I didn’t mean to write in a bar today. Not that I’m ashamed of it (although I should be considering the spectacular weather). The bar, however, has WiFi, and my place, even with the über comfortable new couch, currently does not. For some reason it’s offline… but the bar 75 feet away has it. Thus, I’m at the bar, drinking an Abita Amber, and typing on my MacBook like a tool. The door is open to the outside, so I feel slightly less guilty about my current situation, which is a semi-vicious hangover from a spectacular pub crawl through the Tremé last evening. My palliative in the cause of hangover-fighting is Abita Amber. Both bracing and tonic, it informs me more than I’d care to admit. And the venue for assuaging my battered senses: Finn McCool’s Pub, New Orleans best bar.
Finn McCool’s is the kind of place you — or at least I — want to go daily. Its convivial community, fair drink prices, and superb staff make it a pleasure… one of the last simple pleasures in life, really. I haven’t been a regular at a place in years, and now I am again. It feels good. My liver even feels good, despite me punching it vigorously for the past few days. Much like the God of the New Testament, it’s forgiving liver, and I’d like to imagine a Lord that turned water into wine would have a better grasp of these things. In fact, I like Jesus very much; at least my reading of him. He hung out with drunks, prostitutes, homosexuals, blasphemers, fisherman, and lepers (NB: I could quite frankly do without the lepers, but they’re in the book, and much like Tom Sawyer in Huckleberry Finn, I prefer to go by the book). He never judged them either. He only wanted them to do better: to be better. I want the same for both my friends and myself, so I consider Jesus and myself simpatico. So is Finn McCool’s like church? Only on Sundays when I go there to see the Saints. My mother would be proud.
Saying anything is “the best” is always a loaded statement, and one that I typically eschew. It’s not because I don’t have strong opinions: I do. It’s just that when you declare anything the best it becomes exclusive, argumentative, and often overshadows what makes the thing good in the first place. It is the absolutism of the statement that scares me the most… the exclusion of all other possibilities. And truly, best is relative to experience. Yet despite these caveats, I’m still willing to call Finn McCool’s the best bar in New Orleans: It looks like my Uncle Elger’s basement and feels like home.
If the Spanish have their “fly,” an Irish aphrodisiac would certainly be a beautiful woman bringing you a beer, and in that regard, Finn’s truly excels. I would love to sing their praises individually, but that would only reveal my own proclivities and preferences and probably miss the point. What makes Finn’s great is the way the majority female bar staff — hell, the whole bar staff! — works together. I’ve never felt neglected, always felt appreciated, and mostly, felt genuinely liked. I fit in here. I can let my guard down. I can relax.
The other patrons here have become like family. I know who’ll be leading the Saints chant on Sundays, who to tweak when Alabama plays, and who’s buying the next round. Steve and Pauline, the owners, make me smile. They’re good people that love this place. They’ve made it home, and continue to make it home… they are the real deal.
I probably spend too much time in bars; I’ll cop to it. But there is something delightfully analog here (despite the presence of my digital menace). Something unchanged. A way of interacting that’s existed for thousands of years: the original social network. There’s always someone to listen to my story, knock me off my high horse, or lend me a shoulder. And even when I’m worse for wear, I’m the better for it.
In the big scheme of things, a bar on the corner of Banks St. and Telemachus St. in Mid-City, New Orleans, is probably not changing the world (although even that’s not true, as Finn’s sponsors charities that help New Orleans and Ireland). But no one changes the world, they change people… the way they think, feel, and act. And in that regard, Finn McCool’s Pub is changing the world — changing my world — one perfect pint at a time.