The fun part about being part of a subculture is basically having access to a whole different layer of society, shopping and partying than the people who remain inside the mainstream.
There are shops, clubs and bars only you and the ones like you will know of. Where you’ll congregate regularly without any intrusions by outsiders due to a myriad of reasons. (Perhaps it’s really far out. Perhaps it looks weird enough to turn away strangers. Perhaps the regulars have staked their claim over the years. Perhaps it just looks really freaking weird from the outside.)
Half a lifetime ago, there was a bar/pub in Gelsenkirchen catering to Metalheads, Goths, tabletop roleplayers and LARPers. It was called “Die Taverne” (The Tavern) and it was a beautiful, great little place.
It was also on a four-way intersection, in a part of the city nothing else pub-like was standing, behind two cemeteries and with a totally unassuming facade.
So the only people who knew about it were you and yours… And taxi-drivers. And they loved us. Because, wouldn’t you know it? Metalheads and Goths tend to be both friendly and tip well. So whenever you got into a taxi and said: “To the Tavern.” and the taxi driver didn’t know what you were talking about, you just had to say: “The place with all the black-clad people.”. And their eyes would light up, they’d smile at you and bring you there without a problem. You also never had a problem calling a cab to get home, no matter how late. … It pays to be friendly, folks!
Besides all that, it was also a place to meet up with friends, chat with strangers that could quickly become friends and just sit back in a quiet corner, giving the servers a sign so that they’d discourage people from crowding you.
One of my favourite memories there was December in 2001. My parents were away, my sis was busy with her own friends and I wasn’t in a relationship at the time, so… I didn’t really have anything good to do. So I just hopped on the bus, walkman and three MCs with me, and headed to the Tavern. Through the wind and the snow. When I got there, I was cold and wet and slightly cranky due to a broken down bus.
I was still early, mind. Early for “bar hours”.
So the bar was more or less empty apart from a waitress and the owner and three other regulars who were lounging at a corner table. So, as it was still at least an hour until people I knew would show up, I straddled up to the bar and got myself a stool to sit down on.
The waitress was new, but had seen me a few time in the months before. And she immediately noticed the grumpy, sullen look on my face.
Without a word, she went behind the bar, got me a glass of Bärenjäger (Mead Liquor. Like… Mh. Really high-proof mead with a molasses-like viscosity. ). No charge, on the house, with a smile.
I saluted her with it, and sipped it slowly, listening to the Sisters of Mercy playing, watching the snow pile up outside.
The whole situation warmed me. Physically and emotionally.
So in short order, I was able to interact with humans again, and thanked for this kindness. She just smiled and shrugged. And we started chatting. I started helping her out with a few tasks behind the counter (the owner knew and trusted me, so that was no problem) and in due time my friends arrived, and the night went on to be amazing.
Two weeks later, I got there again, and SHE was having a bad time. So I went up to the bar, ordered a Bärenjäger, got it, slid it over to her and told her to start talking. She blinked at me. Hesitated. Then took the glass, started sipping and started talking about trouble with her boyfriend and her parents. And for the next hour, we just… Talked. I listened. Gave advice where I could, kept my mouth shut where I couldn’t.
When the first tide of other guests started to arrive, she felt much better. And for the rest of the night, I got free refills on non-alcoholic beverages. I hadn’t asked for it, but the owner had noticed that I cheered her up, and he was a cool guy as well. So… Yeah. (It REALLY pays to be friendly.)
From that month on, until she left for a new job in the city she went to university in, we always chatted with each other. Not as close friends, no. But as confidantes. More than acquaintances. A… Limited, focused friendship. And we’d always look for a way to give the other a free drink first without either of us getting suspicious of the other doing so.
It really was Another World.
That kind of interaction, in that kind of decor, with that kind of in-built trust between patron and barkeep… It was a perfect combination only found in that one place.
I miss it. Dearly.
To you, Taverne.
I’m drinking a Bärenjäger in your honour tonight.