So I am here in Antigua, Guatemala hanging out in one of my favorite dives, Travel Menu, drinking beer and eating some awesome food and talking to my new pal Lito.
The talk turns, as talk will do, to other worthy dives here in town and he asks if I’ve made it to Cafe No Se yet. Of course I have. I’ve been here six days after all.
Anyway, this is a unique and tough to describe place. Fortunately, I don’t have to — Lito already has. Here’s his piece on it. I think he’s a hell a writer, but be warned. Stop here if you are easily offended.
You Don’t Se?
Well you certainly should.
Cafe No Se. It’s the first Antiguan bar you could hope to stumble into and the last one you’ll want to stagger out of. Tuck yourself into this hole in the wall, fill up on some free popcorn and soak in the live music jammin’ every single night.
Pushing this creaky door aside sinks you straight into what I like to call “The Real Deal.” You took the red pill, hombre. If what you’re looking for is the back alley cultural melting pot, then this is it. No Se is the real deal; like the bastard child of a Wild West saloon and an old pirate hideout. It’s dark. It’s dingy. And it’s exactly where I want to be.
Simmer down, saddle up and step on in. You won’t have to search for the blasphemy here. It’ll bite you in the face. It’s the kind of stuff you couldn’t buy in Vegas and can’t burn off once you’ve gone. It’s hanging on the walls, it’s etched on the tables, and it’s served hot on a plate: Grilled Cheesus sandwiches. Only Q15… Or your eternal soul. Either way, it’s pocket change.
Bow under the halfling door and you’re on sacred soil, now. Welcome to The Mezcal Bar. Time to pay the piper. But only the penitent man will pass. So drop your elbows to the bar and PRAY, brother! Grab an Oferta for Q44 and Randy will swing you a Vicky and a shot of the Joven. A quick glance at the sign: “Two Shot Minimum” and you reevaluate. Better make it two.
Mezcal. Some call it the Mexican Scotch. I call it delicious. “Ilegal” brand Mezcal is served from what appear to be funny looking shot glasses. But a second nip, a double take down the barrel and the joke is out. There’s a cross on the bottom. On all of them. They’re sacramental candle holders. Add this to the photos of lusty nudes and it’s the kind of sacrilegious irony I could only dream of in Catholic school. Will this be the bite-sized evil that keeps me out of Heaven… Or am I already there? I still have half a shot left. So I take another swig to find out. Waste not. And oh yeah – Amen.
Take a look around. There are some real characters here. It’s the kind of place you’d hope to see Tom Waites growl or Kerouac scribbling away. Sometimes I scan the flame-lit faces, just to check. If you get the chance, buy one of the regulars a drink. I chose Pete. He’s a part-time wordsmith, full-time Mezcal worshiper. Fill his glass and he’ll fill your head. Stories, sonnets, shamanic songs; he knows them all. Make sure to check out his latest literary work, available in the sober hours at the adjoining bookstore.
But he’s not alone. Drinking here are intense personalities from all over the world. The cream of the grime. And they’re not all pretty. Most of them are dreamers, and a few of them are real assholes. This ain’t Applebee’s. And no, we don’t all have to get along. This is the black sheep herd, and they’re chewing up the moonlight.
But there’s no reason to get your panties in a bunch. There’s no need to wear panties at all. No Se is a place for everyone. Where anyone can show up, drink, and say exactly what they feel. Even the walls speak their mind. Ask them and they’ll dish out their favorite one-line philosophy. There’s plenty of fading Sharpie to write the book, but one quote says it all. And it’s enough to throw you tits first into their boiling brains.
“Today is not for thinking.”
I can drink to that.
In this bar, your sins are never forgiven, they’re only forgotten. Until the next nearest moment of clarity, that is. Old dreams wither and new ones are drunk away. It’s Cafe No Se. It’s the bottom of the barrel. It’s the end of the road. It all drops off from here. But that’s all right. It’s okay. Because every dive needs a town.