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Illustration by Lia Kantrowitz

Who’s the Best Stranger to Talk to at a Bar?

Time for your weekly edition of Drew Magary’s Funbag. Today, we're talking about mosquitoes, being high in Oakland, chips & salsa, airport toilets, and more.
19 February 2020, 10:50pm

Got something on your mind? Email the Funbag. Your letters:


When visiting a bar alone, what is your take on the best stranger at a bar to have a convo with? My vote is young dad; they’re happy to talk to anyone other than their kids, they do not get too drunk because they have to take care of the kids, and they are not quite as out-of-touch as some uber-suburban Dad types.

I’m assuming I’m still married in this scenario, yeah? If you’re single and alone at a bar, the best stranger to talk to is clearly someone who is shit hot. No one said you had to leave that bar alone.

But if you’re like me and extremely married, that’s not an option. If you’re spoken for and the place isn’t crowded, I think the bartender is the obvious choice. Bartenders kinda have to be nice to you (unless it’s one of those deliberately hostile dive bars that are NEVER as cool as Anthony Bourdain made them out to be). They’re bored. They’ve been checking out the game on the TV longer than you have and can give you a more reliable recap of it than Terry Bradshaw ever can. They almost certainly watched someone barf on someone else the shift before. They’re good company. Also, talking to the bartender makes me feel like I’m IN at the bar. "Tony! Good to see you again, my fellow working man! How about these customers you gotta deal with every night, huh? What a bunch of LOSERS!"

If the bartender doesn’t count, then I’d rank strangers to talk to like so:

  • Hot single person
  • Fellow sports fan
  • Exhausted office worker
  • Anyone in a cowboy hat
  • Hot married person
  • Roadie
  • College kid
  • Fellow mom or dad
  • Biker. They could stab you to death. But what if they invite you to be IN their gang instead? Worth the risk.
  • Bachelor(ette) party attendee
  • Anyone your age nearby
  • WAY too loud fellow sports fan
  • Random group of adults who are too excited to be hanging out at a Ruby Tuesday together
  • The old alkie who sits at the end of the bar and drinks from 10 am to 7 pm every day
  • Genuinely enthusiastic businessman who wears a polo shirt with his company’s logo on it
  • Generic old person
  • SantaCon attendee
  • MAGA hat wearer

By the way, if I’m ever alone at a bar, you know who I talk to? No one. I’m hanging out with my phone. I’d rather strike up a conversation with a stranger on the New York City subway than at a restaurant. I’m alone at that bar because I very much wanna be. I don’t need bonus small talk. I’m a soccer dad, so I already have enough of that.


Are mosquitoes weather?

They are! My gut reaction was to say NO, but that was based solely on a literal interpretation of what constitutes meteorology. But when you and I or Chip Drayback of the ABC6 Action News StormForce talk about the "weather," all we're talking about is "Hey, what's it like outside?" That's why they have daily pollen forecasts every spring and fall. It's also why the Accuweather website does, indeed, include mosquito forecasts. Mosquitoes are a huge weather factor. Every summer I'm like WOW IT'S GORGEOUS OUTSIDE LET'S GO HAVE A COOKOUT, GANG! Then I step out onto the deck and suddenly I'm painted in bugs. It's like a dead pharaoh put a curse on me. So I go back in and rummage around the fridge for uneaten lunch meat.

In terms of day-to-day living, mosquitoes are very much part of the atmosphere: a teeming, miserable part of the atmosphere. They influence what you're gonna do outside and what you're gonna need on you or with you, same as if it's raining or snowing. Every local forecast on a warm day should start with Chip telling you whether or not it's buggy outside. I know bugginess can vary from property to property. But if you live in city that's a reconstituted swamp, as I do, or you live in a state of 10,000 breeding grounds, as I USED to, then I think the weather guy can talk in generalities about it. I need to know if I have to take bug spray with me to the zoo, and I need to be reminded that skeeters are out there, ready to ruin my shit anytime I think the Earth outside actually looks hospitable for once.

Then again, the Weather Team Industrial Complex spends every day manufacturing reasons for you to be scared of going outside. They name every rain shower. They see one patch of ice on a road 40 miles outside of town and they're like DANGEROUS DRIVING CONDITIONS. They post wind chills that mean jack shit. They unveil weather stats so hilariously specific that even the ESPN graphics team winces at them. "This is the highest amount of rainfall that Dulles airport has EVER gotten on a Wednesday in October!" I know they think they're doing everyone a public service by being so alarmist, but they're basically conditioning you to stay inside forever. What I'm saying is that weathermen are responsible for 4chan.

