I don’t talk much in print about my decision, more than 10 years ago, to step away from the drinking life and try for something better.
I’ll say here and now that everything in my life got better after I stopped, and I will also say that it was a lot of fun until it wasn’t. I say those things all the time. Here’s something else I say all the time: I am so glad I stopped drinking.
I said it again on Monday when I saw the news about a shooting at the Blind Tiger, a dead 19-year-old kid and a bouncer in custody. I don’t know many more details beyond that, but the incident itself is not what I’m writing about here, more of a lament for what was — which of course, is based on faulty memory and faded impressions.
I used to go in the Blind Tiger all the time, back when it was on Walker Avenue and I was drinking pretty good. It was more of a neighborhood bar back then — there weren’t as many nightlife options in town, so people went to the Tiger regardless of who was playing that night. Still, “Doc” Don Beck would pace anxiously behind the bar as the afternoon turned into evening, trying to will customers through the door. I met dozens of musicians, hundreds of fellow drinkers — both genteel and not-so-much. If you look closely at the cover of my 2011 book, The Anxious Hipster and Other Barflies I’ve Known, you might recognize the long tabletop that separated the bar from the dance floor.
The Tiger was a staple of my professional life. I filed several pieces about the place when I was a nightlife columnist for GoTriad. As editor of YES! Weekly, I invariably ran a music story set there at least once a month.
It was a lot of things back then. Deadly was not one of them. Hard to believe it is now.
Sure, there have been some changes in ownership since the move to Spring Garden Street, and people don’t often show up there just to drink anymore. And nightlife itself has changed, in the Triad and everywhere else. The violence, it seems, has escalated — there was gunfire at Arizona Pete’s that same night, though thankfully no one got killed.
Or perhaps it’s me that’s changed. I don’t have much patience for barrooms past midnight anymore, and I’m out of touch with the practitioners of the drinking life. I don’t know enough about nightlife anymore to make any sense of it.
All I know for sure is that I’m pretty glad I don’t drink anymore. Still.
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