By Andrew Ramirez
I was shooting pool at Seven Grand, sinking all the right ones and letting the the ice melt in my whiskey, when I was reminded of that quote by Hemingway: “A good bar makes a man feel good.” I was feeling good. But there’s that other quote by him too, and it got me worried: “Behind every good bar is a bad woman. Because if she were good, the bar wouldn’t be anything but empty.” And, of course, I could be misquoting, but you got to understand that literature and beery banter has always kind of mixed colors for me anyway. Like a few years ago when my friend had broken up with his girlfriend, instantly regretted it, and over a second round of Tecates, after he told me she wouldn’t take him back, he let slip: “The only thing I have going for me is what I’ve got coming.”
Holy shit that’s genius! I said. Do you know how profound you just were? Let’s get more beer! Shit!
I wrote it down on a napkin and lost the napkin but remembered it anyway. I’d love to chalk that one up to Hemingway and watch an academic dissect the shit out of it one university-funded hour at a time, telling me why it’s good or bad and what literary theories it stands next to, and why, after the third pitcher, my friend Hemingway unzipped his pants, punched his right index through the gap, and started walking around the bar going, Has anyone seen my wiener?
I mean, the way we both got kicked out of that bar that night, and the way that tiny gem (not the one about his wiener) still sparkles alongside a lot of other good stuff I’ve heard since then, and even the way that second gem (about his wiener) still gets me grinning when I think what theories it stands up next to—you see, it’s all these memories collected in my brain, polished brighter and smoother over time, that make Seven Grand a cozy nook of nostalgic, boys-club heaven. The deer and moose heads mounted on the walls, the pool tables, the cigarette smoke in the outside patio, and okay, okay, maybe I made up those Hemingway quotes, sure, but if Hemingway ever said something that went unrecorded, I want to believe it happened at a smoky joint like this. Because part of the fun with Seven Grand—other than the 300+ whisk(e)ys they have lining their shelves—is that it’s the most pleasant of make-believes. And if that kind of make-believe gets a point across, if it entertains, and if it somehow manages to inform, who cares if it’s bullshit? Denis Johnson really did say that the facts get us nowhere (that one, I promise, isn’t a made up quote), and keeping all this in mind: What could possibly be wrong with having a syrupy good time in a make-believe log cabin?
It works like this: You go through a door and take a few flights of stairs to get to this warm second-floor watering-hole. Despite being in Los Angeles, suddenly you’re not. This whiskey joint, instead, transports you to an isolated spot in the forest where on Friday night, while the live jazz pops and fizzes and the pool balls snap off one another, you drop the eight ball in three shots too early. And Old Fashioned in hand—you’re flicked with a six percent urge to start a fight but a ninety-four percent urge to just refill that glass and play another one.
I have to disagree with my own Hemingway misquote: For guys, girl problems or not, Seven Grand is a good place to be. But for women, boys-club or not, it’s an even better place to look a guy deep in the eyes and say: I think you just made that up.
Seven Grand (515 W. 7th Street, Second Floor): A