Also, it's still relatively nice outside. A very short time from now, your local weather forecast will have to include chances of ash clouds, frogstorms, giant spider attacks, lava slides, and all other kinds of horrible shit. That's already happening in Australia, but we're next in line. For now though, I'll go the full Wilbon and say that forecasters need to tame their collective hardon for frightening people. DURRR WHERE I COME FROM WE DRIVE THROUGH NUKE ATTACKS AND IT'S NOT BIG DEAL DURRR.


Oakland has legalized magic mushrooms. Is there any place in the country worse than Oakland to trip? Why and where?

I'd trip in Oakland. Oakland is pleasant. In fact, it's so pleasant now that you can't even afford to rent a bus station locker there. I spent a day in Oakland profiling Stephen A. for GQ and had enough free time to walk around its Chinatown for a couple hours on my own and grab a bigass lunch. I wouldn't have minded drugs then. I could have hallucinated a giant serpent popping out of my lo mein to say hi to me before Game 3 of the NBA Finals. Would have been a nice twist.

I'm old enough to have learned that your surrounding circumstances can have a profound impact on your high. I wouldn't what to be stoned on, like, an airplane. I would not enjoy that. I very much WOULD like to be stoned while sitting on a beach chair, with resort waiters bringing me tray after tray of cracked crab. That's the place to be stoned.

This is where I confess that I have never done mushrooms, or coke, or ecstasy. A friend of mine told me that he once sipped some mushroom tea out in the desert and it was the coolest thing he'd ever experienced. I think if I ever dabbled in such hallucinogens (and it's probably inadvisable for someone with my medical history), I figure I'd want to do it in a relatively serene environment. I would NOT want to do shrooms at a middle school choir recital, or during a presidential debate, or in the middle of Hartford. But Oakland? Yeah I can trip balls and then wolf down four orders of shu mai, why not.


My parents are both very conservative Christians. As in: Noah's Ark is undisputed truth, six day creation, etc. I've got a kid on the way. I can certainly educate her with a factual and scientific understanding of the world, but I'm torn. I want her to have a good relationship with her grandparents, and I can play the 'Everyone has a different religion' card when it comes to whether or not God exists. (My wife and I are atheists, so we don't expect much religion in our house but don't want to be jerks). But: I'm not interested in a both-sides compromise when it comes to evolution as accepted theory, but I don't want to tell her that there's any merit in her grandparents thinking. What would you do?

You can tell her that her grandparents are wrong. I used to be way more anti-religion than I am now. Twenty years ago, you could have easily lumped me in with the Ricky Gervais types who lord their atheism over people like they got into fucking MENSA. I'm much more chill about all that these days. I teach my kids about what I believe and what other people believe. And then I let them sort it out on their own. I'm basically talking like a dry-mouthed New York Times article when I do this, but in this case it's occasionally wise to adhere to the SOME PEOPLE SAY X WHILE OTHERS SAY Y! formula. If my kids wanna get into religion, that's fine. I trust them enough to know what they're getting into if they do.

HOWEVER, if my own parents told my kids that evolution was a myth, I would tell those kids in the car ride home, "Some folks, including Nana and Bobo, think evolution is a scam. But that's all horseshit. We still love Nana and Bobo, of course. BUT HORSESHIT." You can draw lines where they need to be drawn. You don't have to make a big deal about it. Just quietly teach your kids to tolerate their relatives' bullshit while encouraging them to seek out other opinions from other walks of life. That way, they'll be ready for literally every Thanksgiving dinner that has ever transpired this century. You're entitled to tell your kids the truth when it's vital that they know it.


What is the acceptable speed declination for drivers when it is raining? I think anything more than 10% is egregious. Without fail my commute is doubled when it rains. Folks drop to 30 mph on the highway during rain like it is apocalyptic snow. Need guidance on how upset I should be at these a-holes as I am stewing in the rain jam.

You live in Maryland too, eh? When drivers here see rain it's like they're never encountered it before. WATER IS COMING FROM THE HEAVENS IS THIS THE HANDIWORK OF THE MYSTERIOUS CLOUD GOD KRIKRI?! Everyone here lets Jesus take the wheel despite the fact that you don't need to slow down at all if it starts raining steadily during your commute. Chances are, you are driving a very heavy car that has very grippy tires. It is—by law!—built for this type of situation. If a sudden torrential downpour erupts, then that's another story. You should probably slow down 10 mph. Or you can be like me and slow down that much, coast for a bit, then get impatient and start driving fast again. People who cut their speed in half are just senile old lunatics. You're entitled to rear end them.

Everyone on the road forgets the basic rule that driving at a steady speed is safer than constantly accelerating and braking so that your speed somehow aligns perfectly with the changing conditions around you. When you do the latter, you're asking to go hydroplaning off the road at a tasteful 45 mph. You're also creating bottlenecks where there's no tangible reason for a bottleneck to exist. Again, you should be rear-ended.

