To the editor,
While I am impressed with Monica Kendrick’s brilliant Marxian analysis of the Chicago bar scene, and share her nostalgia for “sawdust-floored juke joints where down-and-outers paid pennies for stale beer scammed from higher-class establishments” as well as her haute working-class disdain for “scholarly…gray-headed Brits,” I am compelled by my own sense of petty righteousness to point out that her backhanded recommendation of a “bar that’s dealt such a nasty blow to labor recently” (Spot Check, January 11), aside from its blatant editorializing and one-sided portrayal of what the author well knows is a two-sided issue (“Clipped,” Post No Bills, by Peter Margasak, December 21), is a bit much. You’d think the California Clipper had enormous smokestacks belching thick clouds of cigar smoke into the heavens and a pipeline running straight from its tap into the Chicago River, marring the natural beauty of that pristine waterway with a sludgy residue of Guinness draught.
Don’t get me wrong–I share Ms. Kendrick’s general worldview, at least as it pertains to neighborhood bars. I too look forward to the day when the proletariat of cheap beer drinkers will rise from their barstools and take back the cool bars from the martini-wielding oppressors, when bars are no longer operated on the capitalist model but by an artel of drinkers and I, as both drinker and bartender, am no longer estranged from the product of my labor. I simply do not believe, however, that this dream can be realized until we turn whatever energy we have left–after long days in the factory and long nights at the bar–to slightly more serious and overarching matters, like protesting Starbucks and The Real World. Until the advancing Wehrmacht of gentrification has been turned back to the lake, and occupied neighborhoods like Wicker Park are reclaimed by poverty, drugs, and prostitution (not to mention brightly lit retail drinking establishments with gen-u-ine drunks “passing out on the floor”), I am afraid that, alas, Ms. Kendrick is merely tilting her pint glass at windmills.
The California Clipper