Wednesday, February 19, 2014


The famous “Fake Attack” @ Drink & Walk, circa 2006.

In the late 90s and early oughts, my good friend MarkWallace and I co-hosted a “public alighting” that we termed “Office Hours.” We established ourselves at the Post Pub dive bar in D.C., on an appointed night (memory tells me Wednesday), at an appointed time (8:00 p.m.), and people knew where they could join us for conversation and merriment, every week at the very same moments. Mark and I both adjuncted in those days; our students frequented Office Hours to speak about their classwork. The gathering, in addition, featured a writing theme, and many colleagues from the DC Poetry crowd joined us; poetry students from the George Mason MFA Program joined us; the friends of these many good people joined the gathering as well. Some nights, Mark and I might have ministered to a single visitor, when other nights attendance swelled beyond fifteen or twenty people. Mark came up with the idea for the gathering, and if memory serves me properly, he had devised Office Hours in the image of another similar gathering that he had learned of in his travels. The Russian Poet Arkadii Dragomoshchenko (1946-2012) once told Mark to meet him at his office hours, but Mark couldn’t find him on campus. A friend later told Mark that by office hours, the poet meant a bar he frequented.

When Mark left Washington, D.C. for California, my good friend Rod Smith and I sought to replace Office Hours with an updated happy hours for students and writers. We hunted around town for a replacement location, and as the “hunting-around-town” often involved several watering holes on a given evening, we decided that we enjoyed the multi-site aspect of this field research, and in the end, conceived of a two-site happy hours. Dubbed “Drink & Walk”, the gathering commenced at a pub in Adams Morgan, on Thursdays, around 6:00 p.m., and at 7:45, we listed out into the evening and walked to the Red Room Bar at the Black Cat, where Drink & Walk continued until 10:00. People knew they could meet us at Angles, the first pub, or along the walk, or at the Black Cat, or they could participate in all three phases. Students attended, friends attended, visiting writers attended, Everywhere Man attended, and Everywhere Moped sat nearby, chained to a parking meter and tormented by street toughs. Whatever happened to Everywhere Pomeranian, I wonder, locked up in that ATM machine at the falafel place? Some nights, we attracted a fine crowd of six to eight people but some nights were all-out parties of forty or more. Together with third co-host, Mel Nichols, I created a blog of the same name, which lives on in a server someplace on earth. Drink & Walk persevered for about two years until a variety of circumstances (new jobs, etc.) forced changes in routines.

The packed bar at The Black Squirrel for StoutParty.
The DC Poetry crowd inspired and attended the event.

These public gatherings, moreover, served to create (1) buzz (2) community (3) offshoot events such as house (and apartment) parties; (4) enduring friendships (5) extreme storytelling where none existed before (6) energy for the various poetry reading series about town (7) happenstance (8) recipe sharing (9) wine woogie; and (10) there is no 10. I can’t emphasize enough the need for a gathering, as such, to be dependable, week-in, week-out. The weather might’ve been crappy; the co-host might’ve been ill; there might’ve been a keen event someplace else—but Office Hours and Drink & Walk always had to go through! We also brought with us: commerce. Some locales treated us better than others, but in the end, we brought regular business where nobody else brought regular business. The current version of DC Poetry Happy Hours, a legend in its own right, takes place at our partner pub, The Black Squirrel, where a number of us have hosted readings, given readings and participated in special events, such as DuoExchange and StoutParty. We can be found there every Thursday night, starting around 8:00 p.m., but owing to The Idea of a Public Office Hours, as well as A Need for a Public Office Hours, I have a special announcement to make:

I shall be holding my Spring 2014 Public Office Hours—for the remainder of the winter and through the middle of May—at The Black Squirrel, upstairs, at the bar, from 8:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m. You will find me there every week, on Monday evenings, at those times. Come along if you’d like to discuss coursework or craft stout or poetry or fiction or Swansea City Football Club or jazz or jump or anything else. I shall be very grateful for your company.


mark wallace said...

Birth and Death Dates?
Office Hours: 1997-2005
Also, I remember there was a period of time when Office Hours moved to Stoney's outside, maybe for two or so summers in a row.


I think those dates are roughly correct. You and I did Office Hours from about 1998 to 2003, and after that, you may have had another co-host, or there may have been totally different hosts altogether. Weren't Kaplan and Ryan hosting at Stoney's? (I was in Arizona for roughly 10 months spanning 2003 to 2004).

