Point/Counterpoint is a beloved feature that first appeared in the fall 1972 edition of the Weeklings. PC/P is the product of an intellectual tradition hearkening back to storied Oxford debate squads and the golden age of radio, in which two authors match wits over random subjects while being forced to choose a side and defend it on the fly. Readers are advised to stand back, as the heat can get intense. This week’s arm wrestle involves bar stool legend, elbow ink enthusiast, and poet of the fog-swept streets, Mr. Joshua Mohr
Ladies and gentlemen, we are now on the clock.
The best dive bar in San Francisco-
Point (Mohr): My favorite dive bars are all in the Mission, and picking one will be impossible to me. It’s like asking who my favorite child is: there’s no right answer. I know you’ve lived in the Mission, too, Sean, so let’s see if we could have been drinking buddies back in the day. Zeitgeist is a solid dive bar. Disgusting patio. Horrible food. Cheap drinks. That’s the dive bar trifecta. Other notables include The Attic, Benders, Doc’s Clock, Pop’s, and The Lone Palm.
Counter-point: (Beaudoin): Ah, Doc’s Clock. I spent far too many evenings there. Possibly the best name for a bar ever. The Lone Palm always struck me as an extremely weird joint, certainly the perfect place to acquire a random kilo and then take home a very tall gentleman in white mink, if one were so inclined. I always half suspected there was something deeply wrong going on in the back room there, like maybe an avant-garde dentist’s office where people were drilling each other’s cavities and filling them with pimento.
I also dug Esta Noche, Sumikos, The Hunter, The Ha-Ra, The Motherlode, The Hearth, Club Charleston, The Hob Nob, Ireland’s 32, Li Po, The Gangway, and all the Korean places on Larkin which, if they had names, I never knew them.
Point (Beaudoin): I don’t understand why she is so often derided, and in such a keening pitch. Maybe Girls isn’t as brilliant and transgressive as it’s made out to be, but it’s still very sharp–certainly smarter and more incisive than the majority of slop otherwise featured between commercials on other channels. Her self-portrayal is refreshingly unflattering in a way no one has pulled off quite so brazenly since Roseanne got a facelift. It’s either fearless or masochistic. Sure, there was the ludicrous advance for the unwritten book, but so what? In America, funny women usually get punished, so it feels like a little payback. Plus, I dig it when someone under thirty cons the cons at their own game.
Counter-point (Mohr): I just watched the first season of Girls in a weekend couch bender, and I liked it. I know that’s not much of a counter-point, but I don’t begrudge other artists their success. She seems like she’s being earnest, and the show is smart and dirty—two of my favorite things. I say well done, Miss Dunham. Keep kicking them in the pricks.
Things that are allowed to be on a taco
Point (Mohr): San Francisco, in all its health-conscious glory, thinks that anything can go on a taco. Anything. Seitan? Sure. Quinoa. Why not! Me, I’m more of a traditionalist. Meat. Beans. Salsa, some cilantro, squeeze of lime. That’s it. A bartender buddy told me one time that a good cocktail has two ingredients and one of them is ice. I like that logic slathered on my tacos.
Counter-point (Beaudoin): It is a rare circumstance when my sublimated libertarianism rears up and forces me to publicly proclaim something to be a truth to which we should all forever abide, but here it is: NOTHING goes on a taco except meat, onion, cilantro and lime. There is no compromise, there are no substitutions, there will be no forgiveness. Also, the tortilla MUST be corn. Hot sauce that’s in a red bucket and can be applied with a spoon is also acceptable. As are pickled jalapenos, radishes, and carrots–but those are to be eaten strictly as a side garnish.
Point (Beaudoin): Love Tucson. Love Sedona. Have walked the arroyos of Tempe, slept in the culverts of Nogales, and married off friends in the heart of the Chiricahuas. All that being said, Phoenix may be the worst city in America. It’s also unforgivably mis-named. What is it rising from? A pair of white deck shoes? A glass of fizzing denture water? The 16th green? When I am finally eternally punished as I so richly deserve, instead of being sent to hell, I will no doubt be forced to move to a condo in Phoenix and write brochures for door-to-door vitamin companies.
Counter-point (Mohr): I grew up in Phoenix, lived there from when I was 5 until about 12—and haven’t been back since. I remember an armpit. A hot armpit. A hot armpit with zero redeeming qualities. A hot armpit with zero redeeming qualities and too many strip malls.
