The couple were round and late middle-aged. they got out of a white Lexus SUV, and the bellhop unloaded several garment bags and a suitcase or two. Something about the studied elegance of the woman’s clothes, something about the expression on the man’s face seemed to say “parents of the bride.” Later, in the bar, they gestured as hosts would, a multigenerational group flitting in and out, amorphous as water.
That was a Thursday at the Warwick Melrose Hotel’s Library Bar, the wedding party occupying one corner, while future execs—tech folks if I were betting—filled the stools. The young execs’ friends, often in more casual attire, tumbled in, in ones and twos, leaned into the tall backs of the bar chairs. The piano player played a tune and then another beneath custom-made zebra light fixtures so big and fragile that they made me glad to live in a city where plate tectonics are as much a worry as shark bites.
My stepsister and I ordered classic cocktails because they were the happy hour special, and we’d arrived for the end of happy hour. And because there’s something satisfying about ordering a drink that suits the hour. The server and her sister alternated checking on us, and checked on the happy hour appetizer special for us, too—we must have been the first to ask. We were sitting in a room full of people ordering what they liked, regardless of the time.
At a dinner party a few days later, a woman in her 60s, an acquaintance, glowed at the mention of the Library Bar. A place for assignations, she said. Not affairs, not liaisons, not hookups, but assignations. A telling distinction. There are offices of government affairs, you can be a liaison to a committee, and someone can hook up your cable, but an assignation is something apart, something separate from ordinary words and the way they can be stretched and put to many uses. Assignations are fleet, intimately bound by time, delineated by beginnings and ends. They offer the intensity of freedom within known limits, like writing sonnets. And in my friend’s case, the assignation meant time with her husband, separate from “a house full of teenagers who never sleep.”
Oh, how that made me want to take my husband there. (Which I did. Hurrah!)
And, oh, how I missed my go-to girlfriend, now living in New Jersey, the girl from New Orleans who is an entire third line all by herself, and the faraway nights when we put on our finest wigs and met someplace beautiful for cocktails. My longing manifested each visit to the Library, as women arrived and sat together, none in wigs, but women together, out with each other for lunch or a drink and time to talk.
The Library has another happy hour, this one from 9 to 11 pm, offering drink specials but no food specials. On the Wednesday night I dropped by, a gallant whisked away our valet ticket and validated it before we even asked (valet is validated completely for Library guests during the week and reduced to $6 on the weekend). The late-night happy hour hosted a steady stream of patrons. Powerful men with excellent posture in still-crisp, tailored suits. Women in t-shirts who looked like hotel guests. A couple on a date—maybe Date No. 5 or 6. The grand piano, the piano player, red-backed chairs, and an $11 cupcake.
There’s a bar in Austin called the Library—the joke being that students can tell their parents, “I’m at the library.” The joke’s inapplicable here in Dallas, where the Library Bar is closer to cozy room in a manor than the stacks on the seventh floor. The Library’s 2008 renovation—$700,000 worth—included crafting a bar made of lapis lazuli, a semiprecious stone that calls to mind philosophies of art, time, and aesthetics. Yeats, for example, meditating on a carving: “All things fall and are built again,” he writes in his 1938 poem “Lapis Lazuli.” I touch lapis and think of beginnings and ends, of ways to relish the freedom between them.
I wouldn’t want to be a regular at the Library, though others are and I’m sure they love being regulars. But I love that the Library can be a place with a sense of occasion: drinks before a wedding. A night out with a favorite friend. An assignation between married people whose children never sleep. Write to email@example.com .