It's worth noting here that not every car on the road is built to handle weather flawlessly. You share a road with oil tankers, SUVs, luxury sedans, lemons, pickup trucks, asshole Hummers, and windowless vans housing kidnapping victims. All of these vehicles vary wildly in size, weight, and handling. I bet a lot of traffic problems are caused by that hodgepodge of vehicles being forced to share one road. It's like when a 107-year old dude gets to board the plane before you. What should take you 90 seconds suddenly takes you half an hour. That's traffic every day, and that is why, as President, I will make sure EVERY CAR GETS ITS OWN ROAD. I see no complications that might arise from this plan.



I'm at my local Mexican restaurant and just finished both my chips and salsa at the exact same time. I'm 38 and this has never happened before. Will it ever happen again?

It will not. But here's a twist: you should be GLAD it'll never happen again. I have not had this happen to me, so I can only assume it's deeply satisfying to have your chips and salsa simultaneously depleted. Just like when you'd nail the gas station pump on zeroes back in the day. But now you're out of chips and salsa. MY GOD WHAT HAVE YOU DONE. The way the system usually works, you run out of salsa first, then they bring you more to even it out with the chips. Then you run out of chips, and then they gotta bring you more of THOSE to get it back even with the new salsa. And on and on it goes. That gives you tacit permission to cycle through baskets of chips and bowls of salsa at will until your tamales arrive and you already want to die.

That's the proper way of eating at Uncle Julio's. I don't ever want to be FINISHED with my chips and salsa. I want a basket of fresh chips that's the size of the fucking Vredefort Crater. And I don't want to leave any opening where my guilt trigger says to the waiter, "No, I don't need any more chips and salsa," when they offer to refresh both simultaneously. I want to eat beyond my body's means.


Are there any modern bands that still made good music more than 15 years after they first made it? Not counting artists that left a band and continued to make great music with a different group or as a solo act, I can't think of anyone that put out an album that far into their career that was still good, whether because music tastes have changed significantly, the artist can't recapture their old magic or they are just putting something out to have an excuse to tour.

I'm a terrible person to ask because I held your stance back in my early 30s, but have since crossed over the Rubicon where I'm middle-aged enough to INSIST that some of my go-to bands haven't lost their edge at all. Bob Mould is my favorite artist of all time and I'm convinced that his current work holds up alongside the shit he cranked out in his 80s prime. I also think Radiohead are as inventive as they've ever been, even if Moon Shaped Pool (which I liked) was a downer even by their standards. Queens of the Stone Age have been around since 1996 and I still look forward to anything they do. Those artists have still got it, baby! DON'T LET THE MILLENNIALS TELL YOU OTHERWISE!

I'm not a complete boomer with this shit. I know that I never need to hear another Foo Fighters album ever again. I flipped over to a live U2 special the other night and couldn't place what song they were singing in Berlin when I realized, "Oh god, they're playing something NEW. KILL IT." The artists that are exceptions to your idea are just that. But I'm willing to hold onto some bands, and to become and eternal apologist for them. When those guys manage to stay fresh (at least, to me) on their 15th album, it makes me feel like I'm 20 years younger. It's a nice feeling. It makes me happy, and I don't really care if that's just my denial playing tricks on me. Also, "Thirty Dozen Roses" is one of the best goddamn songs in the world.


I've been going to Oklahoma City a lot lately, and there is a large family restroom at the airport that is never occupied. You have to start entering the men's room to get in there, and it's not by any of the gates. I've started changing in there, and it's downright luxurious. Am I an asshole? I'm pretty quick, and no one has ever knocked or been standing outside waiting any of the times I've done it, but I imagine at times that people use it for more legitimate reasons than getting slightly more comfortable pre-flight.

They do. You gotta leave it free for them. I'm tend to be overly agnostic about using the handicapped shitter if no one is in it, but I'm less so about the family restroom. When parents need that restroom, they REALLY need it. An exploded diaper can happen anytime, anywhere. You don't have to be near the gate for Junior to pull the pin on a gallon of used breast milk. And when he does, he needs immediate attention. If I have a shit bomb in my arms and I flee to the family bathroom, only to discover that you're trying on a new suit from Joseph A. Bank in there, I'm gonna give you my best dirty look when you walk out of there. Serious Minnesota energy will radiate off of me. As an American, it is my right to believe that MY needs supersede that of any other living person.

So yeah, you gotta leave that bathroom vacant. Unless you're getting a blowjob in there. I can't fault you for that.


If you're listening to music on your phone, do you put both ear buds in even though you can't hear out of your right ear?

