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Distillations: Finding Odd Barfellows at The Ave 

Tuesday, Jul 29 2014
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The Ave Bar is, to my knowledge, the only place in its Ocean Ave neighborhood that specializes in craft beer on tap. Sadly Joe and I were told, coming in after a hard day, that the bar had such a big party the night before that it was almost all out.

Apparently we'd missed all 0x000Athe fun.

We settled for glasses of Lost Coast Anniversary Ale, which isn't settling at all, and took deep breaths.

"I hurt my knee," Joe said.

"Of course you did."

The Ave looks like a dive bar that someone forgot to finish. The walls are rough wood and the roof looks like it's made of tin. The six TVs around the room work fine, though nobody was paying attention.

"I didn't hurt it playing soccer," Joe says. "I hurt it just doing ordinary things."

"Right," I say. "But you spend so much time in high-impact activities that it stresses your system. If you weren't constantly stressing your knee making aggressive soccer plays ..."

"The same thing would have happened."

"Are you kidding?"

Joe and I are probably never going to see eye-to-eye on this, or any number of things. This is reflected in our friendship: I tend to focus on the differences between us, he emphasizes on what we have in common.

Joe grew up in San Francisco, has family in the Bay Area. Has never lived outside of the region. Is married. I came here from far away knowing virtually no one, and float from group to group, experience to experience. Nobody sees much of me.

Joe tells me, over beer, that he doesn't know if he could give up an active lifestyle. I say there's so much more to the world than kicking things. What we're really talking about is the nature of happiness. What is the good life, and what should you sacrifice for it?

I tell him a story he's heard before, about watching the British dart championship on the Eurosports Network at 3 a.m. in a Prague hotel, and then the greatest thing that can possibly happen in a bar happens: A complete stranger walks over to us and says, "I'm sorry to interrupt, but I overheard your story ..."

I know how badly this can turn out, but if it's not what you want to happen, then drink at home. Bars are at their best when everyone there actively participates.

Kevin, 60 years old and from southern Ireland, reveals the astonishing fact that until just two years ago, championship dart and snooker players competed while imbibing heroic amounts of beer. He remembers watching them, which leads to him and Joe exchanging stories about watching soccer, which leads to stories about England in the '60s. Kevin is astonished by the fact that, between our vastly different areas of expertise, together Joe and I are already familiar with every bit of trivia he mentions.

That's how our friendship works. Vive la différence.

After a 20-minute chat, Kevin very politely returns to his seat, because he never really meant to intrude. But we have a good thing going here, and I take an active role to make sure we keep it.

"Do you have any thoughts on the nature of happiness, Kevin?" I call out to him. "Because we were just discussing that, and couldn't agree."

He picks up his beer and walks back over. "The love of a good woman," he says. "It's really true."

The bartender, Lucia, walks over. "Loving what you do," she says. "That is satisfaction."

There is nothing so wonderful in this world as a dive bar where happily diverse people talk over good beer. Over the next few hours our conversations range from technology and love to seeing Bob Marley live.

"The thing I love most in the world, apart from women," Kevin says, "is eighth century Chinese poetry." I've been waiting for someone to tell me that my whole life.

Kevin also assures me that Lucia makes the best Long Island he's ever had. I order one: She serves it in a mason jar, and he's not wrong. Other regulars stop in, and share their night with us for a while.

When we finally leave, we give Kevin our cards. Make him promise to get in touch with us. He hasn't. That's the way these things all too often go. But if you stop by The Ave for a drink, and you should, make sure you talk to strangers.

That's the good life.

About The Author

Benjamin Wachs

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