Bar-hopping in Manhattan used to be one of my favorite things to do in the city. A lot of other people from in and around New York seemed to feel the same way and sitting at the bar of one or the other of the old time New York bars – the Old Town up on 18th, the Ear Inn on Prince, or Milady’s, the last dive bar in Soho, you could always count on meeting people – two suburbanite dudes in from Pennsylvania, a retired Irishman back to see all the places he used to go when he tended bar when he was a barman in the city, a couple of crazy New York girls knocking back daquiris. The city felt like some enormous train station, with everyone pausing for a quick drink before moving on somewhere else, and walking through the Manhattan streets on the way to a new bar, it was a great feeling to check out all the pretty women, to flirt and feel connected to the city.
Alas, the city feels more dead somehow – no one seems to look at anyone else on the street. Perhaps it’s the time of year, but on Saturday I felt like I could have been in Toronto – or London. I went to the Old Town but it was full of doughy-looking folks in baseball caps in for the Kentucky Derby, so I walked through the West Village, through Washington Square Park where the performance space has been closed off for an indefinite time for refurbishment, the park bisected by metal gates, and into Soho. There was no real feeling in the air, and it seemed like the whole city had been taken over by these doughy, bland people, just like London has been taken over by yuppies.
At Milady’s on Prince, I got a bit of that old New York feeling. The crowds pouring in and out, everyone along the bar already drunk. The barmaids were wearing big plastic cowboy hats, – and the crowd around the bar was already drunk, while the barmaid ran around mixing mint juleps – a Kentucky special apparently – in metal cups. When the Derby came on everyone started cheering for Big Brown, the local favorite, and a big guy in front of me kept yelling, ‘C’mon you fuck!” over and over.
The whole thing was over in two minutes. Some poor horse collapsed at the end of the race and some officials came out and shot it. I found out later the horse had broken it’s front legs and there was nothing to be done but put it out of it’s misery.
As the crowd began filing out, the guy who had been yelling at the screen prepared to leave with his friend, calling the barmaid over.
Guy: “How much do we owe you?”
Barmaid: “You already paid!”
Guy and his friend, suspicious: “You sure?”
Barmaid: “Sure I’m sure! The tab came to $35 and you gave me 60 bucks!”
Guy and his friend: “Are you sure we paid?”
. . . . and so on . . .