camille paglia in two different kindsa miami bars

I was bingeing podcast interviews with the critic Camille Paglia and she tends to mention proudly that one of the things distinguishing her from other writer-critic-academics in her field is that she doesn’t teach at the Ivy League, doesn’t insulate herself in the red-robed, august, pipe-smoking academic bubble, but deals, rather, with everyday students. Accords as much time and energy to the English majors as the ceramics majors, the law students, the biology kids. She also then goes home and endures, celebrates, makes note of the little monotonous things in life like traffic and tedium and household chores. Says that she never wants to be estranged from that shit because to do so would be to estrange herself from real life.

I’m sitting at a slightly bougie bar on Brickell called North Italia with my notebook and my frumpy clothes, flanked on either side by well-dressed older men who—between work-related phonecalls and emails—have both demonstrated, toward the bar tender, an eagerness to strike up conversation about…their work. Their expertise.

            They get off their phonecall, huff in a boisterous way, set the phone down on the bar and then, catching the bar tender’s eye while he’s pouring somebody else’s drink, they’ll say something like, “Real estate down here’s a fucking gold mine.”

            On the other hand: When I’m at a chain bar, like Ale House or Chili’s or Flannigan’s, or a kinda wood-paneled local dive, like Hole in the Wall or Corbett’s or Keg South, I find that the men who sit by themselves, when they strike up conversation with the bar tender, they talk less about their work than about their experiences.

            “Did I tell you about the time I…?”

Blue collar workers, teachers, people who work in hospitality—the sorta casual middle-class bar patron—seems, from my experience, to wanna talk about life.

            Whereas the white-collar, moneyed, Chivas-on-rocks bar patron tends to wanna talk about work.

            And now, having to work this laborious evening gig four nights a week that steals so much time away from the Project, I’m taking real solace in what Paglia says. This idea that toiling like everyone else in a rough onerous job isn’t a way of closing yourself off from the world. It’s a way of becoming more immersed.

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