And the search for the perfect hangout.
The sad news arrived, like so much news today, via social media.
Guy Pierre Bour was dead. To most readers the name will mean nothing, for Guy was no celebrity, professional athlete or politician. It was as a proprietor that we knew him. For decades, he owned a small dive on Grand Boulevard in St. Louis. The bar was a refuge for the socially dispossessed — the former farm town freaks, artists, gays, and pseudo-intellectuals that did not quite fit in anywhere else. We had been patrons off and on since the early nineties, but only recently had we become regulars.
Perhaps no one knew Guy like his longtime bartender Matt. A week after his departure from this vale we were drinking to Guy’s memory at one of the picnic tables on the front patio. I had always assumed Guy was an artist of some sort.
“Not in the usual sense,” said Matt, knowingly.
Matt eagerly recalled the day fifteen years earlier that he first approached Guy for a job. His only interview question was: “You’re not a goddamn thief, are you?”
“Not in the usual sense,” replied Matt.
Matt then explained how the bar got its uncharacteristically imitative name — CBGB — not to be confused with the legendary Manhattan music club. “It was an acronym of [his then wife] Cynthia’s name and Guy’s name. It took the New York lawyers years to hear about the place, before they sent a cease and desist letter. The memo specifically ordered Guy to empty his warehouse of all brand name merchandise. Warehouse! We didn’t even have a phone! Anyway, by then the original club had closed.”
Guy’s philosophy of life as well as business was “less is more,” but that less had better be damned interesting. Though located in the heart of the city, his pub possessed no phone, no food, no wine, no craft beers, no website, no Facebook page, no jukebox, and no credit card machine. And there sure as hell wasn’t a television set. You were going to talk at Guy’s place. And you’d better have something interesting to say.
I suppose everyone has his or her idea of the perfect tavern. For some it is a sports bar and grill with two dozen giant-screen TVs, and buckets of Budweiser served by well-endowed blondes, and Whitesnake blasting from the jukebox.
Myself, I am more interested in George Orwell’s criteria, which happily he enumerated in his essay “The Moon Under Water”:
• The “architecture and fittings” must be “uncompromisingly Victorian.”
• Games, such as darts, are only played in the public part of the bar.
• The pub is quiet enough to talk, with the house possessing neither a radio nor a piano.
• The barmaids know the customers by name and take an interest in everyone.