Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Manor To Which I'd Become Accustomed

Previously, the subject of this post has been referred to as "The Manor", and I'll continue using this nom de barre, although a glance at the attached Times article will have the mystery solved.

  On Sunday a gang of us said goodbye to a bar. The closing of a New York City bar has become a depressingly familiar occurrence, and not one that would warrant more than a passing, if dispirited, mention from me. But this bar was different: this was my bar.
 The Manor was a SoHo fixture; the last authentic dive bar in a wasteland of pretentious, overpriced swank. While we're not talking New Jersey prices here, you could still get a beer for 5 bucks, and some reliably greasy bar food for under 10. The beer lines may never have been flushed, the counter doled out splinters indiscriminately, the bartenders tended towards surliness (unless they didn't like you), and after midnight it was a good idea to keep your feet off the floor so the mice didn't run up your strides. The pool table was too close to the walls to allow a decent shot (always good for an excuse, though), the jukebox played Guns 'n' Roses continually, and the bathrooms were as bad as you think they were. Actually this place sounds shit. And it kind of was- I'm sure plenty of people never made a second visit. But in a city of unchecked affectation, it was completely genuine, and for me, immensely reassuring.

The clientele was varied and the spirit egalitarian. Over the years I chatted with workmen, waiters, artsy types, businessmen, coke-dealing hipsters; and considering my contempt for most of humanity, that's saying something. And credit for this easy atmosphere has to go to the bartenders. All female, all thoroughly capable and professional, the Manor Maids (not their official title) always knew when to chat, when to leave a customer alone, when to step into a dispute, when to cut a guy off because he was trying to prove he could gargle Gilbert & Sullivan's "Modern Major General" through a mouthful of his fourth Martini. Tough as nails when they had to be, it was kind of an honor to get a welcoming smile from one of the girls, and feel like part of the family. I'm now proud to count two former Manor Maids among my small circle of actual friends.
 Over the 10 years I called myself a regular, I went to the Manor to mourn breakups, celebrate hookups, forget bad gigs, plan good gigs, avoid social obligations, to get worse at pool, to quit smoking (every Sunday for a year), and countless other reasons. But it was usually just to say hi. I honestly don't know where I'd go now to mark a moment, significant or otherwise. Maybe something will show up.
 The closing of the Manor is also another nail in the coffin of old New York, a reminder of the giant strip-mall we're slowly becoming. But that's a massive whinge for another post. So for now, I'm off to remember the Manor with four Martinis and a Pirates of Penzance songbook. Righto.

 Scenes from the final night
Closing night in the NYTimes

1 comment:

Acacia said...

My sympathies at this difficult time.