XVIII. The Tender Bar by J.R. Moehringer
Okay, so I *might* have alluded to the notion that I hate “my childhood sucked” type memoirs. Then why on earth did I pick up this book, and, more operatively, why was I so surprised by the story I found? Maybe it was the book cover, or a Hook-The-Reader type description somewhere, but I thought this was going to be a memoir about a kid who literally grew up in a bar. I mean, what kind of parent brings their kid into a bar? However, this is not the story I found, and I found myself pleasantly surprised.
J.R. Moehringer grew up in Long Island. He didn’t know his father, but he could hear him on the radio, broadcasting from The City. And who needs a dad when you have beer-swilling, bar-inhabiting uncles and their gaggles of children? J.R. looked to Uncle Charlie in particular, a man who worked at Dickens, the quintessential, Cheers-esque hometown bar of his family and every person he met in Manhasset. This is the bar of yore which J.R. titles his book, and despite name changes and other monstrosities, the bar is the one constant in J.R.’s tumultuous life. He tags along to Dickens with his sunburnt uncles, takes his first drink there, recovers from heartbreak with scotch after scotch. Eventually, J.R. comes to treat the bar as he treats his family member: near to him, dear to him, but sometimes its best just to stay the hell away from them. I found J.R.’s relationship with this inanimate character to be romantic and touching. And the rest of his life story is okay too
Buy this for: Your nephew who couldn’t possibly be 21 yet but holy crap there he is, your dad who occasionally calls for a ride home from his favorite drinking establishment, or your favorite might-as-well-be-your dad Uncle.