I do because there's nowhere else to put the right earbud. My deaf right ear now serves as a repository for that earbud. I can't just leave that bud hanging. It would fly around all over the place and take out my eye. I already have just one ear. I don't need one EYE to boot. Also, I use the Apple earbuds that came with my phone because I'm cheap and lazy, and they're flimsy enough that if one earbud comes loose, it'll pull the other one out. This is especially true if I'm engaged in one of my trademark vigorous elliptical trainer sessions at the gym. Everyone knows I'm the guy working those arm sticks on the machine WAY too hard. I can't afford any technical difficulties, nor can I afford to have "Number of the Beast" cut off mid-solo. I should probably buy better workout headphones.


Do you think you've ever unwittingly passed along a counterfeit bill?

No. If I had, who's to say it's REALLY counterfeit anyway? If it looks and acts like legal tender…


Which Disney soundtrack is the best, which is the worst?

It's Fantasia. That's cheating, because Fantasia used music that was all public domain, but still. It's a fucking great soundtrack. I used to listen to it on a loop in high school. I would put Beethoven's "Pastoral" on my loudspeakers and imagine prancing through a grassy meadow with my imaginary girlfriend. I don't regret it. As a classical music DJ, ol' Walt had skills.

If you wanna limit it to originally composed soundtracks, I got five choices for you:

  • Teen Beach Movie. I have definitely queued up "Meant To Be" on Spotify when no one else was around. It's a good song. Why wouldn't it be? Disney owns all of show business now. They have their pick of songwriters, musicians, performers, and crew for anything they wanna do. It's reasonable to assume that, with all those resources at their disposal, even their least ambitious shit is still gonna turn out to be pretty good.
  • Beauty and the Beast. My daughter used to be obsessed with Belle and watched this movie on eternal repeat. I would get all huffy and be like, "Oh this again?" all while humming along and choking up when Belle finally breaks the curse at the end. This is the best of the mid-90s Disney soundtracks, unless you count…
  • Snow White. Still as corny and dated as you remember, but that's part of the charm. That movie looks and sounds like it was made back when evil witches actually existed. I was genuinely sad when my daughter left these kinda movies behind, because I knew I was probably never gonna get the chance to revisit them ever again, at least not in THAT kind of detail.
  • Coco. By Twitter law, you must love Coco. The Coco hive is strong and can erupt at any time for any reason. I was in Mexico City last year for Day of the Dead. I was supposed to think about all my lost loved ones and how much I loved them. Instead, I thought about Coco. DAMN YOUR EYES, WALT.

The worst of the bunch is Pocahontas. I was NOT sad to leave that piece of shit movie behind. "Just Around The Riverbend" is puke.


What are the rules for knocking on the door vs. just walking in when showing up at a get-together/party?

I always knock unless the door is already ajar/open. If no one answers, but I clearly hear raging going on inside, I go ahead and open the door. If it's quiet as a church behind that door, I double check the address. I may have shown up to an actual church by mistake.


Ever notice that when a group of professional golfers finishes a round, the first thing they do is take off their hats and tussle their hair and then shake hands? Am I the only one who finds this gross?

Probably. You just played 18 holes of golf, gripping clubs that are positively awash in WASP germs. What difference is a flake off of Rickie Fowler's scalp gonna make? All these golfers are dirty fuckers anyway. The second they leave TPC Sawgrass, they gather at a rented McMansion nearby to do blow and fuck each other's wives and trip on fermented camel shit. The PGA can pretend their sport is some grand exercise in abiding by Emily Post's rule of etiquette. Meanwhile, their players are hanging out in Orlando, butt chugging old hot tub water. Dirty hands are the gentlest hazard they play through.


Does Trump have tiny feet or are they misleading due to the giant pants he always wears?

I can't believe I just Googled "Trump foot size" and didn't die, but anyway he's listed as a size 12. As with all things Trump, you should take that with a Size 50 grain of salt. But he's a tall guy, so it stands to reason he'd have the trotters to match. As a size 12 myself, I can tell you that this is not a tiny foot size. Those Brooks Brothers parachute pants of Trump's are almost certainly misleading you.

Know who else is a size 12? Obama. So join us next week when Trump undergoes emergency toe-lengthening surgery to become a size 13 and defeat his sworn nemesis in the battle of the foot.

Email of the week!


So we're visiting my grandparents this weekend, and last night my grandmother had a happy hour with a women's community group thing she's disbanding and wanted my wife and I to stop by with our one-year-old. Our daughter is juuust beginning to take her first steps and is dazzling everybody. To keep her out of the way, I pick her up and am holding her. The girl also likes to stick her finger(s) in your mouth.

As she tries this trick on my grandmother (who is quite hammered at this point, as an 80-year-Old ought to be at 6 on a Thursday), I go, "careful Reenie, we don't know where those fingers have been, heh-heh." She takes a beat and replies, "Well, you don't know where my mouth has been."

Granny after dark!

This article originally appeared on VICE US.