I Love This Bar …

Hawley's Pub

Hawley's Pub

… but you’ll never catch me writing just after I visit it.

I was doomed from a young age to lusting after the Hemingway life. In college, my fellow English/writing major friends and I idolized the concept of “life as the drunken writer.” There was no goal finer than sharing our spurts of genius while doing the bar circuit and talking literature, plot and the human condition over one more drink. Oh, yeah, and writing now and then.

Can’t understand a word we’re saying? Well, you just don’t get it. We’re not slurring, you’re stupid. Have another drink and smarten up.

No, I did NOT just spew dinner and vodka out the cab window. That was just a purge of angst and bad ideas.

Many of my idols – both authors I read for literature classes and the pop culture icons I learned to love all by myself – were drunken or drugged writers. On top of that, my parents owned (and still own) a bar. I spent, and still spend, most of my social time in the family pub. There was no where else I’d rather be, and that hasn’t changed. 

My family’s pub introduced me to football. I have rarely laughed harder than when I’m gathered with the local crew or my own circle of friends in the safe and crazy confines of that bar. It has gotten me through work stress, divorce stress, and yes, writer’s angst.

But guess how many masterpieces I’ve penned (or typed), after getting my drunk ass dropped off at home after a night of too much fun?


The truth is, I’ve never really tried. I know what happens when I try to drunk Facebook. A status update that was supposed to say “dragonberry rum rocks” is just as likely to read #($$)%Frumrocks. When I’m dumb and drunk enough to do this stuff, I usually have to wake up the next day and blame it on the cat.  

Most of my drunken writer heroes are either long dead or sobered up and still churning out good stuff without their mind-altering crutch. They’re my proof that the college dream of the Hemingway life wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.

Maybe I take my writing just a little too seriously to want my memory of my first published novel to be how I wrote it while wiping drool off the keyboard.

That doesn’t mean my trips to the bar and my own tendency to request far too many visits from the shot fairy once I’m there don’t contribute to my writer’s life, though. Although I will never write drunk, I can’t imagine being a writer who doesn’t go to bars. Or at least, to “my bar.” I’m not saying all writers should go tie one on and see how many shitfaced Jersey Shorelike dudes they can get to hit on them. I’m just admitting that for me, a few hours at the pub is, was and always will be a story mine.

There are so many characters waiting to be used in my fiction who would never exist in my mind if it weren’t for meeting their real-life counterparts in the bar. There’s the short bald guy who used to come in wearing mismatched outfits who would say he had no money and almost demand someone buy him a beer. While waiting for a taker, he’d go in the men’s room and take extensive and odiferous dumps. When he’d return from dropping off his load, he’d cuss people out because there was no beer waiting for him.

There’s the uber-geezer who always wore bright print shirts and hit on my friend every time he came in. Me and another girlfriend interrupted their conversation once, and he growled at us. Not a grumpy old man growl, either. I’m talking a lion’s roar. Then he pulled out his dentures, held them in the air, and clacked them at our faces.

Those are just a few of the folks I’ve met that even with my imagination, I don’t think I could have invented on my own. I could go on and on, but I think I’ll savor some moments for future posts or stories in and of themselves.

I don’t write drunk. But I do collect characters in the bar. Many are people I’d probably never converse with sober. I observe while I hang out with family, friends and shot fairies, and then I go home and go to bed.

I don’t write about them then, but I don’t forget them. I wake up the next day and jot them down in my writer’s journal, where they live until they become part of a bigger inspiration.

Someone who grew up in a bar family doesn’t look for excuses about why she loves the life. She just does. But I’m glad I have a good one, anyway. If you happen to be in the Baltimore area, don’t let my denture-clacking lady’s man or dump-taking freeloader scare you away. We’ve got them all, just like Toby Keith says in the song, not to mention beautiful shot fairies. Some of us are even normal.

Just look at me. Then again, scratch that last sentence.


About hawleywood40

Writer, Steelers Fan in Baltimore, Frequent Visitor to the Shot Fairy
This entry was posted in Creativity, Hawley's Pub, humor and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to I Love This Bar …

  1. The Hook says:

    Great bar post! Too bad I don’t drink…

  2. l'empress says:

    It makes sense to me, even if I am long past being able to enjoy the bar scene. (If you’re medically barred — snicker — from drinking, it can get boring to watch the rest of the world drift away from you.) You’ve sort of described the difference between writing and research.

    But remember, in Hemingway’s day, there publishers paid employees to (try to) keep him from making a complete ass of himself. Nowadays, we usually edit ourselves — and have to keep our wits about us.

