A catastrophe recently took place in New York that left a lot of people homeless… adults who are all dressed up with no place to go. The event in this case was the closing of Elaine’s, the revered gold standard in saloon life, which locked up its doors for good almost a month ago. And if it all hadn’t been so sad, this event, this sinking of the Barland Titanic, your friendly bartender would find the whole thing ridiculous. Or even funny, and here’s why…
It seems that everywhere I go these days I run into one of these “orphans”, and it’s never “How ya’ doin’?” it’s “Where we gonna’ go now?” Before anything! And it’s said with such emotion and loss the appropriate color and dress should be black with a veil. Or put another way, they’re like people who’ve just been evicted and need a spare couch.
“I hear there’s a place on 81st,” one will say, hoping for a learned response from your friendly bartender, or another might add, “What about that joint on Lex?” And on it goes. Bar after bar gets thrown in the mix, none of which comes even close, which simple evaluation will tell you just why. Elaine’s was an actual Rembrandt as New York establishments go, so the rest are in most cases prints you can buy at Pier 1. And who wants to buy a print when you’ve owned the original? End of story. So in a way I can feel their pain and their plight, these people who can’t find a fitting stool for their tookuses, but to suffer like this with such desperation, to sit this seven day Shiva for almost a month now… well, as I said, it can get ridiculous or even funny. So after my shift this past Friday night instead of going to Elaine’s which I obviously can’t do anymore, I decided to scout the area to see if I could solve this thing. To rescue some orphans.
Scouring that very same neighborhood which is conveniently my neighborhood (I didn’t want to crawl too far after my recon mission), I checked out a couple of joints on the upper eastside. Hopeful replacements. And the very first place that I spotted which looked from the outside not too bad inside, only had only three or four people at the bar, none of whom, I surmised, would ever be our orphans. Because first off, the music in the joint was so fucking loud, so piercingly, moronically loud that I could barely hear myself think let alone drink. Which brings me to the second problem I had… getting a drink! The Irish guy behind the stick had to be told by a customer that I was sitting there. For almost three minutes! How bad is that? I could see if he’d had a full bar to handle but only three or four people? C’mon, man. And when he did come over he never said a word, just dropped down a bev nap, folded his arms and waited. Like I was in the wrong. Hey, when I see I’ve kept a customer waiting (inadvertently, stupidly or otherwise), the first thing out of my mouth is, “Sorry to keep you waiting.” It’s the right thing to do. But not this guy.
So I ordered a Ketel and soda, which he mixed and placed in front of me, then walked back down to the customer who’d pointed me out. And still without a word as though I were invisible. Now I didn’t expect him to gleefully ask me, after he’d set down the drink, if I wanted to pick out furniture Saturday morning, but a simple “Hello” or “Fuck you” would’ve been nice. And in a way it’s too bad because I normally enjoy shooting the breeze with bartenders, and so do other bartenders, it’s a way of comparing war stories from a common battlefield. But not here. Which is why I only had one and left two dollars. Normally I’d leave a sawbuck even for a coke.
Running through the raindrops now, both figuratively and actually, I stopped at another joint up the road which seemed to be more of a sports bar than a real meeting place. So it never got my business or “expert” analysis. And I should add in all sincerity, there’s nothing wrong with places like that, I’ve had my share of drinks in them, it’s just not what I had in mind for our wandering orphans.
And the rain kept pouring.
Which I could see was going to sorely shorten my recon mission. For I’m a dedicated man when it comes to a cause but I’m not any martyr by a long shot, there will be other nights for this I figured. But there were three more places not far away I could get to without my scuba gear, so I decided to take one more shot before giving up. But, alas, and again (you guessed it!) the music was playing so loudly in these joints, just like in bar number one, I never got past the doorway to order a drink. I just poked my head in, turned right around and left. That’s how nuts it was. I mean, Holy fucking earplugs, Batman, what’s the hell’s the deal with all this volume? Does the music have to be heard in the next county? When I was a lad and out on the prowl I went to places like these, places that featured music both live or on juke box, but never to my recollection was it played this loudly. Ever! It was important I heard the girl’s name whenever she said it. But I’m getting off track here.
Which is where your friendly bartender was last Friday. Off track, unable to find a good station to pull into. And as the rain kept pouring in buckets and sheets dashing not just my hopes but my fine gray blazer, I suddenly found myself uttering this mantra in my head. The “orphan’s” mantra... “Where we gonna’ go? What’re we gonna do? Where are we gonna’ go? What’re we gonna’ do? Where the hell do we go without Elaine’s now???” So yeah, I’m definitely one of those orphans at whom I tossed a few zingers here, and to whom I now would roundly like to apologize. I’m with ya’, man, I’m with ya’, I’m just as lost as you are without Elaine’s! For it is a shame there are very few bars, bars I would call adult bars… places where conversation is king, not the goddam sound system, and places of course “Where everyone knows your name!”
“Baaa, baaaaaaaaa, baaa….”
See ya’ next week-end, my friends, have a good week.