10.28.2016

The Bar in the Dream - Exploring a Sense of Place

Plonk, a Bozeman, Montana wine bar
Plonk in Bozeman
Years ago, a neighborhood pub would appear in my dreams. This was a welcoming, comfortable place where my friends and I would gather, a spot we considered "ours." In the dreams, the pub always retained a pleasant, low-key vibe without any rowdiness or drunken shenanigans. Upon waking, the image of the bar along with the feelings it conjured hung over me like a warm robe, and I'd start the day off happy with strong feelings of comfort, connection and friendship.

Throughout the time I was having these dreams, I'd think about the bar as I traveled. One day I hoped to walk into a pub and have a voila, or "So this is Yale," moment. The locale would instantly feel familiar to me and my travel companions. "This is it,” I’d think. “This is the bar I have dreamt about." Conversation would come easily and we’d feel a strong sense of connection to everyone in the room. We'd tell ourselves, "If we lived here, these folks would be our friends and this would be our go-to spot."

Brass Monkey, near the Highline in New York City
Brass Monkey, near the Highline, NYC
Over the years, I have found fragments of the pub in establishments I have visited, but none of them are the pub as a critical element is always missing. Like the spot in the dream, Plonk in Bozeman is long, narrow and old, but it is more of a showy place so the ambiance doesn't match. Cellar bars throughout Eastern Europe exude the same sense of coziness, but their subterranean setting and stony decor are at odds with the image. The Brass Monkey near the High Line in New York City had the right look and was a great place to hang out with friends. This might have been the closest place yet, but it was empty when we went there, so it was still a bit off
Brass Monkey, Near the High Line in New York City
As seen from the High Line
While I haven't had the dream in a long time, the image of the bar has not completely left my mind. I was reminded of the pub once again as exercises in my recent writing workshops found me free-writing about places and dreams. I left the workshops with a plethora of ideas on paper and lots of thoughts to contemplate. What is it about places, both real and imaginary, that imprint them in our minds? Why has a pub appeared repeatedly in my self-conscious? What is it about this pub that makes it stick?

Classic Eastern European Cellar Bar. This one is Jo's Bar in Prague.
Classic Eastern European cellar bar.  Jo's Bar, Prague.
I think we all crave spaces that we see as "ours." Whether they are public or private, we desire locations that put us at ease and where we enjoy hanging out with family and friends. A woo-woo, new age sort of person might tell me that the pub in my dreams is significant. "What is your sleeping mind trying to tell you," they might ask. Hmm...I don't know the answer to that, but not being a new age or woo-woo kind of person, I'm not sure if it really matters.

There is no doubt about it, places have a way that they make you feel. We have a strong connection with places we deem "special" but as with any abstract concept or feeling, it is hard to put these thoughts on paper without becoming cheesy or cliché. As a writer, I enjoy trying to tackle this challenge. (As I did here and here.)
Richters, New Haven, CT
Richter's, a favorite from my college days, New Haven, CT

Don't Leave Me Hanging!
I can hear you now. “Don’t tell me about the pub in your dream if you’re not going to tell me what it looks like.” 

I’ll fill you in…

I should start off by saying that I first had these dreams in the early 1990s  while living in New Haven, Connecticut. The sitcom Cheers was popular at the time and although I did not watch it regularly, it has burned the image of a friendly neighborhood pub into my mind. Who doesn't appreciate a bar where the worries of life are far away, the mood is light, laughter is plentiful and warm connections with other are palpable? If there is one thing Cheers has done for our collective consciousness, it's reinforcing the idea that a place where "everyone knows your name" is a sweet one to be.

As for the pub in the dream, it looks and feels like this:
  • Drinking was secondary and no one was ever drunk
  • It evoked a strong feeling of well-being, good fortune, friendship and connection
  • It was a long, narrow, neighborhood pub in an old building in the middle of the city 
  • The city in the dream was not specified
  • The front of the establishment had floor to ceiling windows
  • There was a window seat in front where we always sat and it was great for people watching
  • The bar was dark and wooden but not so much so that it was depressing or overly masculine
  • It was always was always daylight and the dream always took place on those rare but great rainy days where one doesn't feel guilty or bummed out about staying inside
Do you know this place? What special places stick in your mind? What positive thoughts and images re-appear while you are sleeping?