Another Monday night at the Proper. I was hanging out with Skippy, the bartender, sipping a non-alcoholic better-than-Shirley-Temple concoction with muddled berries, sprigs of mint and other stuff.
Skippy continued to make his argument. “On Monday nights, the Flintridge Proper Bar is the modern-day equivalent of the pre-Prohibition, Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar.”
“Huh?” I asked.
Skippy pulled a tattered book out of his back pocket. It was the 1935 edition of the Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book. He threw it down on the bar and pointed to page 152. “The Bar was not regarded as a place of ‘ill-repute'...the Waldorf-Astoria bar was Wall Street moved bodily uptown for an adjourned session of the Stock Exchange, with men betting on how stocks would perform the next day.”
Skippy had a point. Like the Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar, the Proper is the stomping grounds for professionals (and others) at the end of the work day, to discuss their investments and otherwise reconnoiter. Even retired La Cañadans are welcome, if they have time from kitchen remodels and gardening activities.
Skippy wiped down the counter and continued. “Historically, La Cañada Flintridge has always had similar hangouts. Late evenings on the patio at Conrad's. Early mornings the La Cañada Coffee Roaster. Coffee klatches at Higleys.”
I had to agree. I still miss the La Cañada Coffee Roaster.
Fast forward to 2014 and there's Monday nights at the Proper Bar, with repasts both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, with and without gluten, plus deviled-eggs with the chicken on the side.
Skippy continued. “What's important is that we create a sense of community.”
Suddenly it was clear. We live in an increasingly war-driven, urban, disassociated world. La Cañada used to be a small semi-rural town. No one was anonymous. Today, we are at a crossroads. We are a suburb. We are suburban. What will happen to our sense of community? Where do we gather?
I thought back to one day in 1990, when I was driving our daughter to school, I made a creative move. I changed lanes without signaling. I cut off another driver.
The driver was a new resident of La Cañada. I had met her once or twice. She lived down the street.
The new resident immediately flipped me off.
My daughter was shocked. “Mommy, why did Mrs. [name redacted] do that?”
I explained. “She moved here four months ago from the Westside. She doesn't realize she's going to see us at the school in three minutes.”
The opposite of anonymity is connection. That's why the Proper, which also serves non-alcoholic “potations,” helps make La Cañada a better place.
The barkeeps at the Old Waldorf-Astoria knew this when they said, “when the repeal of the prohibition amendment was accomplished, on December 5, 1933, proprietors of New York hotels and restaurants that good bartenders, men who knew anything at all about mixing cocktails, were scarce.”
As for Skippy, his tattered copy of the Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book lists dozens of non-alcoholic beverages, including this:
Three or Four Sprigs of Mint
Two lumps ice (Collins glass)
One bottle Ginger Ale
“Hey Skippy,” I asked. “There's no muddled blackberries in this recipe.”
“Change is good,” said Skippy. “I'm an artiste.”