Editor’s Note

Drunk as the Dickens

A holiday parable featuring the ghosts of Christmas bars past, present, and future

By Scott Vogel November 30, 2014 Published in the December 2014 issue of Houstonia Magazine

Image: Marfreless

A man walks into a bar, but it’s so dark he can’t see his hand in front of his face. The only thing he detects, in fact, are the sounds of what appear to be several couples making out. After a while, his eyes adjust and he sidles up to the bartender. “Why is it so dark in here?” asks the man. “This is Marfreless,” answers the bartender. “Marfreless isn’t dark like this,” says the man. “This is the old Marfreless,” says the barman, “before they renovated it.”

As the scene comes further into view, the man realizes to his astonishment that he has somehow punctured a hole in the space-time continuum. He sees a bar fight between two men in leisure suits over a woman wearing Jordache jeans, college students in Lacoste shirts and corduroy lamenting their datelessness over countless cans of Coors Light, gay couples with identical tank tops and handlebar mustaches cheating on their partners in identical tank tops and mustaches, and over in the corner, a truly shocking sight: an elderly River Oaks matron—constantly mentioned in Maxine Mesinger’s column—hitting on a man half her age. 

“What are you doing here?” the man asks, startling the old woman. “I am the Ghost of Christmas Bars Past,” she replies. This is not true. She just needs to cover for herself and it’s the first thing that comes into her head. “What is all this?” asks the man. “This is a scene from your youth,” she answers. Sure enough, he sees Marfreless’s old couches, filthy and tattered, and recalls the reckless freedom and authentic illicitness he once found in the dark, the night he made out with the wrong person, etc. A single tear courses down his cheek. 

Befuddled and melancholic, he tries to make his way out the door, but instead a woman in a Uniqlo sweat-wicking T stops him. “Who are you?” he asks. “I am the Ghost of Christmas Bars Present,” she says. He touches the woman’s shirt and soon the pair is flying down Shepherd, hanging a left on Westheimer, entering a world of exposed brick walls, open-duct ceilings, bald women, and furry cocktail nerds in Gregory Peck Oliver Peoples eyeglasses. “Anvil!” exclaims the man joyously. He exults in the nationwide adulation heaped upon the bar by the likes of Esquire and Bon Appétit. “Now we are truly a world-class city!” he shouts to his companion, but the woman is gone. In her place stands a ghostly, dark-shrouded figure who says nothing. It is the Ghost of Christmas Bars Yet to Come.

The man clutches the shroud and is immediately transported to a chic, sterile place he doesn’t recognize, where the conversations are quiet and inconsequential, and the libations made of Krogstad Aquavit and Golden Moon dry curaçao. It looks like something in Kansas City. “No! No!” he cries, as the phantom slips away. “Assure me that our future is not one of crystal chandeliers and beige Chesterfield sofas with nary a bar fight, messy break-up, or alcohol-fueled self-flagellation in sight.” 

At this, the man wakes up. He is sweaty, hungover, and relieved to find that it was all a dream. The scene has not yet completely devolved into tony wine bars, craft breweries, and signature cocktails. He resolves to help his beloved town reclaim its excess, indeed to make out with the wrong person that very night if necessary.

—Scott Vogel

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