Editor’s Page: Drinks and Photos, On the House

Introducing our pau hana guide and photo contest winners.

Photo by: Linny Morris

This is our second year doing a guide to noteworthy bars in our December issue. We had already decided on a pau hana angle for this year’s coverage even before the recent economic unpleasantness. Now I’m really glad we stopped for a cold one after work—there are some real bargains out there, and just in time. One place served us an appetizer that was basically an entire thin-crust pizza, and a locally brewed dark beer, for all of $7. Another place threw in pizza slices for free.

Happy Hour prices have always been around, an enticement to lure patrons in during a slower time of day, and a way to get them to loosen up so they’ll stay on their barstool until Regularly Priced Hour rolls around.

The discounts are nice, but they aren’t really the main point of pau hana. Conversation seems to be the key. You’ll either go out with coworkers and grumble about work, or you’ll go out with friends you don’t work with—and grumble about work. Either way, being able to relax and talk freely is the essence of pau hana. One of the advantages of pau hana is that this is actually possible. The sun may still be out, the houselights are a little brighter, the music hasn’t been turned up to 11 yet, so you can see and hear everyone you’re with. In this environment, people forge friendships, make alliances, pitch ideas, trade gossip. It’s an odd form of grown-up fun, because it’s recreation that isn’t entirely divorced from the workday. Some people go into it still on duty, such as the sales rep I watched hand his card out to everyone he could.

To our surprise, not every great bar made for a great pau hana spot. In some cases, they’re so successful in their later hours, there’s just no energy at pau hana. In other cases, they seem to hold back a bit on their pau hana customers. For example, one of the town’s better-known watering holes, which boasts a menu of more than 200 spirits and liquors, and a ton of food options, restricted its specials to bottled and draft beer and a couple of too-sweet mixed drinks, in the margarita vein. Would it hurt to throw in a couple of single malts? The Lagavulin is just sitting there on the top shelf, gathering dust! Aren’t we called upon in these times to spread the wealth around?

This issue also includes a 16-page section featuring the winners of our annual photo contest. We changed the categories this year to emphasize subject matter, instead of the technology the photographers used (film vs. digital). We were thrilled with the results. People really thought about their entries in the categories of portraits, landscapes and the built environment.

The built what? you might  ask. The term is clunky, but useful, referring specifically to the world of structures. The unnatural landscape, you might call it. Buildings, fences, skylines, roads, anything humans added to the world that didn’t just grow in place.

This was my favorite of the three categories. What can I say; I’m a city guy. I can only identify three types of tree, for example—palm, fir and leafy. But when I see a dramatic, unexpected photo of a building, such as the shot of the Schidler School of Business at UH, it takes my breath away. Two other winners in the category invite endless contemplation: a shot juxtaposing high-rises with headstones, another showing a ruined computer monitor floating in the dark water of the Ala Wai canal. To me, such photos say more about the way we live than would yet another gorgeous photo of a rainbow.

Here’s hoping you find plenty in this issue to talk about over drinks at your next pau hana.