2004-07-13 - 5:31 p.m.
The buildings on that particular block were, no doubt, a collection of different colors. Subtle differences in grey and white and black and maybe even a splash of blue, but in the dim light of evening in the city, with barely a pair of street lights, the face of each building seemed to turn a deep dank red. We smoke midway up the block, avoiding the corner where we’d apparently gotten the eye from a drug dealer. Beside us two women speak in Chinese, while the younger of the two swings a child, no more than four months old, in her arms. She doesn’t look down, just continues speaking rapidly to her mother, who interjects with single syllable grunts. The only signs readable belong to the bodegas standing watch on the corners, and neither are lit. We roll through three cigarettes, lighting each successive cancer stick with the dying ember of its predecessor.
My friend checks his watch, and nods us over to the door. In the window, simple etchings spell out a darkened dentist’s office. With a quick intake of breath, I reach up to the small buzzer just above my shoulder line. A moment later, a well-coifed man in white shirt and suspenders ushers us in through two black curtains spanning the little hallway.
“Sir, the price of each drink is twelve dollars.”
As a point of reference, if someone’s favorite drink is one-hundred proof Wild Turkey, they probably won’t get too much of a kick out of a bar known for its well-mixed cocktails, constructed from fresh fruit and high class liquors.
For someone like me, known in the past as being a bathroom chemist, it works fine. (Every guy has, at least once, been tempted, when ushered into a girl’s shower, to start mixing the plethora of products together in hopes the alchemy of their mingled and mangled form might create some kind of uber-shampoo, containing the restorative properties of Rogaine, the corrective nature of Head and Shoulders and the staying powers of Aqua-Net.) I get to mess about with drinks I probably wouldn’t touch in a regular bar, in a nice laid-back environment.
Actually, laid back might not be the best description for an establishment with no sign, no entry without reservation, and no permanent phone number. Also, any bar that has a list of rules in the bathroom might not exactly be considered chill, for lack of a better term.
Celebrity-fucking is banned within those four walls, and while I know what they mean, at first I felt terribly bad for the celebrities. Shakira can get it on whenever, wherever, so long as it’s not there. Women were informed that a man could not introduce himself to them without introduction from either a bartender or a mutual friend. They were in fact told to turn up their chin and ignore the man, until he leaves or is escorted out. Again, I understand what they’re after, but isn’t the strategy of screaming, “Get away from me you fucking asshole!” slightly more effective?
Also as a point of reference, bringing a friend, who at one point while very inebriated, leapt up on a booth, scratching his thighs screaming, “THESE JEANS ARE MADNESS!!!”, to a bar that has a rule against both “hooting” and “hollering” might not be the best match.
In fact, one might find that he has made plans far in advance to try and get kicked out of the bar, comemerating his New York trip with a Hunter S. Thompson gonzo moment.
We were not forcibly removed. In fact, outside of a surprise hike in the drink prices from ten to twelve, we managed a graceful departure, from what I think of as a truly metropolitan bar: exclusive, trendy, ritzy and absurd; an experience to be enjoyed if only for the strangeness of it all. Men in business suits wandering the darker side of China town looking for a twelve-dollar mint julep. It’s a thing of strange beauty, like Carrot Top’s acting career.
The following day, I brought them to a dive bar with two-dollar PBR’s. We spent a third of the cash we had tossed out on our two rounds back in the bar of the ten commandments, and found ourselves, slurring, babbling, playing awful pool, rambling off sultry stories to any who stand near us, and singing along happily to the Blues Brothers.
““That’s it. Next time we’re coming straight here.”
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