Tequila Goes High Brow

by Conor Friedersdorf

Try to guess where these sentences appeared:

IT wasn’t that long ago that a bar advertising a weekly tequila night and the customers attracted to it would plainly be asking for trouble.

You know what I’m talking about. Lime, salt, squished-up faces, the punctuating thunk of drained shot glasses hitting the bar. And then the predictable aftermath, which the late George Carlin characterized thusly: “One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor.” Tequila specials were like petri dishes for misdemeanors.

On Monday, at the Lower East Side bar and restaurant Allen & Delancey, there was tequila aplenty, but no one needed scooping from the floor. A young man at the end of the bar, his head topped with a Harris tweed driver’s cap, appeared to be discussing philosophy with his date. Mayhem was definitely not in the air.

Prose like that could only appear in The New York Times "Style" section. Particularly amusing is the locution that a young man and his date "appeared to be discussing philosophy." Was his date wearing laurels?

Of course, there is a long history of tequila producing the appearance of philosophical discussion, as anyone who's attended the parking lot party prior to a Jimmy Buffett concert can attest. This is evident nowhere so clearly as outside the inevitable "shooters for hooters" booths set up by shameless young men who engage female college students in what appear to be Socratic dialogues about how they should not worry about the video camera being held as they barter for Jose Cuervo shots. (Equivalent "shots for cocks" booths also appear, though less frequently.) The effect is a subset of the audience that is particularly enthusiastic when Professor Buffett takes the stage and appears to engage in his own philosophizing. "This is a song about a little island that's nowhere except in your mind or at the bottom of a Cuervo bottle," he's long noted during concerts. "People ask me, 'Where the hell is Margaritaville?' I say, It's anywhere you want it to be."

Having been to my share Jimmy Buffett concerts and Lower East Side bars, I'd wager that dialogue on Margaritaville is every bit as profound as whatever was uttered by the man in the Harris tweed driver's cap.