Thursday 21 May 2020

The Tender Bar

Finished May 15
The Tender Bar: a Memoir by J.R. Moehringer

This is a captivating book of a boy turning into a man. JR spent most of his growing up years in Manhasset, New York on Long Island. His mother moved back into his grandparents' home when he was very young escaping domestic abuse. She struggled to move out, and finally followed a sister out to Arizona and made a life for herself and JR there. She sent him back to New York every summer though.
His mother's brother, his Uncle Charlie worked in a nearby bar, and took JR under his wing, taking him on outings to the beach, to baseball games, and other excursions along with Charlie's friends, many of whom also worked in the bar. JR grew up listening to these men's stories and watching them and trying to be someone they liked.
Once he got to be drinking age, he had his first drink in the bar, and it became even more central in his life.
I loved the characters here, the various idiosyncrasies that each one has and how JR makes them come alive. Colt, with his voice like Yogi Bear's. Joey D, large, manic, and his way of talking into his breast pocket. Bobo, a handsome blond with a lovable black mutt of a dog. Their boss, Steve, who owned the bar and gave everyone nicknames that stuck whether they liked them or not. Fuckembabe, the porter, whose speech was almost unintelligible except for that one line. Bob the Cop with his seriousness.
We see JR grow up, go to university, fall in love, try various jobs before falling into the journalism career he loves, and come to terms with the issues in his life, from his phantom of a father, to his class awareness, to the role alcohol played in his life.
A fantastic read.

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