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La Movida: Finding the Literature of Reality 

Wednesday, Nov 13 2013

We had small plates of olives and almonds, fried okra, and chorizo corn dogs between us. I was drinking a Belgian-style ale.

"So why did you pick this place?" Brody asked. We were sitting in the corner, right by the window. We were keeping our voices down so as not to disturb the staff at La Movida. We were the only other people there.

"Because when I performed during LitCrawl, this was the venue they gave us," I said, "and while it was, frankly, an absolutely terrible venue for a literary reading, everybody I talked to afterwards raved about the bar. So I thought I'd come back and give it a shot."

Brody nodded. "I think pretty much every venue for LitCrawl is a terrible venue for a literary reading."

"It's true!" I pounded the table. "You'd think that poetry and wine would go together ..."

"They ought to go together!"

"... but having a literary reading in a bar is almost always a disaster! And yet we don't learn!"

"No," she said. "When you really need people to pay quiet attention, you shouldn't put them in a bar."

"Anything longer than a toast loses them." I put my head in my hands. "Why don't we learn?"

Aiming more for the feeling of a neighborhood brasserie than a citywide destination, La Movida's decor has more in common with a really premium sandwich shop than a tavern trying to impress me with its wide selection of wines. (During the day, it is a premium sandwich shop: Pal's Takeaway sets up shop there Monday through Friday.) The tables seem like they were made to hold plastic trays with little paper cups filled with mayo. The number of wine taps behind the bar is impressive, but doesn't stand out. The minimal art was slightly kitschy in a "this is a fun, quirky place!" kind of way that made me glad there wasn't more of it. But something about La Movida still says "sit a while," so we did. I hadn't seen that coming.

"A lot of times in life I think we have to unlearn things before we can learn them," Brody said, taking a piece of okra. "What gets us to one place we want to be can make it harder to — oh, this is delicious — get to the next place you want to be. I find that people who aren't willing to unlearn things tend to end up bitter and angry."

The chorizo corn dogs were even better — freakin' amazing — making it another one of many pleasant surprises I was gradually coming to expect from La Movida. The first time I was there I was told they had a Zinfandel from Dry Creek exclusively available. I have no idea how that happened, but it was fantastic. And the bartender that night had such a quick hand with the refills that I actually did a double-take after leaning back to pick up my glass, taking a sip, and realizing there was more wine in it than when I'd started drinking. I looked back at the bartender, convinced I had grabbed the wrong glass, and he gave me a shit-eating grin. Naturally I tipped high. A bartender in a packed room who can get me a refill before I've even realized I need one is as close to a Christ figure as I've got in my life.

"Why do I want literature to go with bars so badly?" I asked. "It's not just because they're both things I love. We go to a bar hoping something will happen, and that thing will lead to a story we can tell. And that desire for a story is the essence of literature. Once upon a time we went to a bar and ... something happened. We hope that every drink will be a new chapter, every sip a turned page."

Brody tends to smile at me when I start to rant. "But you can't try reading somebody a story at the same moment they're trying to live one," she said. "That's why it doesn't work."

"I guess not." I poured more beer from my bottle into my glass. "Would you like to try a sip?"

Her eyes lit up. "Yes, please."

When she turned 30, Brody developed an allergy to alcohol. Any more than a sip gives her days of headaches. But it's not just the taste that she misses. Beer was an important social lubricant for her, as she was painfully shy. A miracle that allowed her to escape to the promised land, and then was denied.

Now she comes to a bar with me and doesn't drink, just talks — a skill she had to develop. Sometimes talking hurt as much as drinking did, but she persevered.

I'd suggested we get coffee instead, but a bar was what she'd wanted. "Oh yeah," she said, smiling after just a taste. "That's really good."

La Movida doesn't look like much, but it's always one step ahead of me. I ought to learn.

About The Author

Benjamin Wachs


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