A Guinness Warmly

The 11 bus steams eastward down Adams as I adjourn to The Ould Sod for a quick poultice of stout on the way to the video store. Sunlight congregates in the latticed windows by the door, and my eyes adjust to the distilled walnut darkness inside. The lad behind the bar invites me to an empty place near the end and taps down a coaster.

“Guinness,” I say.

The barstool is tanned the color of beer brine and past pretenses. I sit. I sip.

The Sod has class and carpeting, a real high dive, the kind of room that could survive a national Depression. The bar is filling with its late-afternoon crowd of toasters and barkers, better dressed and more literate than your average pub shouters, while the secret sharers are wallflowering in the tavernous booths behind me.

An expert at the end of the bar talks it up: “It’s not that the world is getting warmer,” he offers, “it’s that more people can’t afford air conditioning.”

The average age of patronage in this neighborhood bar decreases as the day turns to night, and with it the level of wisdom dispensed.

An expert at the end of the bar talks it up: “It’s not that the world is getting warmer,” he offers, “it’s that more people can’t afford air conditioning.”

The woman next to me is a middle-of-the-road Jane, but she sweats a perfume that salts the inside of my nose like some cheap aerosol varnish. She is pulling on a bag-lunch of pretzels and drilling the ice in her cocktail with its bar straw.

Even at this optimistic hour, the music thumps Whitesnake and early Billy Joel. No less than four large video screens, all hanging above, play the same channel of sports highlights, and the action is synchronized and situated so that, for a moment, it feels as if the entire pub is flying over a World Cup match.

The expert on global warming wonders out loud if it’s warm in here. He’s sweating, he claims, and it isn’t the kind of sweat women like on a man.

“We like to be the ones to make you sweat,” a muckle-eyed, matronly maven down the rail casually leers.


I look at myself in the mirror behind the bottle rack. I need a shave. There is too much clarity here. This place deserves a drab shroud of cigarette smoke to add some density, but we all know that age is ashes. I drain my pint.

Mickey Spillane is dead and I don’t feel so hot myself.


The Ould Sod is located at 3373 Adams Avenue,  Normal Heights, San Diego, California, 619-284-6594.

This story was originally published in the Bar Noir issue of San Diego City Beat on August 30th, 2006.

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