Saturday, May 28, 2011

On "The Side Bar" by Jean Ryan (4242 words) ***

Stopping in Dodge City on my way across the country when I was twenty, a lifetime resident of Southern California, I was struck by the fact that out here, out in the middle of the country, there weren't a thousand people trying to break into film. I was eating at Dairy Queen (for lack of any restaurants in that time and place that weren't fast food), being served by people who weren't aspiring actors. It's one of the reasons that living outside Hollywood is more relaxing. You don't have to try to be something else. You're not in a constant struggle to try to be something bigger than life--and you don't feel like you're settling for something less if you don't take part in that struggle. Ryan recounts a woman who likes her small town of White Horse, Nevada, for similar reasons. Not so many choices. You have one restaurant, one grocery, one hardware store. And if you walk into any of these places, the chances are good you know who you'll see.

In the case of Ryan's narrator, who you'll see as a bartender are the town's troubled, sad, lonely, and aging. I'm sure that bartenders everywhere see plenty of these sort of people. Living where I do, in a college town, where drinking establishments are more numerous than hot dog buns in a football stadium, I'm a regular at the bars. Here, the bars seem like happy places, and I guess, on a superficial level the bar where Ryan works is also. People come to socialize. But what type of people? As here, many of them are there only because there is nowhere better for them to go. They are troubled. They are sad. They are lonely. They are getting old. But for a few hours, at the bar, they have friends, comrades, people to drink with, and they're happy, and all does not seem so wrong with the world.

Landscape is big in this story, though, and the surrounding desert plays its very important part, swallowing up everyone and everything that sits inside it--including the occasional bar patron. Read all about it here at Summerset Review.

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