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Posts Tagged ‘bars’

They Put Him in the Freezer

August 11, 2014 | by

Last call at the Blarney Cove.

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Photo: Gabriel Herrera

For a long time, when I came to the end of something—a walk across the bridge, an absence from the city—I would find myself inside the Blarney Cove, a hallway-sized Irish bar on Fourteenth Street between Avenues A and B. The place’s gravity came from its total disregard for the passage of time. Its drywall ceiling was never finished. Its walls, wood paneled with patches of green-and-white striped wallpaper, likely hadn’t been redone since the seventies. Outside, four or five customers perpetually gathered for a cigarette, tending to the drunken chain-smoker’s belief that tomorrow will never arrive. Among this crowd, you could always spot a straggler with a folded dollar between his fingers. “Can I buy a cigarette?” he’d ask the group, waving the bill he couldn’t afford to give away. “You can just have one,” someone would say. (As the straggler knew, at the Blarney Cove, no one ever took the dollar.) Once, I asked a regular from Harlem what it was about this odd and dreary bar that made him take the trip more than one hundred blocks downtown just for a drink. He paused, as if it had never before occurred to him to consider his commute, and then said, “It feels like home.”

There was no more lonesome jukebox in the five boroughs than that of the Blarney Cove. Over the years, I watched all sorts of people haunt the bar’s four square feet of danceable floor—a grizzly man in a cowboy hat, a college girl with big hoop earrings—each gyrating in solitary defiance of the sleepy night. Some nights, after the loafers took their positions along the bar, an older woman named Kiko would walk in and ask each of the men to dance with her, one by one; slumped over in thought and beer, they’d always decline. I watched her once as she swayed her hips to Lucinda Williams’s “Drunken Angel,” alone. Read More »

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Kickoff

June 12, 2014 | by

The World Cup begins now. Jonathan Wilson and Rowan Ricardo Phillips will write dispatches for The Daily; here, they introduce themselves and the games.

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Jonathan Wilson, from London:

“All the new thinking is about loss. In this it resembles all the old thinking.” That’s Robert Hass, in the opening of his great poem “Meditation at Lagunitas.” The lines resonate: earlier this week, before departing for the World Cup in Brazil, the U.S. national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann, who is German, asserted, “We cannot win the World Cup,” and it didn’t go down well. At least one pundit suggested that he should “get out of America.”

In soccer-saturated London, where I arrived last week, Klinsmann’s remarks might have elicited a more sympathetic response. England hasn’t won the World Cup since 1966, and this year’s team is generally considered transitional, unformed, untested. However, with the kind of twisted logic that applies to soccer supporters worldwide, the dominant “not a hope” take on England’s chances has subtly transformed in recent days to a “well, there are no expectations, so the pressure’s off, so in fact that could translate into improved performance, so hmm, well maybe, just maybe…”

England’s manager, Roy Hodgson—who’s a bit grumpy, has interesting hair, is undoubtedly the most literary figure England has ever employed (The Guardian reported that he read Laurent Binet’s novel HHhH on the flight to Rio), and likes to rib the press about their obsessions with certain players and the hysterical pressure they exert on him to play them—recently succumbed to the dangerous new optimism. He announced that England was indeed capable of winning. Even so, (almost) all the new thinking is still about loss, and in this it resembles the thinking of populations in participating countries worldwide, unless you happen to be from Brazil or Argentina, or maybe Germany— although not so much now that their star midfielder, Marco Reus, has torn his ankle ligaments and is out for the duration.

This isn’t to say that Brazil or Argentina must triumph, although no team from outside South America has ever won the World Cup when it has been played there, but simply that when it comes to international soccer, American over-optimism is rarely in evidence except for, as you might expect, in the minds and hearts of Americans. Nobody, of course, who knows anything at all about soccer, thinks that the U.S. can win the World Cup, and to compound matters the team is in a group of death with Ghana, Portugal, and Germany. In the furor over Klinsmann’s remarks and his subsequent refusal to back down, I was reminded of the time that Ronald Reagan came on TV after he’d traded arms for hostages and announced that even though it looked like he’d done exactly that, in his heart he knew that he hadn’t. American hearts can be frequently, powerfully, and touchingly resistant to reality. Read More »

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Drinking with the Factotum

December 12, 2013 | by

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This morning, we mentioned a new bar opening tomorrow in Los Angeles: Barkowski. Writing at LAist, Matthew Bramlett opines,

There are so many things wrong with this place that can be seen almost immediately. Barkowski looks like a bar for bougie people who claim to have read “Ham on Rye” once and go out of their way to tell everyone that it “changed their life.” It’s the bar equivalent of buying a Misfits shirt at Urban Outfitters. Also, doesn’t King Eddy already exist, and didn’t Mr. Bukowski actually patronize that place?

