Friday, October 19, 2012

I’m In Love With The CatBird Girl

            Mysteriously, she walks out of her little boutique shop off Bedford Avenue, behind dark sunglasses, her crow black hair straight, flowing over her pale white shoulders, locking the door behind her.
            Catbird, the display window filled with bric-a-brac, is not quite open. It is 930am as I sit, almost daily, over at Verb CafĂ© in the window with my shitty little ‘mini’ laptop, composing another one of this little essays, chewing on my pen, and without fail, I will see this beauty strut out, like all great mysteries, turn, flicking her hair over her shoulder, disappearing back into the boutique shop.
            I imagine who she is, what’s she’s like after a couple of drinks, how she laughs, other things…
            And every time I see her I’m teased, yet again, into her wonderment. There are many beauties in this neighborhood, but something about the Catbird girl gets me every time.
            Is it her pale porcelain skin always peeking out from her perpetual black attire?
            Is it her velvet sheen of hair?
            Her occasionally adorned purple heels?
            Oh, wait, I know exactly what it is.
            I just got dumped.
            And anyone who has been victimized by the sting of a relationship ending, you know the state you are left resembles the town square in Chernobyl after the leak:
            Ravaged, empty, and slightly reeking of nuclear waste.
            I think even if I fell into a bush drunk I’d take the leaves bunched around me as a hug.
            Weeks after a break up (or years sometimes), the human being on the receiving end of a Dear John letter is left completely insane.
            I suddenly see another woman walk out of Catbird, different from our pale goddess. This one’s luscious hair is thick and her chocolate skin looks warm to the touch even from across the street. Then there’s the other employee with the hoop earrings? What about her and her leggy skirts?
            Do they only high beauty pageant participants at Cat bird? 
            It’s happened. I’ve fallen into full desperate mode.
            I flash back to high school, nervously clutching my books down the crowded halls, watching all the pretty girls arm in arm with varsity jacketed, handsome athletes. I seem to remember wanting to buy a boom box and a beige trench coat and yell up to these girls bedroom windows. That’s  sounds ‘stalkery’. Well, fuck, it was charming in the 80’s.
            I remember rooting for Duckie. But we all know what happened to that best dressed ‘wrong side of the tracks’ kid. Duckie’s heartthrob red-headed romance was thwarted by Blaine and his tweed coats.    
            What should I do, dear readers? How does one fill the void left by some tragic broken love? Should I finally join the ranks of OK Cupid (which one of you readers have a profile page I might see?) Should I now cruise Union Pool on Tuesday nights? Will I become like the legion of douche bag single men in this fair city, sleeping with anything that has a heartbeat and an XX chromosome? Is it time, finally, for blind dates or friend hook-ups? Do I dare be single, once again, in this whorish neighborhood, dodging intimacy and STD’s with alarming precision?
            How deep does the rabbithole of ho’s go?
            Shit. I’m too poor to be single.
            Funny enough, just this week around the bars, I’ve heard rumors of breakups of friends, tragic arguments, men and women tired, finally, of each other’s bullshit so I know I’m not the only going through it.
            So, in response to this post-summer romance, recently singled affliction, I decided to address some DO’s and DON’T’s of the broken-hearted, ways and means to somehow navigate the troubled seas of  being dumped. This goes out to the dumpee in all of us.
            And if you just dumped someone, I have a couple words for you: “Please just pick up the phone so we can talk! I’m sorry I keep leaving gifts on your stoop, but I really think you’re making a big mistake and no one will ever love you the way I do!”
            Sorry. Right.
            Okay. Here’s the official Bartender Knows DO’s and DON’T’s to reacting to your broken heart.

            DO eat as much as possible.
            It’s true. Food is love. So stuff your face full of that kind of love and you’ll be feeling great in no time. You’ll also get fat, ensuring no one will sleep with you with the lights on. But a least you’ll have a full stomach and plenty of time to take your mind off of your broken heart while shopping for the new clothes your ‘new body’ requires.

            DON’T fuck your ex before the recent ex.
            Everyone will do this anyway, but there is nothing like debasing yourself with someone you already debased yourself with 17 months ago. And the worse thing is that the sex is always better with ex’s. Why this evil fact remains true, I will never know. But it is.

            DO buy every Elliot Smith record.
            What better spokesman for the broken-hearted then the guy who broke his own heart in half himself with an actual knife. Misery loves company, and Mr. Smith is always down to commiserate heartbreak, isolation, depression, and overall ennui any time, any place. Note: best place to enjoy Elliot Smith on a downward spiral: Your kitchen floor drinking cheap red wine by yourself  at 4 in the morning).

