03 December 2008

The Act of Drinking Beer with Friends is the Highest Form of Art

That's the title of a piece I read about at the SFMOMA last weekend. There was a related installation on another floor, that consisted of a fridge and a wall of shelves full of empties. The piece itself involves serving free beer between 5 and 7pm on Thursdays. I imagine the bartender will want to talk about art or something, I dunno. And I don't know what kind of beer, but the empties in the installation were Anchor Steam.
I sent that paragraph out, as an invitation to the Thursday night boys, and Ian wrote back that, "I remember that this was at Yerba Buena a couple of years back - one of the cool things was that they were getting local celebrities to serve the beer on weekends". I started to write back, but it seemed more like the sort of thing that belonged in this space, rather than on the beer'n'pizza group-list. I wrote:

I know they're having a different guest bartender every week, but I haven't heard who they'll be. If they have a reputation for booking "local celebrities", I imagine I'll have to get there pretty early if I hope to score a seat. It's not that big a bar they have set up.

I don't know how keen I am on the whole thing. I mean, free beer is free beer, yes. And I don't have any problem with visiting art museums, even though they tend to engender in me a bit of despondence over what I've done with my life (which I'm tempted here to deflate as, "Scribbles!? I could have just been scribbling?!?" -- but that demeans both the scribblers and my own despondence). I think by conflating "drinking beer with friends" with "highest form of art", it puts me in mind, not only of art, but both of going to church every week, and of having sex with my wife. High Art/High Church/High Sex: these are all opportunities and encouragements to pay attention, because I'm extremely close to the center of Why I Do Anything/Everything I Do. It could be argued that I'm just as close to it, whenever and wherever I do anything or everything. But when, for instance, I'm drinking beer with friends, my attention isn't necessarily called to how little fucking attention I'm able to muster in any given direction; whereas my enjoyment of art, church, and sex is very much related to how much attention they demand from me. And conversely: my inability to enjoy them correlates to my refusal, conscious or not, to surrender such attention as their appreciation would require. And meanwhile, my attention is persistently called to how much or little of same is being paid. Extrapolating from there... Do I want to have to pay much attention while drinking beer with friends? How much more would I enjoy it if I were paying more attention? What is more? Somehow this ties in with what I'd consider my chronic crisis of passion... How does one diagnose ADD? How does one measure sufficient attention so as to determine a deficit? Are there specific questions? What does the DSM-IV say?
Anyway, I ended up going, but none of my friends came. Robert Bechtle was the bartender. He could never be accused of scribbling. We had a brief conversation about Bechtel Corp. A local newspaper gossip columnist read aloud a list of funny sounding rhyming word pairs, like "hoity-toity" and "hurdy-gurdy", then managed to fit many of them into a re-working of the Gettysburg Address.

I didn't make any friends. I didn't really even talk to anyone, apart from my few words with Mr. Bechtle, whose name is pronounced like Bechtel, despite his distaste for the corporation. I drank a few beers (it was Pacifico), then biked out to Craig's to join the regular crew for Belgians and BBQ. I'll have to review the transcripts to determine if any high art occurred there.