Drink & Walk ran from 2005-2007, and while happy hours gatherings continued after that, the current version (first at The Reef and now at The Black Squirrel) has run from roughly 2009 or 2010 through the present.


cathye said...

I was gonna mention Stoney's--my first Office Hours experience. Mark and Lorraine hosted there--out on the sidewalk, across from the big idling mac truck.


i remember that truck. it was a Domino's pizza truck. and it was always idling outside of Stoney's, as there was a Domino's right across the street. the biggest truck i ever saw. fulla pizza.


mark wallace said...

It occurs to me now that prior to the start of Office Hours, we used to do a sort of proto-Office Hours at Bardo's in Arlington, which was attended by people like Carol Mirakove and others. And then one summer, I believe, as you have pointed out, at the place that had been Bardo's (Dr. Dremo's was it called?), we did another summer version of same that lasted just a little while and had only a few successful evenings.


We did Multigenre Happy Hours at Dr Dremo's the summer of 2005, before you left town. It was low key. The beer was Tupper's Hop Pocket ... By the pitcher. I believe we went to Taco Bell!


M. C. Zito said...

Taco Bell, yes, but let us not forget the fateful Night of the Squeaky Rotisserie at Boston Market. The horror!


Dat horror? You mean dat sqveak! O dat sqveak!



So, in summary:

Mark Wallace / Dan Gutstein Office Hours, incl. Tom Orange Office Hours at Mark Wallace / Dan Gutstein Office Hours (one night). Site: The Post Pub.

2003-Spring 2005
Probably some stretches of Office Hours hosted by various peoples? (Mark, Lorraine, Kaplan, Ryan?) Site: The Post Pub (?) and Stoney's.

Summer 2005
Mark Wallace / Dan Gutstein Multigenre Office Hours. Dr. Dremo's, Arlington. Something like 5pm to 7pm or thereabouts.

Fall 2005-2007
Drink & Walk, hosted by me, Rod, and Mel. Sites: Angles (6:00 to 7:45) and Red Room Bar at Black Cat (8:00 to 10:00)

The Dark Ages.

DC Poetry Happy Hours, first at the Reef (Rod and Mel re-started) and now at The Black Squirrel, who have been more than a pub for us, but an event space, as well. The gathering is now more communal, more word of mouth, with occasional announcements on Facebook, esp. if it might not happen in a given week. Start time ca. 8:00 pm each week.


Ryan W. said...

Was there really a time with no office hrs? Yes I do recall there was a gap. Also recall the inflection point when office hrs changed from a mostly summertime supplement to a full-year phenomenon, tho it was perhaps also full-year in the first phase, which I missed. I entered during the Stoney's age. I was never host to any office hours... tho, footnote to a footnote, I did host a couple so-called Sit&Bake events at my home in capitol hill. Whose inspiration is apparent enough. That idea may have been Buck's. Separately, I feel like there should be some honor roll of solipsistic occasions, wherein nobody showed up at H.O. except one person. That is somehow an important part of the history and those occasions I believe have some magical/spiritual import in sustaining the phenomenon overall. Of course there is no record that can be read, at least not in a legible sort of way.

Ryan W. said...

By "office hours", I mean to refer generically to all such series, tho the term has not been used much the last few years. In recent years the most common signifier is "squirrel" or "the squirrel". Tho more often the "the" is dropped, I believe.


Hi Ryan,

I don't even think we can say Squirrel anymore, as it's too many letters. Squoil is one term for the current happy hours, as is Squrl. The original Office Hours began during the academic year, and probably ran throughout the year, but maybe wasn't as frequent during the summers. As time wore on, I think there was some reason to vacate the Post Pub -- bad beer, high beer prices, "too much the smell of yack", etc., and so I think that's when the impetus came about to move it over to Stoney's. In the summer, there was also call to have the gatherings outside, so people could sit & bake, although that's a different sit & bake than what you're referring to; your sit & bake is of course a pun on Drink & Walk -- which would've meant it took place during those days.

I really appreciate the mention of the Honor Roll for someone being the only one at a Drink & Walk or other gathering. There were some nights -- during spring break, or bad weather, or some other kind of situation -- when I sat nervously in Angles hoping that someone would show up, and someone always did, no matter what. So, yeah, I really do wish we had a record of that, or maybe other folks could recall who those people were.

Thanks for the comments. Talk to youse,