We can’t speak to the lameness of the new watering hole, but it did remind us that Bukowski-themed bars are (appropriately, or worryingly) hardly a new phenomenon, and our readers have informed us of still more.

  • Post Office, a whiskey bar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, is named after Bukowski’s semi-autobiographical 1971 novel “dedicated to nobody.”
  • Cambridge, Massachusetts, boasts the fittingly divey Bukowski Tavern of Inman Square (there is also a location in Back Bay), where service is appropriately surly.
  • Neither of which is to be confused with Bukowski’s, in Prague, where one can smoke, probably rendering it most Bukowski-esque of all.
  • Chinaski’s of Glasgow seems kind of gastropub for the actual gent’s tastes, but can’t fault naming it after his longtime alter ego.
  • That’s five right there. Got any more?

     

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    Drink the Water

    October 11, 2012 | by

    Liquor has never touched my Middle Eastern father’s lips. Or so he claims. In the late sixties, when he lived a spell in Munich, embarked on spontaneous sojourns to Italy, and dated a Finnish broad named Helvi I once saw in a faded wallet-size photo—activities that made him sound so much more alluring than the stern killjoy I remember—I like to think he nursed a few carefree beers just like any lonely expat. When he made his way to New York a few years later, renting a dingy studio on the upper reaches of Broadway, when he was still the man my mother fell for—an Arab version of Adrian Zmed with a rustling gold chain around his neck and swarthy looks that back then meant you were handsome, not a possible terrorist—he used to smoke cigarettes, my mother tells me. Perhaps he also took nips of whiskey from a flask.

    But the only father I know, the real one, returned from a trip to Saudi Arabia when I was eight years old a sudden gung-ho Muslim. He was no longer the aggressive moderate who was content with me just saying Bissmilah at the start of each meal. Now, every moment he wasn’t holed up in a Hilton for work or stuffing fried eggplant into pita bread at the dinner table was spent hunched over a miniature Koran, recapturing the lost Islam of his youth, of his family, of the native Syria he hadn’t called home for more than two decades.

    Freshly brewed mint iced tea. Distilled water from the Poland Springs gallon bottles that lined our laundry room. Dr. Pepper, when its effervescence became a salve for the wheezing that permeated my bronchitis-ridden childhood. These were the beverages welcome in our teetotaler home. Although my mother, a Catholic girl from Queens, didn’t have religion propelling her consumption habits, she harbored something worse: distaste for even innocent bubbles. “Champagne burns my ears,” I remember her whining—and she rarely invited company over for anything more than a cup of Earl Grey.

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    Read, Write, Drink; Do You Tweet?

    February 4, 2011 | by

    At which New York City bars can one sit, read, write … and drink? Yes, all at the same time. —Charlie

    As you may have noticed, lower Manhattan has many more hospitable bars than hospitable cafés. This is especially true of my neighborhood, the East Village. The first novel I ever edited, I edited in the back room of Botanica, on Houston Street, where the Knitting Factory used to be. The music is loud enough that you don’t notice it, and the chairs are grouped to discourage conversation. My old favorite bars for reading, the Spring Street Lounge and the International Bar, have both undergone renovations and are hopelessly changed. Ever since the smoking ban, Holiday has reminded me depressingly of the National Cathedral: a Gothic church with a department-store smell. (A smoke-free bar still puzzles me, in my heart.) Also Stefan, famous for stirring the drinks with his finger, is dead. The Old Homestead, where my friend Jason had his nose broken with a cue stick, and where I read Dennis Cooper’s novels and David Foster Wallace’s Brief Interviews with Hideous Men and first read Frederick Seidel’s Going Fast, closed years ago. It was a strange bar, but very good for reading most of the time. Apart from the pool table, they had a small black-and-white TV, which sat on top of an old bureau and never had the sound on, a jukebox, and a cat who was sweet on everyone. The two most regular customers were a transvestite, who always sat alone and often fell asleep, and a middle-aged Czech dental assistant named Jan. Otherwise, the clientele was mainly Polish, mainly male, and mainly drunk. All ages were welcome, from the visibly preteen to the ancient. The Old Homestead was the first place in America I ever saw Żubrówka; the two gentle matrons who ran the place kept a contraband bottle under the bar. The Homestead was replaced by one of those “Irish pubs” with the wide-screen TVs. Lately I’ve been reading at Jimmy's 43, on Seventh Street, beside the electric heater.

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