Monday, January 19, 2015

Fiction - It's Just a Comfortable Bar for Women.

A buddy invited me out drinking at this bar he'd talked of before.

"Look," he said, "if we are polite and mind our manners we just might get lucky." Luck had never been something I had associated with bars, but I really didn't need any luck at the moment anyway. For the record I will not be mentioning the name of this bar nor will I confirm or deny it's location. Sure it could be in Andersonville or Avondale or even by the Zoo. You'll just have to find it on your own.

When I had asked last time what sort of bar it was I had gotten a vague answer. "It's women friendly," he'd said", "but it's not lesbian. I mean lesbians are welcome and you will see them there. It's kinda feminist but guys are welcome too. It's just a comfortable bar for women."

"SO why are we going again," I asked?

"It's 'gentlemen's night.' Beer is cheap for us," is all he would say.

We entered the bar. It was inviting. More of a cafe feel than a bar feel. Yes there was an actual bar with bar stools but there were also tables scattered around and a few couches etc. I almost didn't notice the absence of a big sports tv with a game on. It was a comfortable bar. Also missing were loud booming male voices. In fact the men that I saw seemed more quiet than the women.

My host began in, "Now listen don't stare and don't draw anyone's attention." It was an odd thing to say, I thought to myself. I looked around. There were plenty of well dressed and not un-attractive women there. Some even sitting alone.

"What did I just say," he whisper hissed at me? "You gotta pay attention to me. Don't go eying the women."

The more insistent he got the more curious I became. I was here to hang with him and I was not in the market for a fling or even a chat-up. But the more he said the more I wanted to check the place out.

A server came over to us. "Good evening gentlemen. Have you been here before? Do you have any questions?"

I was beginning to have questions but I held my tongue. I would be following my buddy for now.

"No thanks. I've been here before," he said. "I'll fill him in as needed."

"Fine. Are you ready to order?"

He turned to me. "You like wine? They have a really good Bordeaux Blanc."

I had thought we were coming for beer. He was clearly a bit nervous. I figured the best thing to do was just to keep humoring him. I simply nodded. I was becoming talk shy. Afraid of making some faux pas.

After she had left I ventured that I was expecting beer. "I changed my mind. I think wine would look better."

I was becoming increasingly puzzled. To my mind there were two major considerations when choosing a drink: the taste and the alcohol content. Looks, to my mind, while interesting were not a consideration by themselves.

It was then that I noticed a table of guys. In fact, now that I thought about it the table had become noticeable in a stand out sort of manner. A server approached and tapped a man on the shoulder.

"No. No. I didn't do anything. What did I do? No."

"Ugh oh," my buddy said. "Now he's just digging himself in deeper."

"What," I asked?

"He should have quietly apologized immediately and meekly gotten up to leave."

"What? What did he do?"

"I don't know, and it doesn't matter."

Just then the server came over with two drinks. "Compliments of the lady over there," she nodded in the direction of the bar.

I looked and then looked back at my buddy. He said, "just nod thanks and return to talking to me. For gods' sake don't stare and don't get up."

In my quick glance and nod she seemed nice. What had gotten into my buddy?

"Look," he continued, "if she's interested in us she'll come over to our table. Whatever you do don't call attention to yourself now."

At that point I had had it.

"OK," I said,"what's going on here. You've been acting so strange. I'm starting to get worried about you. Tell me what's happening or I am out of here. What is this place anyway?"

"I thought I told you? I didn't? This is like a feminist bar. They have a very strict code of conduct for us guys. Number one is no hitting on the women. Don't even look like you're hitting on one. Never do anything that could even be construed as the 'first move.' That guy that got ejected, well he coulda been sent packing for just staring too long at some woman. And it wasn't even necessarily the woman he was staring at that got him ejected. Any woman at any time can ask that any guy be kicked out. She doesn't even need a reason. She just has to ask and they do it. And you never know who or why. Because there might not have been a reason."

"That seems unfair," I replied.

"Maybe it is but it's the owner's bar and the owner's rules. With alcohol they have a lot of leeway with the liquor commission in the conduct they can permit in their bar. And here it's one strike and you are out. Here they have zero tolerance for whatever they choose to call 'sexist behavior.' Their goal is to make it a very comfortable bar for women."

