May 9, 2020
I’m Claire Bullen, and you’re listening to the Good Beer Hunting podcast.
When I first met up with Helena Fitzgerald to record this podcast episode, the world was a different place. It was the third week of February, and Helena—a freelance writer based in New York, who has contributed to publications like The Atlantic, Hazlitt, Catapult, and Electric Literature—was visiting London on a long-term, self-imposed writing sabbatical.
Helena and I met to discuss her first article for Good Beer Hunting, "Lived in Bars," which was published on January 8, 2020. If you haven't read it, it's a luminous personal essay about Helena's decision to step back from drinking. But more than that, it's a love letter to bars: from dive bars to high-end cocktail bars and everything in between. It touches on the whirlwind of the New York social world, the special accord that exists between patrons and bartenders, and the different ways of existing in these essential public spaces.
Now, four months later, Helena's essay has taken on a stark new relevance as bars all over the world have been forced to shutter, and as so many of us have been locked down in our homes for weeks at a time. As we struggle to parse the etiquette of Zoom socializing and wonder how early is too early to crack that beer, we're also desperately missing bars and pubs and taprooms. It turns out—as Helena presciently wrote—that those spaces are about more than just the drinking that happens in them. They're our living rooms, our common spaces, the places where so much of our living gets done. And without them, so many of us feel at sea.
Back when we recorded this, bars and pubs were still open. Helena and I opted to meet at the Southampton Arms, an atmospheric old pub near my apartment in North London that comes complete with piano, fireplace, and resident cat, and is one of my favorite in the city. We met on a quiet weekday afternoon, though you might hear some clinking and chatter in the background (hopefully the ambient pub sounds won't be too painfully nostalgic).
This is Helena Fitzgerald. Listen in.