            DON’T sleep with anyone that is below your standards.
            I understand your self-esteem right about now is a notch below David Foster Wallace, but to degrade yourself with someone who just will never get you makes the isolation even worse. I’ve been with girls who hated cinema, their book shelves practically empty, and voted Republican, and in the end, in post-coition, I laid there silently, knowing any of volley of conversation will be even more disappointing than my sexual performance.

            DO attempt now, finally, to ‘enjoy New York’.
            You know what I mean. Suddenly you’re at lectures at the Public Library, you’ve joined a cooking class, you’re seeing a personal trainer, and are now a card carrying member of the Green Party. Anything to take your mind off the heartbreak. Cause admit it, if you really were a happy person you’d be too busy going to lavish dinners and sleeping with the person that was making you happy. Lonely people have hobbies. Happy people are too busy fucking and eating.

            DON’T join internet dating sites.
            Seriously. It’s Fresh Direct for humans. Go out and meet people the old fashioned way: drunk at bars. Try as you might to say ‘nothing good ever comes from meeting people at bar’, but as your bartender, let me assure that always how it happens. For better or worse, the United Federation of Drunk Hook-Up’s is a time tested organization. Just remember how you got yourself in this place to begin with. Bar related? I thought so.

            DO drink more. DON’T try to get to know someone. DO watch lots of 70’s-80’s era Woody Allen films. DON’T read anything by Nicholas Sparks. DO listen to your bartender.
            And don’t worry about me. I’m sure next week you’ll be hearing me pine for the Amarcord girls a half block down the street.

            DO read next week. DON’T watch any movie that has Jennifer Aniston in it.

            Till next time! 





Monday, October 15, 2012

The Death Of Subway Bar/Cyn Lounge

             Ladies and gentlemen, hundreds of tried and true drunks felt a quake in their bar flight patterns last Sunday night.
            It’s been talked about.
            It’s been rumored.
            But after the untimely death of owner/proprietor Rocky Grecco, the day finally came that closed the doors of two of the last great and true dive bars Williamsburg, Brooklyn will ever see again.
            Sure, there’s 89 (and growing) bars in the local Williamsburg area you can order a 12 dollar cocktail that has something infused in it over a zinc bar bathed in a yellow ole-timey glow reflecting off frosted mirrors. It will take forever to actually get your drink (anything that has ‘artisan’ involved will always cost more and take a helluva long time to get to your lips) and when it is served to you by the anorexic, mustached, suspender wearing dude with no social skills, you will feel a slight ache in your stomach when you hear other patrons in the bar asking questions regarding ‘refreshing’ options and whether or not the ice is shaved or cubed.
            This neighborhood, much like many others in America (Silver Lake, Fullerton, Austin, Ashville, Portland, etc, etc) has now fallen into some kind of couture culture for alcohol as much as it has for every other good, simple thing (BBQ, ‘specialty’ pizza, the hot dog) and some even say we here in the Burg started this nullifying trend. What we’re seeing is bourgeois sensibilities creeping into everything that once stood for solid entertainments.
            Even bowling got fancy in the last six years.    
            Two of the last great heads were severed with the shuttering of The Subway Bar and Cyn Lounge, two staples in my crews bar crawl repertoire.
            Tears were shed.        
            A great shift had occurred.    
            As everyone who knows my predilections for dangerous, dark, ultimately friendly bars where I can be left alone and write in peace, these two spots, due to their suicide vibe, amazingly charming bartender ladies, and the lawless free falls on random Tuesday afternoons took the crown.
            There’s other bars around that attempt to match the magic: The Levee Bar, The Wreck Room out in Bushwick, the twin sisters International Bar and Coal Yard on the isle of Manhattan. But none of these could hold a candle to the Queen of all Dives: The Subway Bar.
            In the future I will start a little column of bonus adventures called The Subway Series but today I will refrain. Like any great human being, it’s best to keep quiet until the wake is over.   Speak in hushed tones. Wear black.
            When I worked for the shotty, horridly run Macri Park, I would get a flow of regulars come around the corner of Union Ave, wide-eyed, rummy red face, shaking their head, explaining over a Bud Light:
            “I can’t hang out at Subway anymore. I’m going crazy over there slowly,” they would explain before I had ever set foot in there many years ago.  
            People have said: “Subway Bar is where good dreams go to die.”
            I was immediately intrigued.
            One lucky afternoon I breached the threshold, notepad and pen clutched in hand. Immediately the smell of smoke permeated the place.
            Yes, cigarettes.
            Hints of marijuana.
            Strange dark eyes, like animals in the woods, gleamed up at me in the darkness. But no one said anything. The bartender came over, a pretty girl with a foul mouth, and asked if I wanted a ‘special’.
            Shot and a beer.
            5 bucks.
            I consumed my liquor quietly, scribbling away in my notepad. As most new places I explore, I don’t say much at first (a feat most people who know me consider plain impossible), I just write, observe, make analysis.
            But I couldn’t stay quiet long. Engaged by the consummate conversationalists and easy on the eyes ladies Rocky always hired, I found some of the best friends and associates I would ever mingle with. We may all have come from different backgrounds, different races, different religions and monetary statuses, but we all shared one important thing.
            We weren’t welcome other places—our types.
            We were the outlaws, saddling up to the trough, the outsiders who felt strange when they sat down in a clean, well-lighted place. These people did not want a cocktail, they wanted a fucking PBR and a shot of Carstairs (don’t worry about it…) sitting pretty in the valley of the shadow of death.  
            I’ve written hundreds of pages of fiction in The Subway Bar (including some of these blogs). I wrote the second act to my first play at Cyn Lounge, right after it was ‘remodeled’ from Rain Lounge in the early 00’s.
            I’ve met the Raven Haired Beauty (remember her?) looking like a million bucks in a tight red mini-skirt some Monday night at Subway arguing about Celine, and I also remember wiping blood off my sleeve from the bar after a couple of scuffles that went south.
            I’ve seen that steel bat get brandished several times, never in my direction, and bought weeping grown men another shot. I’ve fallen in love and I’ve argued with countless women there, I’ve poured beer on myself, scripts, and other people within its halls, christening us all together in some alcoholic baptism.
            Yes, in life, we can be careful. Yes, in life, we can be practical, but never do you know what color blood really is until you open a vein, and these places were open wounds.
            Anyone who complained about Subway Bar I could never date.
            Anyone who judged the fallen and broken people actively walking a plank crushed by a cruel world, I would never associate with.
            And last Sunday, I sat there, Missy bartending the last Subway Bar shift, and heard the fateful words: “Last Call!”
            I raised myself from up from my stool, screamed aloud a guttural howl to the rest of the rabble-rousers immersed in smoke. We all stood and cheered like animals to last call in the last great dive bar in Williamsburg.
            Goodbye Subway and Cyn, you will be missed by the worse of us.
            Your feral cheerleaders in the game that never ends.

