Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Mono-Lagering: Full Circle Bar

Given a gift of free beer coupons from 30 different bars from Brokelyn.com, Mr. Rice has decided to visit each one, and record his thoughts.

Despite some mounting evidence to the contrary, I believe myself to be a lucky man. I have a great love of coincidence, games of chance, etc. So when I find myself on some unpredicted ley-line of probability, I like to ride it to the end. For instance, my first outing for this project found a bartender that recommended the second. The bartender at the second recommended a restaurant that my friend Nicole and I found ourselves in randomly when another place was too crowded, and, seeing as though I know Nicole through a series of coincidences and chances, I let her pick this week's.

As she read the descriptions of the bars in the coupon book, one compound word caught her eye: skeeball. So we met up at Full Circle Bar in Williamsburg (really, is there another neighborhood that could sustain such a specific business model as "skeeball bar?") to varying degrees of excitement. See, I like games of chance, right? Well, I don't care too much for games of skill, which, nominally, skeeball is.

I'd been once before on some misguided internet date (is there another kind?), so I knew at least the bar part was solid. Five varied taps and a ridiculously large selection of canned beers, a friendly, knowledgeable bartender, and a vibe more relaxed than one expects from an establishment based on throwing balls into holes. I sat down with a Chelsea Brewing Co. Black Hole XXX Stout, a beer as strong and thick as something with so many possible innuendos in the name should be.

Nicole soon joined me and got an Empire Cream Ale, which she insisted on calling a Cremalé. Our friend Conor also dropped by and got another Cream Ale, a smooth Boddingtons-esque brew perfect for this sort of in-between weather. We three went to the back room to play skeeball, whereupon they immediately started just completely destroying me. Remember, I like chance, not skill.

That preference has had a weird, long influence on my life. In Eastern Kentucky, my complete lack of athleticism shaped me to an incredible degree. I tried baseball, basketball, tennis, even golf once, and my sheer amazing incompetence took away any pleasure participating in sports could have given me. I can't run, I'm uncoordinated, I can't throw, and can't catch. Objects that move at me quickly make me flinch. This is embarrassing at my age and nearly crippling during adolescence.

And it didn't exactly do wonders for my dating life. I grew up internalizing the idea that I was unattractive and unsuitable, despite all my conscious knowledge otherwise. When I moved to New York and widened my dating pool by a seemingly-infinite amount, it took me years to process the change. I'd vacillate between dating too capriciously, drunk on my newfound status and dating too desperately, still not believing I was truly worth it. It took the dissolution of my marriage to really force me to get my head into a healthier place.

So, after that, newly alone and single for the first time in six years, I became a regular at the bar Harefield Road. Because of this, I had the chance to make a shit-ton of new friends. When the bar was putting together a softball team, I was asked to be the "coach" and at first I froze. All those old insecurities, that bullshit teenage guilt and paranoia, reared an ugly set of hydra heads.

But, fuck it, right? It's just coaching a group of friends from my bar. It didn't even matter that, in our Harlem league full of giant Dominican men and giant Dominican women, we were a petty gnat the other teams barely noticed. Though, after a while, the time came to strengthen the ranks. Nate, the true manager of the team, and I were sitting brainstorming how we could get better. He chanced to see two guys in the back that seemed athletic. He approached and asked if they'd be interested in joining the team, and so it was that I met Conor and Eric, and soon Nicole, through them.

If Conor and Eric hadn't been sitting in the back yard of that bar that particular day, I may not have ever met them. If Eric and Nicole weren't at the same bar one night, they may never have met each other. Friendships can be this incredible fine web of coincidence and chance. So now, by pure chance, I'm actually active in a sport, even playing when we're short a player, and over almost all my anxiety about it.

So after another couple beers and a bourbon, we alight to a Dominican restaurant that happens to be around the corner from my apartment. We ate like kings (and a queen) and drank muchos Presidentes, and perhaps had the correct amount of pernil and mofongo that makes our rival teams up in Harlem such unstoppable homerun machines. Afterwards, we crossed the street to the bar around the corner from me, Ali's, for more Presidentes and bourbons. It just so happens that Ali is my landlord's brother-in-law, and when I was unsure of taking this apartment I dropped in the bar and we worked it out.

We watched basketball. It may have taken me till now to take part in sports, but I almost immediately began to appreciate the spectator part when I left Kentucky. I couldn't growing up, there was too much bitterness wrapped up in the idea. But I love a good game, and don't mind taking a chance on betting on them, either.

It's hard not to think of myself as lucky; and I don't even mean in the liberal guilt way. A series of events and coincidences unpredictable to most any oracle has led me up to every moment of my life. To a bar where I become a regular and meet friends, one of whom gives me a coupon book for bars. To a skeeball bar with chance-met friends, delicious Dominican dinner, and the warm pleasure of a night spent happily.

Conor and Nicole played pool with the owner, and eventually I gave in and played too. They absolutely outclassed me, but that's OK. They've got their skills, but I'll take my chances.

Photos by Nicole Marie Ball

1 comment:

  1. this is one of the best things i've read in a long time.