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No, your favorite bar in Fresno didn’t shut down nor did the tavern in Wichita…not to mention the watering hole in Bismarck where the sign on the door says “Lots of elbows and plenty of room”.

This article is not about bars called The Elbow Room, of which there are, it seems, an infinite number. It’s a sort of last ditch attempt to revive our disappearing Americana thing. 

The elbow room we’re talking about here is the anatomical version that actually gives us the freedom to swing our bodies around, flex those chest muscles, loosen the joints, stretch our horizons and appease stress points. It’s the kind of elbow room that lets us lift our arms (not to mention our spirits) and almost fly.

As of this afternoon we, as a society, are running chronically short of this survival commodity. Manifold destiny may not be enough to conserve and protect our cherished freedoms since most of the desirable property is occupied by everyone from greedy developers to desperate squatters.

Elbow room is disappearing along with privacy, solitude and the frontier. When room to merely survive becomes a premium, elbow room goes the way of the drive-in theater, the cigarette machine or fossil fuel. The demise of elbow room is easily on par with accidentally flushing one’s wedding ring down the drain, attempting a quickie in an elevator to running out of opinions.

The elbow includes prominent landmarks such as the olecranon, the cubital fossa (also called the chelidon, or the elbow pit), and the lateral and the medial epicondyles of the humerus. It is the joint between the forearm and the upper arm, an anticlimax that falls short of scientific proximity and atomic description 

Tradesmen such as plumbers know all about elbow pipe but if you hire one don’t linger at his elbow or even elbow to elbow or you might face an annoyance premium. Nobody likes someone looking over their shoulder while they work, especially plumbers. 

Elbow room is defined as sufficient room for the work at hand – literally room to extend one’s elbows. That may be why throwing an elbow is considered to be the apex of rudeness, just as elbowing one’s way through the crowd is seen as barbaric and the result of bad breeding.

And what of that scoundrel elbow macaroni? – Does this challenged pasta actually taste different than regular pasta? Why do people want it? Is this flimsy starch somehow linked to the practice of cahoots elbowing…that gentle nudge often accompanied by a sly smile or wink – an indication of shared information or congratulations?

Is it accidental that the word elbow derives from the Dutch word ellebog? The term, frozen in time along the North Sea, emerged from that densely populated nation where elbow room vamoosed centuries ago. Were the constrained inhabitants elbowed out by rivals empowered by technologies like dykes, funny bones and even elbow grease itself. Did neighboring Belgium discover the cure for tennis elbow?

On the subject of elbow room the prestigious Mao Clinic says it is up to its elbows in the research arena and literally swamped with daily queries  as to the proper care and management of elbow room. Despite decades and fortunes the answers remain illusive.

“When it comes to the elbow we remain mired in superstition and stuck in out own verbiage. We know little of the joint. Why not try a nice wrist or shoulder instead? We have far more data on hair replacement and rogue toenails than we do on the unassuming elbow,” said one attending physician, who has enjoyed limited success producing elbow room with prosthetics. 

On the social side, with the imbibing sect we see elbow lifting as an end in itself while “More power for your elbow” encourages fellow boozers to drink more and more. Even if he might be out at the elbow (Poorly dressed) as if his coat is worn out at the elbows. Over in the casino gamblers are known as Knights of the Elbow while someone adept at dice might be tagged an Elbow Shaker.

My Uncle Earl, a 40-year veteran of the professional wrestler circuit always had plenty of elbow room around him due to flatulence and intestinal disorders.  While we would never suggest our reader take this approach to the pressures of social norms ….Of course excessive farting has little or nothing to do with the elbow (or the knee, the wrist, the ankle or other joints.) Even the Elbow Witches he kept in his socks didn’t help.

*Earl is sometimes credited with perfecting the Flying Elbow Drop although wrestling scholars attribute the maneuver to Maurice the Magnificent (1955-1966). Later the drop was skillfully adapted by Stupa the Giant. The tactic employs the curve of the elbow with its ability to jab, floor, confine and choke the opponent in one swift blow on the way to the mat.

– Tommy John