Watching Chine inspect wine glasses — the way he delicately scoops each stem from the counter, elevating it high above his head and rotating it below the track lights at the recently reopened Gelman's Restaurant & Bar (2911 West 38th Avenue) — is like watching poetry emerge from the page. It's like a religious experience, our souls transcending with each wipe of the rag, our hearts aflutter with each rejection of a stained glass. We swoon; we esteem; then we drink. We're watching the first presidential debate, after all, and the only way we know how to not feel cynical about these two utopia salesmen is to feel nothing at all.
But we're not just drinking; we're consuming on cue, participating in the political process by swilling from our schooners and stemware every time the POW says "straight talk" or smirks, at each utterance of "accountability" or "Main Street" by the community organizer. And when I say "we," I mean me and my good buddy halfway across the country, who's demanding via text message that I drink whenever one of the candidates mentions General Petraeus or uses a cliche. My actual companions? They're making jokes with others at the bar about the debate being more of a boxing match with suits than a civilized exchange of ideas/opinions, and WTF-ing aloud about CNN's perpetually flat-lining Audience Reaction meter. They're fine; they're in great company. I, on the other hand, am beginning to wonder how I'm going to drive home.
Gelman's is doing its best to make this election season enjoyable. During each debate (and on election day), an Old Maverick (whiskey sour) or an ObamaPolitan (duh) is just four bucks, while draught beer and house wine are three and four, respectively. Add to that Freedom Fries, seasoned popcorn and other apps (each $4), plus a handful of flat-screen TVs with the volume turned to the ceiling, and suddenly a place with a regularly rotating menu and no decimal points on the prices — a special-occasion restaurant that, on a normal night, is almost out of my price range — becomes just another watering hole along Main Street.
This hole, however, has Chine, a guy who, with his size and stature, would easily blend in outside the shadiest club downtown, sweating concealed weapons and fake IDs — although such a position would be an immense waste of his charisma and talent. Indeed, Chine does more than simply woo us with his attention to detail. He introduces himself with a handshake and dotes on us like our business means something; he cracks jokes when he sprays me while shaking an ObamaPolitan and talks about a tapless beer spout being the night's "mystery beer"; he swiftly pours the ladies free wine refills when their food orders don't come up fast enough; and he offers to store the last third of my Ale to the Chief bomber in the bar fridge so it won't go warm.
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Which leads to my only beef with Gelman's. The owner, or manager, or someone resembling an owner/manager, personally engaged us in a conversation early in the night about how she brought in Avery Brewing Company's special presidential ale for these debate-watching events. So I order one, and I love every ounce. But when the check comes and I discover its $15 (!) price tag, I'm a little incredulous. Not incredulous enough to ask for this manager/owner and demand an explanation. Not incredulous enough to chastise Chine for not giving me a heads up. Just...confused.
Then again, that could be the 8.75 percent alcohol by volume's fault. Fuck it.
Chine for president!