May 17, 2016

Going up (and down), and the lowdown on Red Bull

Angel behind the bar at the Spinning Wheel
Doc's report:

Baby boomers will remember the 1968 hit of the group Blood, Sweat & Tears, "Spinning Wheel," and its first line: "What goes up must come down."

The line was apropos in more than one sense on a recent visit to the South End bar of the same name. When asked, our bartender Angel, who continues a line of expert and welcoming hostesses we've met over the three-year run of this blog, explained the popularity of Red Bull drinks among millennials: "It's an upper and a downer."

Red Bull, marketed as an energy drink, is the stimulant; alcohol is the universal depressant. What goes up -- your heart rate and cognition -- must come down, along with your mood and relationships. (In my day, it was Irish coffee: caffeine for up, Southern Comfort for down.)

Backbar at the Spinning Wheel
And there seems to be no end to the mixing of drinks based on Red Bull, including such compelling offerings as Bullfighter, Bull Piss, Bull Rider and, inevitably, Bullshit.

But it’s not all bull. Angel described a drink called the Roasted White Angel -- Kahlua, pecan rum, cream and a garnish.

She also introduced us to the Bull Mastiff: vodka, Kahlua, milk and Coca-Cola.

And the Zeus: Campari, vodka, ice and lime garnish. Even in Greek mythology, the gods descend. What goes up must come down.

Surprisingly, Angel also claimed that a 23-year old recently ordered an Old Fashioned: a sugar cube, bitters, bourbon and a citrus garnish.

Some things never change. Some do. When I came weeping into this vale of tears, my parents lived at Webster and 34th, four blocks west and three blocks south of the Spinning Wheel.

I saw the Spinning Wheel often, as it was right across the street from the South End Branch of the Bay City Public Library, and in my youth I read all the time. (Einstein said that people need
Inside on a quiet day
to know only one thing: the location of their library. That, of course, was before Kindle, Wiki, Google, etc.)

For some reason, I’ve always felt comforted when I see the wheel above the door. I don’t know how this centuries-old device for creating yarn or thread from natural fibers is a good name for a bar. Maybe it’s a metaphor for weaving the social fabric from the individuals who drop in.

Perhaps I like it as a concrete object, an icon for Broadway and 31st. That hasn’t changed.

But one thing has changed: The former library branch across the street is now the seldom-used Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. I’d like to do a government-funded study to establish an algorithm relating church attendance to bar attendance and the proximity of a bar to a church.

After raising their voices in song, people return to daily life.  What goes up must come down.

The church has Our Lady; the Spinning Wheel has our Angel.


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