Thursday, April 16, 2015


Heading back to 2006 in the word nerd notebooks brings me to a lovely memoir by J.R. Moehringer called The Tender Bar, a New York Times bestseller and one of the 100 Most Notable Books of 2005. The author's New York disc jockey father left when he was small, and J.R. turned to the radio to hear his voice. The voice itself then disappeared when J.R. was eight, and needing that masculine dialogue, J.R. turned to the corner bar, "where he found a rousing chorus of new voices. The alphas along the bar--including J.R.'s Uncle Charlie, a Humphrey Bogart look-alike; Colt, a Yogi Bear sound-alike; and Joey D, a softhearted brawler--took J.R. to the beach, to ballgames, and ultimately into their circle. They taught J.R., tended him, and provided a kind of fathering-by-committee."

Looking back, I think I bought this book because I loved the cover and, even as a mostly non-drinker, am fascinated by bars. I found it to be a great read chock full of wonderful language. The below passages were a few of my favorites:

  • Though she was mysterious by nature, some of my mother's mystery was by design. The most honest person I've ever known, she was a beautiful liar. To avoid giving pain, to cushion the blow of bad news, she'd fib or baldly fabricate without the slightest hesitation. Her lies were so well crafted, so expertly told, that I never gave them a second thought. As a result, every now and then, sorting through childhood memories, I'd still come upon one of my mother's lies, like an elaborately painted Easter egg that was hidden too well and forgotten.
*  *  *
  • Many years later, I learned that my mother had crept into my room each night and taken a scissor to my security blanket, snipping off an imperceptible slice, until it became a security shawl, a security washcloth, a security swatch. Over time there would be more security blankets, people and ideas and particularly places to which I would form unhealthy attachments. Whenever life snatched them from me, I would recall how gently my mother pared away the first.
*  *  *
  • "Pleased to meet you kid," said Joey D, a giant with a tuft of gingery hair atop his spongy orange head, and features glued to the head at odd angles. He seemed to be made of spare parts from different Muppets, like a Sesame Street Frankenstein...Though hulky and slouch-shouldered, Joey D had the manic energy of a small man. He speed-walked, fluttered his hands, spoke in word spasms that left him winded. Like hayfever sneezes, whole sentences exploded from his mouth in one burst: "Oceans'sgoingtobetoughtoday!"
*  *  *
  • Ice cubes rattled around the car like beads in a maraca.


Marisa @The Daily Dosage said...

I enjoy memoirs and the passages you shared sold me!

Malcolm Avenue Review said...

Oh, I'm glad you were sold. I remember enjoying it, and the passages take me back, but I read it SO long ago. I do know that I want to read Moehringer's "new" one, called SUTTON. It's about America's most successful bank robber, Willie Sutton. It looks really good as well.

About Malcolm Avenue Review

I was lucky enough to be born and raised in a nifty, oak-shaded ranch house on Malcolm Avenue, a wide-laned residential street with little through traffic, located amid the foothills of Northern California. It was on that street and in that house I learned most of my adolescent life lessons, and many grown-up ones to boot. Malcolm Avenue was "home" for more than thirty years.

It was on Malcolm Avenue, through and with my family and the other families that made up our neighborhood of characters, that I first learned about and gained an appreciation for the things I continue to love the most to this day: music, animals, photography, sports, television/movies and, of course, books.

I owe a debt of gratitude to that life on Malcolm Avenue. It gave me a sense of community and friendship, support and adventure. For better and worse, life on that street likely had the biggest impact on the person I've become. So this blog, and the things I write here, are all, at their base level, a little bit of a love letter to Malcolm Avenue.


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