Yep. 359 am October 8th, 2012.
Cheers to you.  
Sincerely, The Help

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

How To Be The Best Drunk In The World Pt. 2

             I try to imagine a world without alcohol.
            There’s a few plusses. No more drunk drivers. No more bar fights. No more retarded arguments with your girlfriend at Subway Bar.
            But then again, no one is fucking. Because seriously, who the hell has sex sober?
            And if anyone remembers the good ole prohibition days, all that came out of not drinking were shitty musicals and the rise of gangsterism. Plus no one ever really stopped drinking, the speak-easies springing up under every drug store and local barber shop were packed full of foul mouthed, sassy broads and dapper suited raconteurs, martini’s heavy in hand.
            If alcohol didn’t exist, Hemingway wouldn’t have been able to write and Fitzgerald might have written more. Bukowski would have been your friendly, super-positive neighborhood postman.
            But booze exists. And thank the living deities it does. Life is hard, and usually relentless. I always say: I don’t have a drinking problem, I have a drinking solution.
            The key to handling the great tiger of intoxication is how well you can remain operational. Are your jokes still funny after 14 shots of Jameson, or did you just puke on the bathroom floor and are currently inching your way to the door to avoid being discovered as the perpetrator?
            Can you mix tequila, absinthe, and champagne in one evening and still have a functional penis, or did you just pass out, pants half-way down around your legs on the floor, leaving the woman irritated and completely unsatisfied? (do I say this is from experience…ah, maybe, sort of, sorry doll…summer 2009 was a tough one).
            It’s a rough and tumble life when you consume copious amounts of Grand Pa’s Hittin’ Juice like it’s a fucking career, and it’s not a job for everybody. 
            Let me start by saying some basic facts about drinking:
            a) 75% of people do not get better the more they drink. Nope. Most people resemble a handicap falling down a spiral staircase.
            b) You are more likely to fight people. Anybody; your boyfriend, your wife, your friends, the bartender even (yes, there’s a whole union of people who actually want to fight the bartender. I have been on the receiving end of some serious bartender animosity).                        
            c) Most women are perfectly reasonable until they get hammered and suddenly become raging, sex crazed lunatics, ready to shed the mythical shroud of public decency and show the bar her breasts upon command.
            Conversely, booze allows men who have no balls to grow a pair of spare, phantom balls to actually go up and chat these women up, and this is how half the population of the world was conceived. In truth, most people would never hook up, especially for the first time, unless after serious consumption of Kamikaze Shots.   
            So how do you become the Greatest Drunk In The World? Take a little note from Rad Customer Number One Ian who rolled into my bar and peacefully, calmly, and with much class crushed a half a case of Miller High Life on a Wednesday afternoon. That’s right. Dude just sat there, totally respectfully to himself, and handled the half-case like the Professor for Getting Hammered Like A Goddamn Professional 101.
            His personality didn’t change that much, he was polite, he tipped well, who could ask for anything more?
            As a bartender, we want you to drink as much as possible and give us the least amount of trouble.
            What are some of the greater transgressions preventing you from being The Greatest Drunk In The World?
            Sit tight, crack a cold one, and leave me a fiver for this free advice:      

