Thursday, May 30, 2013

SB SENTINEL: WESTSIDE WATERING HOLE







WESTSIDE NOTES by Jimmy Strazzapretti


Photo by Robin



Name's Jimmy.  Jimmy Strazzapretti.  Folks around here call me Pretty Jim.  Not because I'm gay or nothing, just good lookin'.

I hold up one end of the bar most nights, an eye on the westside, cos sooner or later, whatever's going on westside lands here.

Lately, this joint is what's going on.  A tweak here, tweak there.  

The happy-hour guzzlers weren't so happy to start.  Scared of change.  But they came round.  And why not?  The booze tastes the same.  Costs the same.  Same buzz.  Same jukebox, pool table.  Same neighborhood saloon.  

A couple diehards say they miss the aroma of stale beer that rolled out with the old carpet.

But from my perch, smells pretty darn fine.

GNOMES PROLIFERATING




Wednesday, May 29, 2013

THE BoHenry BAR BELL


Circa 1880-1900
Solid bronze on an iron stand
From a South American banana boat

If you chime the bell, you buy everyone a drink.


Saturday, May 25, 2013

EDGAR ALLAN POE ON DRINKING





“I have absolutely no pleasure in the stimulants in which I sometimes so madly indulge. It has not been in the pursuit of pleasure that I have periled life and reputation and reason. It has been the desperate attempt to escape from torturing memories, from a sense of insupportable loneliness and a dread of some strange impending doom.”








Wednesday, May 22, 2013

OUR NEW MARQUEE




THE INDEPENDENT GETS IT WRONG




The Independent, Santa Barbara's weekly newspaper, last week began...

the first in an occasional series of bar profiles.


They started by calling us...

Palmieri’s on the Westside




Friday, May 17, 2013

...even though we have been BoHenry's for a full month before the piece posted.

Name of Bar: Palmieri’s Cocktail Lounge
Wrong.
Address: 1431 San Andres Street
Days/Hours: Monday-Thursday, noon-1 a.m.; Friday–Saturday, noon-2 a.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m.-midnight
Wrong:  We now open at 2 p.m. every day.
Known For: Stiff drinks, a dazzling cast of regulars, and meeting strangers
Regulars: Working-class Mexican men in their thirties and forties, some twenty-somethings
Wrong:  Our regular customers comprise a full spectrum of ethnicities.
Quote from the Bartender: “Best bar on the Westside. … Only bar on the Westside.”
Famous Patrons: Jaime, whose portrait appears on the bar T-shirts
Wrong.
Happy Hour Weekdays 4 to 6 p.m., deals on bottled beers and well drinks at $4.75 a shot
Memorable D├ęcor: Barbie makeup doll wearing a sombrero, posters from Santa Barbara Fiestas past
Wrong:  Long gone, replaced by fine art.
Neighborhood: San Andres and Micheltorena near some excellent Mexican joints, and an easy stumble home if you live on the Westside.
Fun Fact: El Zarape and Paesano’s deliver straight to the bar!
Insider’s Tip: if you order “water,” you might get served tequila.
Funny.
My Experience: Just above the door to Palmieri’s, there’s a sign featuring a martini glass, but I’m quite sure no one has ever ordered a martini here. Inside I ordered well whiskey, which came cheaply and plentifully. Beside me sat a stranger in a sheepskin denim jacket and curled-up hair. He told me, “This is the kind of place Tom Waits would have gone — if he’d been part of a Mexican street gang.”
I looked around the dimly lit room, and my eyes stumbled across an action figure display by the register, Bud Light Nascar flags, and a big framed portrait of the Corleone family. It was part adolescent irony, part sports bar, and part old town saloon. There was history, but there was juvenility; there was something rooted, and something always rolling. I ordered a water and I was given tequila.
Palmieri’s is the only bar on the Westside. This lent the bar not the sense of desperation it should have but a sense of organic-ism. People came to Palmieri’s not because they chose to but because there was nowhere else for them.
I don’t mean that they couldn’t have gone somewhere else; that’s not the point. The point was that this place was for them. Palmieri’s wasn’t someplace someone dreamed up, some idea hatched by people who’d carefully studied consumer trends and possible niche markets. It was organic. And it grew because it was needed.
Outside we talked about bar fights as we took long drags on cheap cigarettes. We talked about Jaime — did he work there? was he just always there? — and why his face was on the Palmieri’s T-shirt. Just then the 5’4” Mexican fellow appeared outside. He answered a call on his old flip phone, lit a cigarette, and limped down San Andres toward the sea. He would return before long, and so would I.
Our experience:  We stock fine wine and top shelf whiskey.  We have Mexican customers, but making the assumption that they must belong to a gang is insulting and disrespectful to Hispanics.  We have had no gang incidents and our patrons of Mexican heritage are friendly and law-abiding.
The Bud Lite Nascar flags are long gone, as is a poster of the Corleone family, replaced by almost 70 pieces of fine art.
Jaime is our local treasure and much-loved part-time employee.  He is hardworking, friendly and always willing to lend a hand to anyone in need.
The Independent's article is dated and misleading, and bears no resemblance to BoHenry's.


