Saturday, September 3, 2016

When The Sacred Gin Mill Closes

What a great name for a book.

I was trolling on line and came across recommendations for detective type books. This one caught my eye.

"When The Sacred Gin Mill Closes" by Lawrence Block. Featuring ex cop Matt Scudder, main character in a series of books by Block.

It is a good story set in NYC in the 70's and 80's. Hard drinking, hard fighting, tough guy stuff. I dug it.

Kind of like my life. I drink a couple bottles of whiskey a day and still manage to kick the ass of anybody and everybody who pisses me off. I let my knuckles do the talking and my victims do the apologizing.

The book opens with a verse by Dave Van Ronk from a song called "Last Call." The words: "And so we've had another night of poetry and poses, and each man knows he'll be alone when the sacred gin mill closes."

Lancing the boil of pretension and pretending, with the harshness of truth.

Dave Van Ronk was Bob Dylan before Bob Dylan was Bob Dylan.

That comment is not entirely accurate but it sounds pretty cool so I'm leaving it in.

He was a major figure in the folk scene in Greenwich Village in the 60's before Dylan got there. When Dylan got there he blew everything up on the sheer power of his words and songs.

Van Ronk was the man on the scene and provided help and inspiration to up and coming artists like Dylan and Joni Mitchell. His nickname was Mayor of MacDougal Street.

I went to YouTube and checked out Van Ronk and "Last Call." Haunting. Sung A capella.

And the lyrics, baby - the goddamn lyrics.

"and so we'll drink the final glass, each to his joy and sorrow, and hope the numbing drink will last 'till opening tomorrow".

"I broke my heart the other day, it will mend again tomorrow, if I'd been drunk when I was born, I'd be ignorant of sorrow".

That line blows me away. It's one of those lines you just have to go with; you can't question it. I mean you would have to stay drunk from birth to death to avoid sorrow. Not a bad life plan, though.

Still, that's a heavy image. "if I'd been drunk when I was born..............."

"and so we'll drink the final toast that never can be spoken: Here's to the heart that's wise enough to know when its better off broken".

The song fits the tone of the book, the book fits the tone of the song, and both creative endeavors chain the reader and listener to a reality they'd rather avoid.

Gritty, hard drinking, drunk/philosopher truths.


  1. When I first read it - I could not put it down - am not much of a reader