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.
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.
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