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Bars and the Meaning of Life

By Eric A. Carlson

"They're playing a tune in McGuffy's saloon, and it's cheery and bright in there."

--Robert Service, The Spell of the Yukon

Institutionally more important than entire government agencies, bars provide for an environment of unfettered human interaction--lubricated at times with a beverage of one's choice--from which deep thoughts emerge, capable of changing individual destinies and the world as we know it. Albert Einstein was well into his cups at a local New Jersey tavern when he scrawled E=MC2 on a cocktail napkin--thus setting the space-time continuum in a tizzy. And on a personal note, I found a dead rat under my table at Jed's University Inn in New Orleans that had a profound effect on my life.

Choice of bar is a heartfelt personal decision. I have never been able to recapture the slant of light found at Jed's or the Maple Leaf Bar & Chess Club in New Orleans--much of the light depends on the people, of course, and God knows you can't go home again. And places change over time; many recall when the Los Gatos Lodge was unsurpassed as a human meat market. No more. The other night I stopped by and was served my drink in a plastic cup. The horror.

When Rutger Hauer, as a replicant in Blade Runner, described the wonder he encountered in space, " ... attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion," it brought to mind events I have seen with my own eyes ... in bars: Dorothy throwing a pitcher of beer at a table of mocking intellectuals--who grinned in retaliation; myself being attacked by a woman at the Horse and Cow in Vallejo when I refused to ante up money for crippled children; Paul Rebozzi--Vahl's bartender--tearing phone books in half and making cigarettes disappear into thin air; Fred Birkelo pulling out pictures of ex-girlfriends from his wallet and setting them on fire in an ashtray in a bar in Virginia Beach (the evening did not end well); attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion--oops, scratch that last. So much ... lost in time.

Santa Clara Valley is blessed with a vast assortment of watering holes: trendy Fuel-ish downtown joints, sports bars, neighborhood pubs 'n' dives, historical Waves Saloon and Smokehouse, Vahl's on the Alviso Slough, and myriad others undefined--bars in bowling alleys and golf courses and strip-mall restaurants. One of them may just hold the answer to the meaning of life--at least for you.

Cover Pull Up a Stool

What to do, where to go, what to order and who to meet. Every pressing social question answered in our annual handbook to Silicon Valley watering holes and hangouts.

Listings by Geographical Location:
Campbell | Cupertino | Los Gatos | Mtn. View | Peninsula | Central San Jose | San Jose 'Burbs | Santa Clara | Saratoga | South County | Sunnyvale | South County | Bar and Club Locator

Light's On, Door's Open: What makes a bar a favorite hangout the world over? One writer aims to find out.

I'll Have What She's Having...: What's new and what's cool when it comes to the latest cocktail twists.

Senoritas and Margaritas: Left at Albuquerque--blame it all on Route 66.

Scene Stealer: All the animals come out at night... to the Camera Cafe.

Saddle Up: Sangria Restaurant, where sitting at the bar is a gripping experience.

Retro Groovin': At the DancePlex. partygoers relive the '70s, '80s and... this morning!

Flash and Dash: Mardi Gras and other surprises at Nola Restaurant and Bar.

Knight Dreams: Black Watch--where swords cross and Stoli freezes over.

United Nations: Lido's Nightclub, where world beat has a whole new meaning.

Taste the Music: The Icon Supperclub is the new incarnation of the Edge.

Mineral Wealth: Mining for meaning under the Cinebar's disco ball .

In the Pink: All in a dogone day's work at the Pink Poodle.

Rod's Roadstop: Britannia Arms at Almaden wears it well.

Editor: Kelly Luker

Design: Shannon Stillman

Photography: George Sakkestad

Production: Nichole Pejack, Marty Stevens, Shannon Stillman

Proofreader: Jeanne Schuster

Contributors (in alphabetical order): Jimmy Aquino, Corinne Asturias, Suzanne Barnecut, Justin Berton, Oakley Brooks, Eric Carlson, Dara Colwell, Kevin Fayle, Will Harper, Jeff Kearns, Chantal Lamers, Kelly Luker, Jessica Lyons, Michelle Martinez, Tomas Matza, Erin Mayes, Dan Pulcrano, Sarah Quelland, Genevieve Roja, Mary Spicuzza, Richard Von Busack, Gordon Young

On the Covers (front and inside): Many thanks to cover models Camilla Barungi, Juan Pablo Gonzalez, Scott Long, Cecille L. Gahr and Dee Morgan. Also to Rick Preston, makeup stylist Miss Jeannie Mai and hair stylists Mary Stieman and Domenica Gonzalez.

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From the June 21-27, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.