McAlary who was a columnist with "high-octane swagger" who (reportedly) did cartwheels when "closing time" was announced at the bar where he happened to be imbibing.
Gonzo Journalism is starting the second half of its first century according to the way one of the founding fathers, Tom Wolfe, sees it, so the summer of 2013 might well be a time when America is awash in nostalgia for Gonzo journalism and that means that the idea of starting a new place in Oakland that will be gathering place for writers who grew up believing that they had to "go where the action is" has merit. Do folks outside the Oakland area know that Lake Merit isn't a lake?
The Tribune Tavern, which will be located on the ground floor of the Tribune building in downtown Oakland, has opening day scheduled for April 10th. Wouldn't the journalists who covered Saigon have preferred a bistro on the top floor?
There is one tavern in Oakland where police tend to gather and talk shop talk. Journalists tend to "let their hair down" when they are among their own kind. Motorcycle enthusiasts tend to go to biker bars. So gin mills may be an example of the old folk wisdom "water seeks its own level."
While traveling in Australia a few years back, we noticed that the smoking and drinking table found at most of the hostels where we stayed tended to attract the most loquacious of the travelers staying there and so we often found the best conversations at those gathering places even though we do not smoke or drink liquor. Perhaps a non drinker can hold his own in this new watering hole where columnists should be welcome.
Speaking of the legendary San Francisco columnist Herb Caen and the fact that National Columnists' Day is rapidly approaching, a recent Chronicle front page story detailing the attempt to assemble a list of San Francisco bars that are culturally significant makes all of Caen's Bay Area fans a bit sad that he isn't alive and fighting to augment that effort with a campaign to establish a "Gin Mill Hall of Fame" for the legendary bars that are gone but not forgotten.