Similarities end with politics

THE TWO COUPLES sat down at the bar at almost the same moment. This is always a difficult situation for a bartender — who do you wait on first?

If you choose wrong, half your customers are going to be angry, and even if you choose right, half your customers might still be angry, especially given a certain level of entitlement. And eventually you are going to have to wait on them, too. Not good when your income depends on their generosity.

The concurrent couples sized each other up. Striped casual polo shirts, check. Louis Vuitton oversized handbags, check. Two BMW key fobs obviously displayed on the bar, check, check.

The two ladies ordered separately, but oh so similarly. Two of our most expensive buttery oaky chardonnays later and I turned to the two men. They ordered two extra-dry, extra-cold, extra-expensive vodka martinis.

I filled a shaker with ice and vodka (extra-dry martinis don’t actually get vermouth) and the sound of breaking ice filled the air. Soon the breaking of ice followed in a more metaphorical manner.

“Are you from the county?” ventured one of the women.

“We’re from (enter very wealthy area),” said the other.

“We’re from (enter other very wealthy area),” the first woman said.

“We’re on our way home from the opera,” said one of the men.

“We’re on our way home from the symphony,” the other responded.

They looked at each other, probably noticing what had already been apparent to me when they first sat down. The poet Maya Angelou once wrote, “We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.” In a perfect world these four would become friends.

Eventually a conversation formed, based on mutual experience. Upper East Coast colleges were discussed. Talk of little towns in Italy followed, ending in California cabernet and golf courses. The couples could not have been more similar. They just weren’t friends, at least not yet.

Soon they shared an appetizer.

“We know the manager,” the first couple said.

“We know the chef,” the second couple said.

Or was it the second couple who said that? And the first couple that said the other?

It really didn’t matter.

“Who are you voting for?” one of the women asked.

My back stiffened. There are two things you don’t discuss in a bar — religion and politics. I have heard sex is the third one, but take it from one bartender, a lot of discussion about sex goes on, even if much of it is done subconsciously.

The response ended the budding friendship rather quickly.

“Damn (insert religious persuasion here)” one of the men said after the other couple wandered away, proving perhaps that politics is an even bigger hurdle to overcome than religion.

Politics make strange bedfellows. In one case it also makes for all too familiar enemies as well.

Here are some examples of bars and politics actually mixing:

One for the Blues: Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected president in 1932 on his pledge to end National Prohibition.

One for the Reds: Abraham Lincoln’s 1833 liquor store license is on display in the Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History in Bardstown, Ky. (I have seen it). Pretty cool.

One for the Feds: Our national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” was written to the tune of a drinking song called “The Anacreontic Song.” “Oh, say does that Star-Spangled Banner yet wave/O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?” is substituted for “And there, my good fellows, we’ll learn to entwine/The myrtle of Venus with Bacchus’ vine.”

One for the states: On June 1, 2011, section 23016 of the California Business and Professions Code was amended so that bartenders can once again legally “color, flavor, or blend distilled spirits or wine products on the licensed premises to be consumed on those premises.”

This means that you can thank state Sen. Mark Leno (who represents Marin) for that basil-infused bourbon barrel aged whiskey gimlet now legal anywhere in California.

As for voters in the states of Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Utah, state law requires that bars be closed on Election Day. More’s the pity for you.