Jaime



Wednesday, May 15, 2013

REMEMBERING JONATHAN WINTERS


Hangs at BoHenry's



Almost everyone in town has their favorite Jonathan Winters story.

This is mine, from when we sat down to chat, in February 2002, at the Montecito Inn bar.

“Some people think I’m crazy,” said Jonathan.  “That’s fine, I like it that way.  Whether I’m crazy or not is all the same to me.”  He winked.  “Main thing, I’m comfortable in my own mind.”

“Asylums are wonderful places,” he continued.  “Everyone inside admits to being nuts up front, including the shrinks, so everything is out in the open, no pretension.  If there’s a problem, it’s with normal society, where the crazies don’t own up, and even worse, you have to deal with sane people.  It’s easy to tell who they are.”  He looked right and left.  “They’re the ones in line all the time.”

“I spent eight months in one of those places.  It was after my second breakdown.  I cracked, began to hallucinate.  That was back in 1962.  In those days there was no Lithium, no Prozac.  They sent me to Hartford, Connecticut, to a nuthouse called the Institute for Living. The scary part wasn’t the other whackos.”  Jonathan shook his jowls.  “Them, I liked.  They just wanted to have fun, which society can’t accept.  It was the stuck factor that terrified me.  I’d never lost my freedom like that before.  Losing your freedom is a lot worse than losing your marbles.  Heavy gates.  Locked wards.  Patients screaming.  Can you imagine, calling a place like that an institute for living?  You’re locked in, Jack, and they’ve got the key.  No amount of money buys a ticket out–-you’re stuck inside till they decide to let you go.”

“What was wrong with you?” I asked.

“That’s exactly what I asked one of them fancy-pants shrinks after a month:  What is my label?”  Jonathan stared past me, from the part of his brain for which there is no return address.

“And?”

In a voice that belonged to somebody else, Jonathan mimicked, “I don’t want to give you a label.”  He resumed his normal voice.  “Why not?  I’m not psychotic. I’m not schizophrenic.  I could be manic-depressive.  I’ve made a fair study of mental illness.  I’m certainly not catatonic or we wouldn’t be talking, I’d be sitting here staring at you.  No, I’m shrink-wrapped, looking for a label.”

“He must have respected your understanding of this stuff,” I said.

Jonathan shrugged.  “Maybe.  But he still wouldn’t give me a label.  He told me I suffered stress.  Okay, I said, but I still need a label.  I’m paying for a label.  Let’s forget the label, he said.  All right, I said, let’s forget the twelve grand.  After five months, the head shrink calls me in to see him.  He says, you have a lot of anger in you.  Sure I had a lot of anger in me.  Mostly about my dad.  He used to call me the dumbest white kid he ever met.  When I took an art class, my dad said, You must be a faggot.  I once asked my mother–-she left my drunk father when I was seven–-why she bothered to have me, and you know what she said?”

I shook my head.

