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Death and Facebook at The Sycamore

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We made it 10 minutes into our drinks at The Sycamore before Donald Trump came up.

Sycamore sf, photo:

“I don’t know, man,” Sam told me. “I find myself thinking – a lot – would it be so bad if I shot him? Because I have a kid now, do I want him to grow up in that America? Would I plead ‘No Contest’ before the judge and then say ‘You’re welcome’?”

Sam would never do that – if I thought he would we wouldn’t be friends – but we live in a time when good men everywhere dream of being assassins. I know a guy who knows a guy who talks to secret service agents on the regular, and he says that they say that Trump has hired a food taster. Like we’re living in Borgia Italy, or Putin’s Russia.

Sam’s drinking a blueberry stout, I’m drinking a Belgian style golden ale brewed by a local company. These were both experimental drinks for us – Sam had never had anything like this before (“It really smells like blueberries!” he exclaims in surprise, which … I should damn well hope so), while I’d never tried this particular brewer. We were both dissatisfied with novelty, and end up drinking  old standbys for the rest of the night: Sam focusing on tried-and-true lagers, me going for long-time favorites like Dogfishhead’s Midas Touch, and Crabbe’s Ginger Beer … the former a high class triumph of a the oddball brewer’s art, the latter as close to alcoholic soda as you can get while still claiming to have any palate.

Via Sycamore Facebook page

This was not a night when we wanted novelty or experimentation. This was a night when two old friends just wanted the world to feel like it used to.  Before … all this.

The Sycamore makes up for a sad lack of hard stuff with a terrifically curated selection of beers. We can match them to our mood. We can make this work.

At least we thought we could. But Sam was periodically checking his phone to see how the Warriors were doing – which was especially ironic since we chose The Sycamore because it wouldn’t have a TV and be crowded with people following the game. We had expressly made a point of trying to find a bar where we could leave the world outside, tied to a bike rack, and be distracted. The Sycamore goes out of its way to be that place.


But we brought in what we were hoping to avoid. We meant to talk about the things that can only come up when you go back years with somebody, but instead we ended up discussing whether police chief Greg Suhr was going to be shown the door (Sam called it) and whether something terrible has begun at the Nevada Democratic convention, and whether Curry is sinking three pointers as we speak. We became our own saboteurs.

“I don’t want to talk about Trump anymore,” Sam said, as if we had ever wanted to. “You were in Barcelona, right?” He glanced at his phone to check the score as I answered.

We believed our connection was deep and still, but could not resist the lure of the topical.

We laughed at ourselves, and started to get back on track – an incident at Sam’s wedding came up, I told a Burning Man story – and then Monday night trivia started. And the host began asking questions about sports and politics.

We were doomed.

Benjamin Franklin said the only two certainties in life are “death and taxes,” but he said that before the age of social media. I suppose it makes sense that friendships which are conducted mostly on Facebook would come to resemble a list of trending topics. It takes practice and effort to live the kind of life where you can talk about things that not everyone is talking about, and we just didn’t have it in us that night. Even at a bar – a great bar – without a TV.

What makes us good friends, albeit ones who almost never see each other outside of social media, is that we know we’ll try again. We believe that we can outlast this moment … whatever it is … and find our way back to being human again.

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Benjamin Wachs - Fascinating Stranger

Benjamin Wachs - Fascinating Stranger

Benjamin Wachs is the author of the short story collection A Guide to Bars and Nightlife in the Sacred City. He tweets as @BenjaminWachs, and displays (some of) his work at