    • hawleywood40 says:

      Yes, I guess it is kind of doing research. Now instead of saying “I’m off to see the shot fairy” I’ll just say “going to do some research on my novel.” But don’t worry, in the 1/a million shots that I make something of myself, I will NEVER be Charlie Sheen : ).

  3. L.S. Engler says:

    I’ve often contemplated if I would be more fruitful if I was a drunken writer like some of my favourites as well, but beer makes me sleepy, so any time I’ve ever tried, I’m just too tired by the time I get to it. So I guess I’ll just stick with coffee and tea to fuel me. It’s probably better for me anyway.

    I’ve never been much of a bar girl, though. I was always about the college coffee shops and sometimes the smoke-filled bedrooms of crappy college apartments. And now that I’m well away from campus life, I seem to glean all my colourful random characters from my jobs. But next time I do go to the bar, I’m bringing a notepad and forcing myself to jot some things down.

    • hawleywood40 says:

      I remember those smoke-filled crappy bedrooms well : ). I do get some interesting character studies out of my job, too. They’re in the journal as well, just waiting to be reborn as characters (or dreading the day) …

  4. akamonsoon says:

    One of these days I’m going to make it out there! Maybe I’ll even get to meet some of these characters face to face. Back in my late teens – early 20s, I used to go to a club in Boston that now no longer exists. There used to be an elderly gentleman, probably in his 70s or so (maybe older) that would go dressed in a little bow tie. He would dance with all the young ladies. This was well over 20 years ago. I can’t imagine he is still alive but he is one of those characters like denture man, who stand out in my mind all these years later. Your post just made me think of him. I’m sure you have lots of endless material to write from at your family’s pub.

    • hawleywood40 says:

      There’s a former prof of mine who still works at the university. I don’t see him much anymore since I moved more into the “systems” side of things instead of the front lines, but I used to run into him a lot and we’d talk about writing and the bar. He used to tell me “you’ve got a gold mine of words there.” I love the image of the Bow Tie Guy, and hope you do get out here one of these days (but not in Swampass summer, I want you to LIKE Baltimore : ))!

  5. Patti Kuche says:

    Some people leave tips at the bar but everybody leaves a story. My dad had a bar, I sometimes think he bought it so he would never have to worry again about going home! Looking fwd to your stories in the sober light of day. Until then, cheers!

    • hawleywood40 says:

      Too funny! With my family, sometimes I think my dad keeps his bar for the same reason. Other times, I think my mom makes him keep it so she can have the house to herself at night: )!

  6. Bleau says:

    Loving your take on the world! Nice work.

  7. Since a couple of glasses of wine is my limit, I usually stay clear-headed while those around me completely lose their inhibitions. It’s pretty fascinating to watch. Of course, I would never take advantage of that and put them in a novel. And if you believe that, I’ve got some property in Phoenix I’d like to sell you.

  8. Frank Cote says:

    I don’t know about writing drunk, I doubt that would be good for me, but with a little alcohol to grease the wheels I find I come up with some amazing ideas when hanging out with like minded friends.

    The novel I’m working on right now would not exist if it hadn’t been for a golden summer afternoon with just the right friend and just the right amount of beers. He let me bounce my ideas off of him enough that I was able to jump from a concept that was at a dead end, to almost a full outline.

    This isn’t to say that I can’t come up with great ideas sober, just that alcohol has it’s place in just the right amounts.

    • hawleywood40 says:

      Frank, I totally agree! I didn’t mention those beer-soaked-but-not-drowned conversations with friends in this post, but I too have gotten a lot of ideas and inspiration that way. Not to mention encouragement!

  9. Yes, I have “met” many a future story characters in my favorite bars. In a fiction workshop, I crafted a creepy story character after a man who had licked a dive bar booth while staring at me longingly. Only a handful of people believed that anyone would ever do that (not even the professor, who was in the bar with me when that happened!).

    It is kind of strange to think about all of the literary geniuses who apparently spent most of their careers wasted. I, too, cannot imagine what it would be like to try to write anything of value while drinking heavily. Oh, the things the Greats inspire us to!

    • hawleywood40 says:

      He LICKED the bar?! I can believe it, but that’s one even I haven’t seen! And yes, I figure either they truly were the masters of the craft to be able to write sloshed, or they did a hell of a lot of editing later!

  10. Bleau says:

    Hey Hawley, Lafemmeroar has a Crazy Chicks Club started on her blog site. Check it out and if you’d like to join us, see you there 🙂

  11. hawleywood40 says:

    Thank you Bleau! Just took a trip over to Lafemmeroar and probably scared my co-workers with a little Friday morning coffee-snarfing laughter. I definitely want to be part of the CCC, and can’t wait to check out some of the other chicks!

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