Sometimes modern life seems upside-down. Our private homes are stocked with the stuff of public amenities: They’re our movie theaters and espresso bars and arcades, spun into cocoons of distraction and stimulating entrapment. Meanwhile, we blithely make our private lives public on social media in a continuous torrent of TMI. Now your mom’s on Facebook and she’s scanning in baby pictures from the family album. What’s happening?! We’re talking seismic shifts in the fabric of reality itself.
Okay, I’m exaggerating. But reflecting on the blurring lines between public and private life always makes me think fondly of bars. Bars? Yes. In the spirit of this issue, indulge me in a bit of dollar-beer philosophizing worthy of a Bukowski dive. The way I see it, in our privatopian Sin City with its dearth of public gathering places — you know, actual parks, plazas and promenades that aren’t attached to a megacasino or a corporate urban pedestrian mall experience — we tend to do a lot of our meeting, connecting and conspiring at bars: the beer with pals, the post-work debriefing cocktail, a shared bottle of wine to cap the weekend. Sure, we’ve got plenty of churches and Starbucks, too, but I’d argue that bars are a more faithful and fitting expression of our city’s underlying social DNA. I’m not talking about sites for epic, mind-erasing benders of Vegas myth (which, to be sure, have their proper place). But let’s not forget how responsibly restorative, how productive a nip with friends at your favorite spot can be (for maximum effect, resist entanglement with the conversation-killing tractor beam of video poker). They say that our digital age and its army of gadgets are making Mini-Me Narcissuses of us all, compulsively gazing at the reflections in our smartphones; they say that the art of socializing is suffering death by a thousand bytes. It may be drooling naivete, but I like to think that between our hard-wired human need for connection and our ready availability of alcohol, Las Vegans may buck the advent of SkyNet just yet with our own approach to public life.
This issue, dedicated to our favorite drinks, offers everything from palate-pleasing alchemical wonders to beers so hearty you’ll need a fork and maybe some backup teeth. But our feature package that begins on p. 50 is really about celebrating sociability and the fine libations that inspire it. It’s more substantive than it sounds. While boutique bars and mixology spots are the hot new things, Southern Nevada’s real speakeasies that served social lubricant on the sly during Prohibition (p. 65) are a testament to an enduring truth: People want to gather. In upside-down times, a little “bottoms up” might help put things right again.
We’ve certainly got something to toast: I’m excited to announce the hiring of Scott Dickensheets as Desert Companion’s deputy editor. Dickensheets is no doubt familiar to many of you. Official version: He’s a longtime Southern Nevada journalist, writer and editor whose byline has enlivened pretty much any valley publication you can think of, from the Las Vegas Sun to CityLife. Unofficial version: He’s basically a big, restless, funny, crackling brain who shares our passion for telling the ongoing story of Southern Nevada. Enjoy the buzz.