My birthday was last month, which means I got a lot of Facebook notifications from people I rarely speak to wishing me a “Happy Birthday.” Some of them went so far as to say, “Happy Birthday, Justin!” It's a nice gesture, but it's kind of like writing “Have a great summer” in someone's yearbook. You're going through the motions to be polite and while we all can appreciate the positive thoughts, there isn't a lot of impact. Then this happened, and it made my day.
I've been a regular face at several watering holes over the years, but there is one in particular that will always feel like a second home, the Tipsy Turtle. If I met you when I was in college and if, big IF, you were cool, I would probably invite you to meet me in an unlit gravel parking lot behind a tattoo shop, right by the train tracks. From there I'd lead you down a set of concrete steps to a heavy steel door that I'd open for you with a smile. The first thing you'd notice was the smoke, a cartoonish, door-shaped, rectangle of the stuff would ooze out and after a moment's hesitation you'd walk right through it into a darkened room. The second thing everyone noticed was the money, hundreds of graffiti covered dollar bills hanging from the low tin ceiling, reading things like “Happy Birthday So-and-So” or “So-and-So and What's-His-Face were here” or “Whoseit loves So-and-So.” You get the idea. The best were the ones that usually just had a single word or sentence on them, an inside joke you would only know if you had been there the night that bill went up. Each one was a story and on slow nights the regulars would talk about their favorite bills, the ones we were there for, and we shared those memories with everyone else. The bar's entire history was right there, waiting to be read and IF you were cool, someone would open their wallet, slap a $1 bill on the bar in front of you with a marker, and ask you to add your voice to that history.
Around the same time I was a regular at this place I saw a documentary on Pompeii. One of the fascinating things about Pompeii is the disaster that destroyed the city also preserved it. It remains one of our best sources for understanding Roman society because the volcanic ash that covered the city saved graffiti and that graffiti gives us insight into the daily lives its citizens. As the documentary progressed they began to read excerpts from the graffiti, I found the lines recovered from the walls of taverns to be of particular interest, it was almost identical to some of the more bawdy bills that hung from the ceiling of my home away from home. Pompeii was buried under fire and ash nearly 2,000 years ago, but how much had we really changed? We still make connections, form bonds, and build a sense of community in the same way we always have.
I could have gone to any bar in town, but I chose to spend my time at the Tipsy Turtle, not because of the prices or even the proximity to my apartment, but because I felt like I was part of a community. I made life long friendships at that bar. I felt connected to the people there; I still do. I'd offer to take you there (IF you read my blog I assume you're cool), but, like Pompeii, it doesn't exist anymore. I'll never have another chance to sit at end of the bar at the Tipsy Turtle, peeling labels off my beer bottles and sticking them onto the fish tank. I'll never have a drink at a tavern in Pompeii, trying to think of something to write on the wall that will make my friends laugh. These were moments in time and those moments have passed, but still I feel connected to them.
If you pay attention to our class calendars at The Chopping Block you've probably noticed “Happy Hour” as a feature on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We're really proud of our wine list, and we wanted to give people a chance to come in and see what we have by offering tastings and discounts on wine by the glass. More than that, we wanted to create a social environment, a place were people could come in to talk about food and wine, to inspire people to try new things. We've had success with Happy Hour, but never as much as we do with the wine tastings we put out before class. So, we've decided to marry the two ideas.
You can't go to the Tipsy Turtle and you can't go a tavern in Pompeii, but starting in March, IF you're cool, you can opt into a wine tasting before your cooking class starts for $10. What do you get for $10? Well, for starters you'll have the chance to try wines the chefs are recommending for class that evening, as well as others off our wine list, plus an appetizer to nosh on. You will have the option to buy wine by the glass at a discount before class and we'll extend a 10% discount to any wine purchased that evening in class. More than that, you'll have a chance to meet the people you'll be taking class with, to be a part of our community... just promise me you won't write on the walls.
Sign up for a Happy Hour in March to check out the new format: