Mar 7, 2013 · 7:00 PM
"Long before it legally served me, the bar saved me," asserts J.R. Moehringer, and his compelling memoir The Tender Bar is the story of how and why. A Pulitzer-Prize winning writer for the Los Angeles Times, Moehringer grew up fatherless in pub-heavy Manhasset, New York, in a ramshackle house crammed with cousins and ruled by an eccentric, unkind grandfather. Desperate for a paternal figure, he turns first to his father, a DJ whom he can only access via the radio (Moehringer calls him The Voice and pictures him as "talking smoke"). When The Voice suddenly disappears from the airwaves, Moehringer turns to his hairless Uncle Charlie, and subsequently, Uncle Charlie's place of employment--a bar called Dickens that soon takes center stage.
More than anything else, Moehringer's book is a homage to the culture of the local pub. That's where young J.R. seeks out the companionship of male role models, where he receives an education that has served him well in his career and where, inevitably, he looks for love, bemoans its absence and mourns its loss. Moehringer grew up in Manhasset, a place, he writes, that "believed in booze." At a young age, he became a regular—not a drinker, of course, for he was far too young. But while still tender of years, he was introduced to the culture, to the companionship and—yes—to the romance of it all. "Everyone has a holy place, a refuge, where their heart is purer, their mind clearer, where they feel close to God or love or truth or whatever it is they happen to worship," he writes.
This is a book that's more loving and warm, even more functional(!), than anyone would think a bar could be.
For anyone who seeks to understand a man, or is one.