On The Road—The Movie-
Point (Mohr): Morbid curiosity be damned–I will not see this movie. I refuse. For years, Hollywood said it’s unfilmable and I wish that sentiment still stood. It’s a shapeless, odd, meandering bullet of a book, and I won’t watch Kristen Stewart dance on its grave.
Counter-point (Beaudoin): I find that I am unable to say anything amusing or even remotely clever about this travesty, but no usher will ever be tearing my ticket either. Maybe instead of going to the premiere we can get a bunch of people to all jump the Greyhound to LA and sit around the bus station drinking Royal Gate, eating tubes of Benzedrine, and writing the Truth on Zagnut wrappers. We will wear pork pie hats and fill the glorious sparkling blackness of night with arias of beautiful bebop patter—every cheap suit a date or a Dharma Saint, busy recreating the never-existedness of Kerouac’s mad 50’s America. Either that, or not watch this on Cinemax either.
Tattooed guys in cowboy hats–
Point (Beaudoin): I often see an author-shot of you in a cowboy hat. Also sporting an array of ink. Now, normally I’m not a fan of the Authorial Affectation: the cane, the cravat, the white suit, the…unnecessary…use…of…ellipses. But, like Tom Wolfe or H.L. Mencken, some people can just plain carry it off. Mostly, though, your picture seems refreshingly friendly. Like, “Hi, come read me!” I am a big fan of the cordial, accessible author. So I commend you on your pictorial openness.
Counter-Point (Mohr): I don’t wear hats all the often, but do have a collection of fedoras and a cowboy hat. What kind of aging hipster would I be if I didn’t have these things! Tattoos are more my bag. I get a new tattoo for every book. I’m telling my literary biography on my arms.
The slow diminution in the amount of Oprah in our collective lives
Point (Beaudoin): I wrote this topic point immediately preceding the moment when Big O emerged from the green depths like a raging Kraken and ate Lance Armstrong whole in front of a national audience. What was I thinking? I mean, sure, she’d left her show and sort of receded into the healing mud at the bottom of the Marianas Trench for a while, just a pair of eyes blinking up at the murky surface. But of course she would rise again when a scandal, tragedy, or other form of red meat bobbed in the shallows. So, yeah, she’s not diminishing.
Counter-point (Mohr): It’s hard for me to say anything ill about ol’ Oprah because she had such a remarkable influence on my career. Her magazine named my first novel Some Things that Meant the World to Me one of their Top Ten Reads of 2009. I reached an audience I never would have been able to without O’s help. That book is filthy, and a friend of mine thinks that the person who suggested it for their Top Ten list was trying to get her ass fired. I dig that idea. I so hope that’s the way it went down.
Guns N’ Roses
Point (Mohr): It’s hard to know which side to take on GNR. I mean, sure they made Appetite for Destruction, which is aging well and produced some of the most memorable guitar riffs ever. But they also made the rest of their music. And I’m not even including Chinese Democracy. I’ve never listened to it. Those Use Your Illusion albums were pretty terrible. Backed into a corner, I’m going to take the pro-side of GNR. If you write “Mr. Brownstone,” you get my stamp of approval.
Counter-point (Beaudoin): Oddly, “Mr. Brownstone” is far and away my favorite GNR tune, and pretty much the driving reason that I accord them the generous measure of respect that I do. It certainly isn’t the whistle solo on “Patience.” I bought a cassette of Appetite in 1987 at a yard sale in Ohio for a dollar (along with Metallica’s Kill ‘em All and The Best of Black Oak Arkansas—but here’s the embarrassing part–also my very first wallet chain) and the Axl wail/Slash squall got me through an entire semester’s need for dirty, shitty, junkie cum-riffs. So, yeah, I’m way pro. I owe them a lot. There’s pretty much nothing anyone from GNR can do at this point to lower themselves in my estimation—with the possible exception of writing a rock opera version of On The Road, with Duff as Sal Paradise and Axl as the chick in the middle seat.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have reached the finish line of this week’s Point/Counter-point. Thank you once again for participating. The votes are being tallied and will be released to the public after they’ve been verified J.D. Powers and Associates, as well as the Washington State Attorney General.
JOSHUA MOHR is the author of three novels, most recently Damascus, which The New York Times called “Beat-poet cool.” He’s also written Some Things that Meant the World to Me, one of O Magazine’s Top 10 reads of 2009 and a San Francisco Chronicle best-seller, as well as Termite Parade, an Editors’ Choice on The New York Times Best Seller List. He lives in San Francisco and teaches in the MFA program at USF. His latest novel, Fight Song, is in stores now.