Sorry, Tinder: The Road to True Love Still Runs Through a Bar

Arts Editor Fiona McCann recounts finding love while pulling pints in Buenos Aires.

By Fiona McCann April 22, 2016 Published in the May 2016 issue of Portland Monthly

May 2016 ed note ahs9ou

To say that sex and drinking are known bedfellows might be putting too fine a point on it, so let’s just say that theirs is a storied history, their entanglement a settled affair. But maybe this has as much to do with the bar as with what the bar pours. Time was—I’m talking pre-Internet time, ye Tindering millennials—when the road to true love, or at least to some pleasurable meeting of bodies, ran right through a bar.

I met the love of my life in one such drinking establishment—specifically, the Gibraltar, in the San Telmo neighborhood of Buenos Aires, where I was pulling pints. There was, I submit, something in the dim light through bottles of amber fluid, the treble tinkle of glasses above the bass rumble of 10 private conversations in 10 private corners, and the sweet-and-sour smell of the drip trays that wraps the moment in a magic I swear I’m not adding with time.

The thing is, bars can do that. They can set the scene and tone for all manner of encounters, putting you in the frame of mind to connect, to carouse, to confess, to create, and—if you’re lucky and the mix is right—to change the course of your life. And as this month’s cover story testifies, the best bars can do that better than anywhere else.

But the Gibraltar was 10 years ago, and I’m a little out of practice when it comes to dating and mating—which is why Courtenay Hameister’s account of her recent year of first dates makes for such compelling reading. Wandering into a bar to see where it might lead you is one thing, but for a dating-averse 40-something to land herself 28 candidates in a year? That requires the Internet.

The good news is that romance is alive and well in Portland, and, as our “Love, Portland” feature reveals, people here are finding each other in all manner of locations. Even, as it happens, without the alcohol.

“Soda bitters, on the rocks” was what the man I didn’t know I would marry ordered that night in Buenos Aires. I slid one over the scuffed bar and joined him. You know, forever.

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