Went to a friend's birthday party Friday night, and got fairly drunk. Usually this wouldn't be noteworthy, but post-Year Zero in the new Healthy Era, I haven't been out that much. I planned to stay for a beer or two, but then it started raining heavily, and I didn't want to leave in the rain. Then it started hailing heavily and I didn't want to leave in the hail. Then more rain, and by that point beers seemed to be regenerating magically, and how this all ends is that I blathered a whole lot and felt like shit all day Saturday. It was great. Just like old times!
The party was held at Solstice, a little place that I've heard of but never been to -- it's a little out of my normal roaming range. It's cool, though (apparently too cool to have a website, near as I can tell) -- seemed like a neighborhood joint with lots of friendly regulars, kind of hippieish/funky in a way that makes me Boulder-nostalgic (though with better music playing -- nary a Phish tune to be heard), good beer list, good wine list, lots of coffee drinks. If it were within walking distance, I'd go several times weekly.
Another point in its favor: no smoking inside. I hate to admit it, given how much bar culture has shaped the last 15 years of my life, but non-smoking is a big plus these days. I'm more sensitive to smoke now and if I can find a place where it's verboten, great.
So the problem: the two places where I've spent the most time in the last few years, at least since the Eclipse di Sol era ended, are Manuel's and Atkins Park -- both smoking. (Both have non-smoking rooms, but those are kind of... the kids' table, I guess.) Now, I'm still going to both, of course. But probably not as much. So I need to find a new standby local.
As far as I can tell, there are three real contenders:
* The Bookhouse Pub. Pluses: great beer selection. Only a few blocks from my place. Kind of hip and adult at the same time (i.e. no hordes of Georgia State kids, no golf tees behind ears). Good food, some of it healthy. Book theme, which obviously is a big hit in these parts. Minuses: doesn't open 'til 5, which is a bummer if I want lunch.
* Original El Taco. Pluses: good food, though I might get tired of Mexican kind of quickly. Really friendly staff. Open-air patio. Almost exactly one mile from my house, so if I walk up and back, hey, that's two miles. Wine selection is limited but everything I've had has been really good. Minuses: again, not open for lunch. Beer selection is not so great.
* Porter Beer Bar. Pluses: astonishing beer selection. Great food. Nifty bar area. Open days. Minuses: a bit longer of a walk, so it's not a momentary decision. Had a pretty awful Bloody Mary there. Kind of pricey.
Atlantans: any places in the Va-Hi/Poncey area I'm missing? This is, of course, largely an exercise in boredom -- I can easily go to all these places (and still devote considerable love to Manuel's and Atkins). And I will. But if I had to guess, eventually I'll end up at the Bookhouse most often.
* * *
#32 -- "Ghostwritten" by David Mitchell
God help us if Thomas L. Friedman ever comes across Mitchell's novels; having now read both this one and "Cloud Atlas," it's obvious Mitchell is a sucker for interconnectedness.
This (his first novel) reads like a warm-up for "Cloud Atlas" -- it's roughly the same idea, a bunch of loosely-connected stories (fringe characters from one become major players in another) spanning the world. Eventually it's all brought together, in an ending that's pretty unsatisfactory. But up until then, the stories are really good. Plenty of variation in tone and voice, all very good. One -- the last, in fact, before we get into the endgame -- tells the story of a woman fleeing nasty government agents, and despite that thriller plot, it's such a freaking beautiful celebration of all that is good and wonderful about life that I almost teared up. But I have a manly reputation to uphold.
After all that greatness, like I said, the ending felt like one big eh. I almost would have preferred the tales stay separate with their minor links, but then I'd probably complain that there was no center. No-win situation.
Anyway, really liked it. Not as much as "Cloud Atlas," but I was surprised to find that I didn't mind Mitchell using the same setup -- in fact, if he does this with all his novels, I really wouldn't be put off at all. He does the interconnectedness bit very well. It's obvious enough that you won't be distracted trying to find the references, but not so obvious that you feel like he's winking at you. He's got a couple more out there and I'll be tracking those down.