By Jamie Swinnerton
By Mark Antonation
By Lori Midson
By Jonathan Shikes
By Amber Taufen
By Cafe Society
By Juliet Wittman
By Jonathan Shikes
Those of you at the Thin Man (2015 East 17th Avenue) two Fridays ago had no idea you were witnessing a momentous emergency session of the Institute of Drinking Studies. The scene harked back to Cold War Europe, where plans and plots were made in back hallways -- which is pretty much what the Thin Man is. But this fourteen-foot-wide space also has a garage-door-sized front window that turns it into a wide-open patio bar.
To keep our cover, we blended in with the friendly, if hippie-ish, crowd and partook of everything the Thin Man had to offer. The wife of the Redneck Liaison thought this might be the best bar yet, given its lineup of mojitos and cookies; it also features an excellent selection of beers, all on tap. And while the Man's menu is short on fat -- so critical for serious drinkers -- the management had no problem with us importing grease in the form of burritos from a neighboring establishment.
Although a sign hanging over the bar proclaims "Drunkenness Prohibited," the Thin Man encourages the foolish with its vats of infused vodka behind that same bar. They reminded me of the preserved heads in Young Frankenstein, and I would not have been surprised if Marty Feldman had jumped out and started singing. Nor was what was in the jars much better than heads: cucumber, pineapple, shoe leather, all preserved in dirty vodka. The wife of the Redneck Liaison, being a maniac type who runs half-marathons for the hell of it, decided to get her nightly dose of vitamins via the cucumber infusion. I was glad to see her knocking a few back, but highly disturbed when I was suckered into sampling a drink that tasted like lawn clippings.
The final shroud cloaking our clandestine mission was the array of religious paintings featuring the Sacred Heart, Mary, several popes and L. Ron Hubbard. Okay, L. Ron wasn't hanging on the Thin Man's walls, but he was very much on our minds. Had Scientologists known we were meeting, they no doubt would have assumed we were furthering "religious turmoil in the world and the hatred being fomented." This is what we'd been accused of in a recent letter from Susan Gaut, the public-affairs coordinator for the local chapter of the "Church" of Scientology. Despite this charge, Gaut seemed like an extremely nice person, and not at all like someone who'd espouse a religion represented by a raving lunatic who jumps on couches and proselytizes about his vast knowledge of psychiatry. To help educate us on the virtues of joining a made-up religion led by someone who is not a bishop, rabbi, prelate, imam or pope, but rather the "Chairman of the Board," Gaut sent us a helpful DVD featuring said Chairman.
It's amazing that someone considers eight poorly written paragraphs -- my May 18 Drunk of the Week -- as a force capable of turning the religious world on its ear. It's equally amazing that a man whose only real qualification is an unnaturally white smile can spout off on national television about the principles of psychiatry and obstetrics. But we are nothing if not decisive (or vindictive) when faced with a crisis of these proportions, so the decision we made under the gentle care of the bartenders at the Thin Man was to buy a pony keg and retire to a proper place to watch the Scientology DVD in a proper state of mind.
Because we don't want to be misinformed. If we are going to create a standoff that may need to be mediated by the U.N. or Isaac Hayes, or challenge Tom Cruise to a real debate about medicine or being a military pilot (two things he apparently thinks he's an expert on), we need to know our enemy. But if I know the Institute -- and I do -- we'll spend way more time making fun of ourselves than teeing off on Scientology's yarmulkes or those guys on the bikes in short sleeves who try to get you to follow the teachings of the Grand Poobah, who may be a fat guy with Oriental features or maybe an elephant with two heads and ten arms, or even George Burns; or we'll waste hours doing the math and determining that in the post-sexual-revolution world, there's no way each of us is going to find 72 virgins in heaven, as the bald guys in the airport want you to believe.
But on a nice afternoon at the Thin Man, when that front window is open, it's easy to forget the cares of the world and whatever religious strife we may be causing.