For my third bar in this series, I headed back to Park Slope. Mission Dolores is actually the first bar in the coupon book I've visited that I've already been to, and while I'm not exactly a regular, it's not uncommon to see a familiar face there. An offshoot of sister establishment, Bar Great Harry on Smith Street (about which I will say more some other week), Mission Dolores is kind of a combination of a series of questionable ideas and choices. That might sound like this will be the first negative review in this series, but I'd like to posit there's something to be gained from questionable choices; a true unappreciated beauty in fuck-uppery.
Opened, I believe, this past summer, Mission Dolores used to be a car garage, and parts of the basic structure still exist. It's divided into three main compartments: the first, a long, hall-like passage open to the outside; the second has an open roof and ash trays galore, and only the third is completely encased in man-made materials. That's the part with two pinball machines, a juke, and the bar. And in that first summer, goddam, was that a glorious set-up! Access to smoking and fresh air can be a rarity in this city, and it's appreciated wherever we can find it.
But it's not easy to remember that it is actually pleasant outside in New York about a total of twenty-five days a year, the other three-hundred and forty consisting either of torrential rain, bitter cold, or searing heat; or, some days, a fucked up chimera of all sorts of shit weather. So, walking to this bar before Spring has sprung, I felt ready to see a bar on its last legs, a sort of "OOPS THERE ARE OTHER SEASONS," colossal mistake.
But I'll be damned if I didn't enjoy myself. The beer selection is large and full of fun surprises. The only problem was myself (an oft-repeated theme in my life). My stomach was sending odd signals to the rest of the body (also an oft-repeated theme), vague but unsettling. "Something might happen, and it might be bad, but I don't know what or when!" Drinking beer to settle a stomach is one of those perfectly questionable ideas; wait, what, that's a terrible idea! Fuck logic or health, I say it works. A couple of hearty beers can straighten out a confused stomach almost as easily as a confused heart.
So I began with a Bear Republic Heritage, a nice 7.8% caramel-tinged stout that immediately brought a smile to my face, and the equivalent thereof to my digestive system. As Van Halen and Queen filled the aural landscape, I actually reminisced to a previous trip to this bar. I was to meet up with a girl I had recently dated. We split because I was still feeling summery rambunctious independence and . . .she was not. It was a decidedly questionable idea, but I was high on my own testosterone and serotonin, and I think I had a case for her contacts or something?
We talked and we flirted and I felt intoxicated by the unspoken power struggles going on. She wanted to be OK with flirty independence, but hoped more that I could be convinced to come in from the wide world of pointless dating.
Flash forward to me back at the bar, nodding at the virility I felt then and the stupid irony of the fact that the night before it was I seeing another ex, and in this situation I'd been the clinger and she the sheet of Downy in the dating pool. The imbalance of power, of affection, it's a see-saw, a sine wave of heartbreak and annoyance. To continue to try after untold amounts of fuck-ups and shit-storms, well, that's a goddam questionable idea isn't it?
So I ordered another beer, a Victory Baltic Thunder. Another malty delicious glass of power, this time 8.5% APV. You could taste the strength, but not obnoxiously so. Perhaps ordering two high-APV beers before meeting up with friends for a night of beer and dice isn't the greatest idea either.
But what great idea isn't questionable? Think about the first person that ate a chicken egg. What exactly was his plan? "Hm. The next thing that comes out of that animal, I'm straight up going to eat it." And then he ate it and it was awful! But this did not stop our egg innovator. Do you think he immediately though, "How about if I put it on fire?" Were there other steps before he finally realized, "Ohhhh, yeah, this is good!"
In the middle of the twentieth century, some guys basically thought, "OK, so we have these crazy Nazi scientists who have built giant rockets. What if I were to strap myself to one and go into space, and hopefully come back? BINGO GREAT IDEA LET'S GO!" It's completely insane, but it changed the world, and allowed Tom Hanks to produce hours of boring cinema.
Mission Dolores has a great beer selection and a friendly, open, helpful staff. Sure, it can be crowded at night on the weekend; crowded with folks that sometimes seem like cartoon parodies of how the rest of the city sees the Slope, juggling strollers and neo-liberal solipsisms like an early astronaut with his myriad of dials and scopes. And it's directly neighboring Rock Shop, a similar bar with live music and TVs. It's a block away from the place I signed and finalized my divorce.
But like the exploration of culinary arts, the cosmos, or the minefield of dating in New York, sometimes a questionable idea can be a great time. Come on folks, let's strap in, get a little stupid, and make some mistakes together. Can't make a space omelet without breaking your heart a few times.