By Jay Fox
Brooklyn, NY, USA
Jay Fox (credit: Josephine Paz)
I believe the word adventure could be defined: an event out of the ordinary that is not necessarily extraordinary. - Jean-Paul Sartre
My favorite nights often begin like train wrecks. Epic failure begets epic failure, and then, suddenly, you find yourself sharing a room with a cavalcade of oddballs, having a great time, and wondering which Fate is going to knock on your door one day demanding retribution for the solid she so graciously threw your way. My recent experience at 169 Bar (169 East Broadway in Manhattan) was one of these nights.
For the sake of brevity, I’ll omit the details of the disastrous subway ride into the city, our inability to get into a CMJ event where far too many people had been put on “the” list, the yuppie birthday party that invaded, and thus infested, the bar where we attempted to regroup, and any of the other moments of chagrin that characterized the hours between nine and midnight. Suffice to say, our journey into Manhattan was looking like a total bust, and the mood at our table was plagued by resignation.
As the minute hand began to eclipse the hour hand, we all decided that it was best to head home before the wee AM hours aroused the perverse temptation to sacrifice good judgment to the gods of dawn. But the three of us bound for Brooklyn—Josephine (my girlfriend), Kelberman (my former roommate), and I—felt silly leaving the city after three measly hours of irritation and lackluster beer. We had to have at least one more drink before going home. As we walked to the East Broadway F stop debating our options, we found our answer. It was in the irresistible red glow emanating from 169 Bar.
We all accepted there was little hope in redeeming the night, in turning it into one of those experiences that gets conjured up whenever nostalgia monopolizes conversation, and it was with this defeated attitude that we entered 169 Bar. Anticipation for the pint dulled my desire to seriously observe the surroundings, but a few oddities proved more than worthy of my attention: an abundance of small, plastic Chinese lanterns, a velour poster featuring Billy Dee Williams holding a Colt 45 (“Works Every Time”), and a disembodied drum kit. The aesthetic was a tropical ménage of funk, psychedelia and jazz.
But this was irrelevant at the time. I was there for a beer, and that was all I was expecting.
And then the go-go dancing began. We were intrigued, perplexed, searching for synonyms so as to not repeat the same words over and over again. The tip jar next to the stage suggested that this was something to be expected (gratuity optional), and yet it was anything but that. It was a civil seduction, one without perverse catcalls or anything more menacing than unblinking eyes. She simply danced. And though the stage was roughly 3’ x 5’, she dominated the room—stoic Aphrodite grooving to a few tunes that may have been lifted from It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World.
169 Bar (credit: Jay Fox)
She occupied that stage for twenty minutes. Upon finishing, she hopped down, donned her fur coat, and slipped out of sight. We were once again conscious of simply being in a bar. Until, of course, another beauty took the stage. Conversation took heavy casualties.
Pint number three found us still stupefied. And yet some sense of obligation managed to get us activated. We had to escape the lure of the silent siren and see just what else this bar had in store. Our exploration led us into the back room, which boasted the following: an aquarium, a pool table with olive-green leopard-print felt, and a T-Rex head on a plaque above a fireplace. The bathroom walls looked like Dine’s Flesh Chisel.
Kelberman signed us up for a game of pool. I couldn’t play because I found myself uncomfortably cast in the role of ambassador to a hammered Norwegian, who wanted to tell me how much he was enjoying his first visit to America. Josephine took my place at the table. One of her opponents was an older woman (let’s call her Yvette¾I’ve always liked “Yvette” as a pseudonym) who had flown the straight and narrow all of her life (law degree, married, condo by Central Park, two kids going to Ivy League schools, etc.), only to discover that her husband had been screwing his secretary/ies for the majority of their time together. Now she found herself boozing with gusto with what she considered the rabble and rendezvousing with a man with whom she makes “bad decisions.” She was reluctant to elaborate, except for when she repeatedly penetrated a hole formed by her thumb and forefinger with another digit.
When it was my turn to play a round with Kelberman, our opponents were the bassist for a famous pop star and his girlfriend, a performance artist who had a nasty case of jittery sniffles. Our quartet continued to play the table for the rest of the night unchallenged. Josephine, meanwhile, remained stuck in the confessional with Yvette until she broke off the conversation and headed toward the front of the bar without ceremony or so much as a goodbye. We all assumed that Yvette had gone home.
After last call, we wrapped up the final game of pool. On our way to the front door, toward the mauves of the impending dawn, we ran into Yvette. She looked to us as though we were old friends appearing at her high school reunion after ten years of estrangement. “I’m so happy to see you all again,” she effused with glassy, maudlin eyes. “I’d like you to meet my bad decision.” The man next to her stuck out his hand and responded with a single word:
Jay Fox was born in suburban Detroit. He moved to New York City in 2001. When he’s not working his 9-5, he spends his time writing fiction, playing with his band (Pistols, 40 Paces), doing the crossword puzzles featured in The New York Times, and drinking in waterholes around the city. If given the option of a PBR or a Budweiser, he would take the PBR. If given the option of an IPA or a Belgian wheat, he would more than likely take the IPA. Whiskey makes him charming, stupid, and then sleepy. He doesn’t particularly like writing in third-person, but understands that it’s necessary sometimes.
He would probably want to meet anyone who has bothered to read this, especially if it’s over a drink.