            Blatant Cocaine Abuse

            Everybody knows my beef with the Devil’s Dandruff.
            Not only does it make people think they’re more charming and intellectual, but it makes my dick shrivel up smaller than a McDonald’s French Fry.
            Bad. I never have Whiskey Dick. I get Coke Dick.
            Some of these fellas get so gakked out of their mind their eyes are crossed, their face glistens with a sheen of sweat, and they spit when they order drinks.
            You are fooling no one with your rampant drug addiction. Now, I’m not hating. It’s okay to do drugs, let me say it here and now, The Bartender Knows fully supports anyone who wants to get fucked up in any way they see fit. As stated before, life is a bitch and then you die, so you gotta do what you need to do to get by. My major problems come when you are super blatant about it.
            You’re little coke hand off is totally obvious.
            Doing blow openly in a booth is really obnoxious.
            Plus, if anyone out there has ever done REAL COCAINE, this baby powder/amphetamine/drain cleaner mix these haughty gangster drug dealers pass off as ‘good shit’ here in New York is garbage. But the white kids will buy it.
            Good job, cream puffs.     
            And the worst thing is that most people blown out of their minds on the stuff can keep drinking forever. So that’s good for the register at the end of the night, but horrid for those that must wait on the stuttering, drooling, barely functioning talk that spews out of their blood-red faces. If you can’t say your drink order, you will not get an order. Feel me?
            And don’t forget to wipe that shit off your nose when you come out of the bathroom.             

            Barter For Drinks

            Not charming. At all. If you don’t have enough money to drink at a bar, do what your favorite bartender here does when he’s broke, cocky, and wanting to drink more:
             Challenge a random person to a 40 dollar bet on the pool table.
            There’s always takers. Nothing spells having to win when you bet money you don’t have. If you do lose, however, make sure you quietly say “I have to go to the bathroom” and run the fuck out the door. I’m not kidding. I’m five for five for betting without a dime and winning every time. I’m sure there will come a time when I most arrogantly challenge someone to a pool game and lose. But that’s why I’m taking boxing classes now too.      
            I can’t believe I even have to bring this topic up. But I’ve talked to countless other bartenders and I’m not the only clawing at the bar mats when a customer attempts (always drunkenly, under some guise of charm) to barter for free drinks, more drinks, and stronger drinks.
            This never works. You don’t ask for more free food at a restaurant, do you? You don’t barter for cheaper Ipods at the Apple store, do you? Why do y’all insist this is somehow justified at a bar?
            There are some options for the bartering of drinks, and generally this involves some kind of showmanship performance right then at the bar, some interesting feat. Or something else, and I’ll let you mull on that one for a minute.
            Yes, it involves favors.
            I’ll save those stories for another blog.  

            Don’t Try To Get to Know Me

            You know you really don’t care. Be honest. The most common question of any bar person is: “So, Matthew, where are you from?”
            I have been recently, much to my amusement (I would advice other to try this), listening to that question calmly, then suddenly, my eyes widening I belt out in a tough, super-defensive way:
            “Don’t WORRY about where I’m from!!!”
            The sheer look of terror across the eyes of the patron is priceless. Now you’re the guy who has loads of dark secrets, avoiding where he’s from, as if there were some trail of bodies and perhaps a warrant pending in that state.
            This “trying to get to know you” is particular annoying to lady bartenders. If you’re a guy and you start a line of questioning to a lady bartender, her throat is already full of so much bile she can barely stand it. She knows exactly where your punk ass is coming from.
            No. You Will Not Sleep With Your Lady Bartender. I covered this topic thoroughly in previous blogs (‘Sleeping With Bartenders’, google that shit).    
            We all should aspire to be Rad Customer Number One Ian, crushing cases and keeping to himself. The way it should be. More to follow.
            Until then, let me wish you all a fine welcome to Fall. Cruel Summer 2012 is over. Thank God.
            This one was a doosey.