The Tender Bar by JR Moehringer is about how a bar saved this young man’s life, “I grew up 142 steps from a glorious old American tavern, and that has made all the difference.” JR’s early life is chaotic. He and his mother have their own place then because of bad finances they end up in his grandparent’s house, which is not a home. His mom moves to Arizona in hopes of starting again, only to find they have to return to Manhasset, NY. His dad is in and out and finally out of his young life and JR needs a man in his life. That is where Dickens comes in. Dickens is that tavern 142 steps from his grandparent’s house. His Uncle Charlie is a bartender there and he and his barfly buddies become JR’s man role models. To quote Uncle Charlie, this book is sublime. You don’t mind if I say ‘sublime’ do you?
JR played word games with the men. He liked words, but when he got turned on to books, that made all the difference. While strolling a half vacant mall in Arizona he went into a bookstore that didn’t have anyone at the register. He discovered the two owners hidden away in a backroom. They hired him to work the cash register because they were too busy reading. They got him to read John Cheever and other classic American authors because they were disgusted with what he didn’t know. They also suggested he go to Yale. So he went. Lucky he knew how to swim; otherwise he would have drowned.
Five days after he turned eighteen, he went to Publicans and had his first legal drink, a gin martini, followed by a few more. Back at school he falls in love, his studies falter, his heart is broken, mended, and he has a good conversation with a priest on Amtrak, and fails to open his mouth when he meets his hero, Frank Sinatra. JR in retrospect is always stumbling, quitting, falling and picking himself up dusting himself off and succeeding. The Leonard-Hagler fight is a good metaphor for his life, Follow?
This is the story of a boy becoming a man. Whether you are with your father as you grow up, you always need a team of men to raise you and most importantly that woman who bore you.