Thursday, November 02, 2006

We are sailing, we are sailing....

The only serious alternative to my beloved 'Haiku Bar' as a favoured 'local' these days is the Reef Bar. It is similarly tiny, similarly eclectic in its clientele, similarly welcoming to its select band of regulars - but very different in style: altogether more relaxed and comfortable, brighter lights and quieter music, tasteful decoration, and deep, deep sofas rather than wooden stools and benches. The 'Haiku Bar' is more like a US college bar: dingy, sometimes a little raucous, and encouraging of hard drinking. Reef is more like your living room, a nice place to relax and have a chat. (In many ways, I could see myself coming to prefer Reef to the 'Haiku Bar'; but I have rather too much sentiment - rather too many haikus, and the memories of the blues that led to them - invested in the latter now. And it does have certain formidable, probably insuperable advantages: the cheery presence of The Barman, my favourite drink-slinger in this town; the best and most diverse music selection in town [and if you happen not to like what's on, you can call the shots]; the fact that it's a good 10mins nearer to my apartment; and.... it's a great place for solo drinking [not that you stay alone for long, but that's what so good about it].... whereas Reef is a place to take a bunch of friends.)

I took The Artist (my NRI, New Romantic Interest; I work for an IT company now - everything has to be an acronym!) to Reef a couple of times last week, and she loved the place.

[I think she also loves the 'Haiku Bar', though she teases me that it is "unadventurous" and "unimaginative" of me to hang out there so often (now, there are two words that are not often applied to me! Though I'm reasonably sure she wasn't in earnest about that. And to be frank, I really don't go there all that often - sometimes not for weeks or months at a time.). How she loves to wind me up! And that was only our second date....]

Anyway, back to the Reef Bar....
There are three distinctive, beguiling eccentricities about Reef. The first is the music. Although they have expanded their selection quite a bit of late (not necessarily a good thing!), they still rely largely on their original collection, which was.... 3 CDs! A blues compilation, a classic jazz compilation, and a country & western compilation. That's really all you ever need.... And it did lend the place a charmingly schizoid 'personality'.

The second is the plate collection. As a gimmick in their early days, they would invite customers to commemorate their first visit by personalizing a small white dinner plate with a marker pen, and then hanging it on the wall just inside the door. This custom is now sadly discontinued, since the wall was soon full. Some of the plates have really quite impressive cartoons or abstract designs on them; others have just names and dates, or obscure mottoes (like mine - inelegantly scrawled in blue felt-pen, a line from a favourite film: "Failure is merely proof that the desire was not strong enough." Anybody know where that's from??).

And the third is the fact that, in my circle, Reef is never called Reef at all. Oh, no - it has become The Yacht Club. Strictly speaking, this is the adopted name of a diverse group of louche young men-about-town to whom I occasionally attach myself; the chief movers being Dapper Dan (actually a charming young American called Will; a latter-day dandy and aesthete who designs his own clothes... and mixes a mean cocktail!), Jesse the Film Guy, and Fergus the Dissolute Choirboy (my No1 Drinking Companion of the moment); none of them has, or is ever likely to be able to afford a yacht, but it is a wistful, aspirational sort of appellation. However, since the Yachties adopted Reef as their 'clubhouse', the two institutions have become inextricably fused together; and - for those 'in the know' - the name 'Reef' has become almost redundant.

The great thing about Yacht Club meetings (sadly infrequent at the best of times; but especially so now that Dapper Dan has returned to grad school, and Jesse is doing the 'serious girlfriend' thing) is that the indulgent owner of the place happily allows the senior Yachties behind the bar to mix their own drinks... which he then lets us have at giveaway prices. Dapper Dan, in particular, was an artist behind the bar; but Fergus also knocks out a pretty decent martini.

A discreet text message with the cryptic summons 'sailing tonight' was all that was needed to convene a meeting of the nautically-(& alcoholically-)inclined; but it has been some weeks now since I received such a welcome invitation. I am tempted to try to call a meeting myself, but fearful that I lack the necessary status - as but a late-comer and hanger-on to this jolly crew. I must confer with The Choirboy, and try to lay some plans. On these long winter evenings, sometimes only a cocktail will do.

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