It is equally true, as a hefty minority has learned, that the best place to pick up such an education is in the serene safety of a bar. And knowledgeable aficionados of such establishments agree that a Western bar is more than the equivalent of any Ivy League university, especially where the basics of debate and public speaking are concerned.
I speak as an authority on bars.
he first one I entered, at the age of 22, was in Kiev, South Russia. I was making my escape from the czar, via the underground railroad, and heading for America. That specific bar, I believe by informed hearsay, was typical of Russian bars. Men of all ages sat around in a pose that could be mistaken for meditation, drinking vodka while staring into space. The word that comes to mind is “stupor.”
German bars have a charm of their own. The decibel level in, say, a Bavarian establishment is an indication of stout, healthy intellect at work. But if I recall, back in 1905 you could not emerge from a bar with your head held high unless you knew your Hegel and Marx. In a pinch, an acquaintance with the works of Dostoevsky would keep you in the game.
English and Irish pubs need no comment.
I sailed directly from Hamburg to New York, the bars of which have an excellent reputation for the drink-think-talk combination. As I recall, a slight knowledge of English—say, an ability to use the words betokening agreement or disagreement, would go a long way toward maintaining a reputation as a person with an active mind.
But your Western bar? It beats all. Only in such a place as the Hôtel Adios Watering Hole can you find an elderly, robotic gentleman carrying a briefcase in which is stashed the first draft of a manuscript concerning the history of the dead rights movement. The working title of this 70-page would-be tome is The History of Dead Rights.
I did not have the opportunity to read that manuscript with the care it deserved. In fact, if memory serves and the truth be known, I did not have the opportunity to read anything but the beer-stained cover page. What I did have the opportunity to do was hear the gentleman—his name escapes me—hold forth on the contents of the manuscript he was peddling about to agents and a large smattering of pretenders to that trade.
His main point was that dead rights, especially the right of an ex-American to vote, is not a new thing. It has a long tradition, beginning with the era of city bosses and rising to its highest peak in the 1960 election, in which the mayor of Chicago, Hizzoner Richard J. Daley, extended the franchise to dead Democrats, thus helping to create the Camelot from which America has never recovered.
A must-read book. In fact, I recall having composed a note to myself to read it before I placed my candidacy for the position of President of the United States before the American people, ex-people, and age-enfranchised talking parrots.