“She said she thought it was a good idea at the time.  A good idea at the time?  That’s heavy.  When I came home from the U.S. Marines, from the war, I looked everywhere for my old toys.  Couldn’t find them.  I asked my mother, Where are my toys?  She says…” Jonathan altered his voice to a falsetto mimic.  “‘Oh those?  I gave them away to the mission.  Who knew if you were coming back?’” Who knew if I was coming back?  No wonder I had a lot of anger!  I’ve been buying old toys ever since!  My house is bursting at the joints with old toys–-and it’s a big house!  So we’re sitting there, and Doctor Fimley says to me…” Jonathan’s voice became a nasal twang.  “’We think we can do something about your anger.’ Made me all sweaty.  I knew what kind of something he was getting at.  Old sparky.” 

“Who?”

“Shock treatment.”  Jonathan placed both index fingers on either side of his head.  “Zzzzzzzzz-zap!  I did not want them to do that kind of something on me.  Nobody knew how or why it worked–-or what it took away.  So I ask Doctor Fimley:  What are you erasing from me–-age twelve to seventeen?  Eighteen to twenty-four?  Which part of my mind are you going to zap clean?  Old Fimley looked at me with a blank face.  He couldn’t say.  Because he didn’t know.  So I said this to Fimley:  I was in the war.  I know people in demolition.  If you do what I think you’re going to do, you will be visited.  He laughed nervously and asked if I was threatening him.  No, uh-uh, I said.  Listen carefully:  I know people in demolition.  You will be visited.  I never met old sparky.  Fimley knew I was serious.”

“How did you spend your days at the asylum?” I asked.

“I used to hang out in the corner of the grounds, near a high wall, with a group of nuts.  Most of us were veterans from one war or another.  We would talk about escaping.  I never knew when I was going to get out.  Or if I was going to get out.  My room was about ten-by-twelve, with a barred window that overlooked the front courtyard.  I could see the crazies come and go.  My roommate was a young man named Jimmy.  He served Uncle Sam at Anzio and his father was a big Cadillac dealer.  Jimmy’s dad committed him after Jimmy spent two months as a salesman and couldn’t sell one Cadillac.   I asked Jimmy, How long you been here?  Two years, he said.  That worried me.  One day, I was walking around the grounds, plotting an escape, and a guy jumps out from behind a poplar tree.  You’re that famous comedian, he says.  Who me?  Yep, he says, this is the only place where nuts feed the squirrels.  You had to like these people.  You couldn’t like them too much, though.  At a dance social I squeezed too close to a woman who thought she was Marie Antoinette and they threw water on us.”

“But you eventually got out?” I say.

“Oh yeah.  They let me out after eight months, though they never did say what was wrong with me.  I wasn’t home an hour and the phone rang, a call from Stanley Kramer.  He wanted me to play a role in a movie he was going to shoot, about six months’ work.  I said, No, I don’t think I’m ready yet.  My wife overheard me and started talking.  She said…” Jonathan mimicked his wife:  “’You better take it.  If you don’t, they’ll never call you again.’  So I did what she said.  And that’s how I ended up in It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.”

“You’re saying you went from a madhouse into a mad, mad, mad, mad world?”

“Gee, I never thought of it that way.”  Jonathan scratched his head.  “Ironic, huh?   Now I’m going to give you the best advice I know.”

I listened, spellbound.

“Life is a shit sandwich,” said Jonathan.  “But if you have enough bread, you never taste the shit.” 



Tuesday, May 14, 2013

RAYMOND CHANDLER ON DRINKING




"Alcohol is like love.  The first kiss is magic, the second is intimate, the third is routine. After that you take the girl's clothes off."

Chandler's own lifestyle probably inspired the noir archetype of the hard-drinkin’ detective as much as his books did. 

The most famous story goes that when he found himself unable to complete the screenplay for The Blue Dahlia, he went on a week-long bender, fully supported by the movie studio. 

He consumed nothing but bourbon for a week as he pounded out the ending of the script, and the film producers hired a doctor to inject him with vitamins twice a day, as well as a number of secretaries to be at the ready to assist with dictation, typing, and other emergencies, should the need arise.

It worked. Eight days later, the script was finished. A month after that, Chandler finally recovered from his hangover.