Just then the woman who had bought us drinks came over with a friend. "Hey hard butt studlies mind if we join you?"

Like he had told me, sometimes you get lucky. Just don't push your luck. Don't even tap it.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Aldermanic Politics: So Joe and Harry, Can You be Progressive and Neo-Liberal?

I am thinking about Joe Moore and Harry Osterman here. I always think about Harry but I was sparked to think about Joe because of the recent Reader article (Alderman Joe Moore explains his choice of beer and support for Rahm). He is a self-proclaimed Rahm supporter. He is a so-called progressive. Rahm in the meantime is what's called neo-liberal.

Progressive is understood these days as being the left-wing of the Democratic big tent. Neo-liberal is not really much of popular label at all. It's more of an insider label. Indeed there may be many so-called progressives who might be hard pressed to pin down a definition, even for themselves.

I use the term to refer to those Democrats who favor moving as much of the public infrastructure as possible into the private sector. Especially into the corporate private sector. Think charter schools. Think privatized water. Think privatized jails. You get the picture? Just remember that there is no need to stop pretty much anywhere. Think of hiring private mercenary corporations instead of the U.S. Army.

In Chicago, the first two, water and schools are the current and likely next battle grounds between the so-called progressives and the neo-liberals. Why do I keep saying so-called progressives? Well now we are back to Joe Moore. In the interview with Joe in the Reader, Mike Dumke seemed not to ask about either question, charter schools or water. So I am left wondering.

Where does Joe stand on charter schools and privatized water? Does he stand with Rahm on those? Even if not publicly?

Where does Harry stand for that matter? Harry recently took a stand against a charter school and another for Senn Public High School. But with Harry you never know whether such stands are tactical or philosophical. He holds all of his cards close to the vest. He is nothing if not a very practical politician.

So for Harry we might better ask where does the 48th ward community stand? There are two ways to find out. Conduct a poll or for Harry to make a move against the community and face some wrath. The ultimate wrath being successful opposition at the ballot box.

That's Joe's situation as we speak. The guy he barely beat in 2007, Don Gordon is back. But I don't see Don calling Joe out on either issue as that would be running at Joe from the left. And Joe substantially shored up his left flank with Participatory Budgeting. So Don is likely to run at Joe from the right, safety. Specifically so-called gang violence and crime in general. I myself don't see it working. I'm not sure that Rogers Park is really ready for gentrification. Gentrifiers care about crime. Crime keeps property values down and therefore taxes down. So I bet a lot of Rogers Parkers aren't ready for Lincoln Park style gentrification. Hell they aren't ready for Edgewater style gentrification. They still think their kids will be able to afford to live there when they grow up.

But Joe really is vulnerable to an opposition from the left. Problem is it would take a Paul Wellstone caliber campaigner to pull it off.

And so, by the way, is Harry vulnerable from the left. Harry has worked hard and successfully to shore up his right wing by being lauding his crime fighting cred. But lets face it, gay gentrification is different than straight gentrification. It can be fickle. Gay gentrifiers might actually care about participatory government more than Harry does.

But then again they may not. Conservative myths pushed by main stream media (MSM) run stronger these days and democratic ideals weaker. Take the myth that the private sector is more efficient than the public one. That's a myth belied by facts like that the social security bureaucracy is way more efficient than any private insurance bureaucracy. The problem for private bureaucracy is that the money saved ends up going into the owners pockets and is called profits. They way neo-liberalism supposedly saves money is by busting unions. But that just takes money out of a local economy and sends it to global profit centers. But if you want to run your government on the cheap, well sure, go for it. But it becomes less and less your government when you do.

Ultimately the neo-liberal privateers just want to reduce taxes, just like conservatives, on the rich and the corporate. And that's giant myth number two. Reducing taxes is good for everybody. The biggest problem is that somehow the taxes on the rich always get reduced more, even proportionately. Recycling tax dollars into the local economy directly tends to export more dollars out of our local economy and faster than recycling tax dollars via public wages first.

So can an alderman be progressive and neo-liberal. Well not in my book. But then I'm not a bookie.