Evening Above the Hell-Bar

There are few sounds more frightening than that of the English young enjoying themselves. The English, it was once said, take their pleasures sadly; but now they take them loudly, which is far, far worse. Their pleasures are brutish, and the sounds the men emit while experiencing them are indistinguishable from those of a mob indignantly beating someone to death. As for the women, they never speak but they scream, as if being chronically raped. Of course, they all have to raise the level of their vocalizations because there is the perpetual background throb and thump of background music, or para-music, turned up to maximum volume, so that the ground vibrates beneath you like a ripple bed in an intensive care unit.

Recently I stayed overnight in a charming small cathedral city in England, genteel by day and Gomorrah by night. It is a little like H.G. Wells’ story The Time Machine, set 3,000 years hence, when humanity has divided into two: the effete, gentle, vegetarian diurnal Eloi, and the ugly, vicious, carnivorous nocturnal Morlocks, who emerge from underground once the sun goes down and prey on the Eloi.

Amazon.com Gift Card i... Buy New $25.00 (as of 06:10 EST - Details) I had booked no place to stay until the last minute, and found only a room above a cavernous, darkened bar, for me an antechamber of Hell, where the Morlock youth of the cathedral city gathered to enjoy themselves—or at least to pretend to do so, for I have long thought that those who cannot enjoy themselves without shouting and screaming are really hysterics, trying to convince themselves that they are enjoying themselves when actually they do not really know how to do so.

The room—which was surprisingly comfortable and well-appointed—was accessible only through the cavernous bar, entry to which was guarded by a bevy of large men dressed in black uniforms. They had earphones and shaved heads. They were of substantial size, both muscular and fat; they were, of course, tattooed. They were, I imagine, men who knew from experience both sides of a riot, that is to say of creating and quelling one. Their eyes scanned their narrow horizon for trouble, which they expected to break out at any time.

They controlled a line of young men who seemed almost desperate to gain admittance to the Hell-bar. To do so was the high point of their existence. The men in black, whose power was absolute, demanded to see their ID; the postulants to admission were crossing a border, and the rule was: No ID, no entry. It was not first come, first served. If the men in black recognized a regular, or a friend, or perhaps someone who had slipped them a little something, they let him in out of turn. Some they frisked, to check they were not smuggling in a bottle, for drink in Hell was expensive. One of the reasons for the loudness of the music in such places is to prevent speech and promote drinking.

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