Wednesday, March 09, 2005
the Blarney remembered
I have recently confirmed something that is very distressful to me and has caused me more pain in the past 48 hours than my recent 24-hour bout of pooping and throwing up on every possession in my bathroom and every piece of furniture in my bedroom. Also, I got some #2 on part of my living room sofa, but I sprayed air freshener on it and flipped the cushion, so it's cool. But I digress...
My terrible news: the Old Blarney Pub, at Wall and Water Streets, has closed down.
To you, I'm sure this means nothing. Indeed, you're probably reading this at work, smoking a cigarette at your desk and thinking about what your plans for the evening are, killing time between another terrible Sport Guys column on ESPN or waiting for the latest Martha Stewart update on CNN. But to me, this is a great loss, on par with the loss of a family pet or a teste (I'm not sure if there's a singular form of "testes", but if you know anything about me, you know that I like to push the envelope. That and that I "supposedly" "sexually assaulted" a "girl" in college).
[Wait, is "supposedly" supposed to be in quotes? I don't even know anymore.]
Years from now, after my untimely death at age 29 just as I am at the height of my fame and sexual deviance (cause: chicken wing; butt plug), my biographers will say that deep down, underneath all the pomp and fat jokes and fat, I was actually a solitary person. Not quite a misanthrope, because if I were to cut myself off from all people I would have no one to use for anything. But it's true that I have very few real friends, and I don't really care nor have I ever really cared to meet new people. I like what I have and that's pretty much that. My idea of a great time is being somewhere comfortable with my closest friends, having a few drinks and talking about how great I am. I don't think that's too out of the ordinary.
In the same vein, there are a certain few institutions in my life that I treasure like friends: Sea Thai on 2nd Avenue between 4th and 5th; my walks in the northern-most area of Central Park; the Duck & Dive bar in the University of London Union; a bowl of French Onion soup at the Oregon Diner in South Philly; a warm spring day in a shaded area of Boston Common, where I can find a nice, peaceful spot to masturbate while watching children play with dogs. These are the things that are important to me. Especially that last one.
Also on that list was the Old Blarney Pub, the diviest of dive bars in the financial district of downtown Manhattan. I have had a special relationship with this bar for years, and now it is over. And I am sad.
The word "eulogy" is a combination of two Greek words: ευ, which means "you", and λογος, which means, literally, "log". If you'll indulge me, I'd like to properly eulogize the Old Blarney Pub by logging my experiences with it here.
It all started, like most things started, in August of 2001. I was a wee pup then, only 58 years old. I had recently started my job as a legal assistant at a large law firm, and one day I went to lunch with some of the temp paralegals that I was working with. One of them suggested a divey Irish bar that had great, greasy, cheap food. Thus my relationship with the Old Blarney was born.
I never ate at the Old Blarney again. But it wasn't the food that captured my imagination - it was a poster on the wall advertising a drink special. The poster said "Thursday and Friday pm - All You Can Drink Draft - $13". In New York, a city where the average bottle of Bud Light costs $6, the idea of a $13 all-you-can-drink special appealed to me. I left that day, but swore to come back to investigate.
That night, I spent a sleepless hot night tossing and turning, wondering about that drink special and what it would be like to kiss a man open-mouthed. I was new to the area, but I learned quickly that the financial district doesn't have many cool bars. The Old Blarney was certainly not cool - it looked like something straight out of urban, depressed Cleveland or some other crappy city - but for $13 all you can drink, I would [insert ridiculous behavior here].
So the next day, Thursday, over my lunch break I took the short walk to the bar to inquire about the special. I opened the door to find a usual hodge-podge of barflies, and I went up to the bartender, a tough old Irish broad, to ask about the details of the special:
Me: "Hi, I have a question. Your special says 'Thursday and Friday pm' is all you can drink for $13. What do you mean by 'pm'?"
Her: [after a beat, looking at her watch, in an Irish brogue] "Well, it's 2pm now. Do you want a drink?"
To this day, I have never had a more important and powerful conversation with a woman. And I doubt I ever will.
Four hours later, after work was over, I showed up with a few other legal assistants to take advantage of the $13 special. And it was everything I dreamed of and more. I plopped down a $20, told the bartender to keep the change, and then drank draft after draft from 6pm until almost midnight, never touching my wallet again. Sure, the next day was one of my worst days at work ever, but it was worth it. I had found the bar that would be the place to drink after work for all of my co-workers for the next few years. I had never felt so alive. And hungover.
And so it was. Every either Thursday or Friday night, a group of co-workers and I would head over to the Blarney to get obnoxiously drunk on cheap beer. Very cheap beer. After a few months, they instituted a new twist on the special: $13 had always gotten you all the Bud and Bud Light draft you wanted, but now for $17 you could drink all the premium draft (Guinness, Bass, Heineken) you wanted. Greatest. Deal. Ever.
And the best part was that it was our hidden gem. I remember being anxious on that first night when I brought my co-workers, fearing that the bar would be packed with Wall Street douchebags getting sloshed, checking their blackberries, and talking about "options" and "equity". I had good reason to think this: the bar was just off Wall Street and did I mention the $13 special? But when we got there that first Thursday night, it was just as empty as it had been at lunch. And every time we went, it stayed that empty, except for our group of rowdy young kids, anywhere from five to thirty of us, pounding beer after beer and having a good time. It was truly our bar. And I was the one who found it.
This went on for about two years, but it eventually came to an end. One Friday evening a group of us came to the bar to get our usual special, but we found that it no longer existed. Without mentioning it to us, they had unceremoniously stopped pimping the special. Sure, we still stayed and drank, because drinks were still cheap and, you know, we were there, but after that the Blarney sort of lost its luster.
Our visits to the Blarney became less frequent. This was compounded by the fact that many of the cool, hard-drinking legal assistants left the firm, going on to law school and moving on to other endeavors, and were replaced by much lamer legal assistants, fresh out of college, looking to change the world. I blame this entirely on the economy. When I was a college senior, any asshole could get a job (to wit, I got every job I applied for, despite repeatedly showing up for interviews with wine-stained teeth). As the economy worsened, only super nerds with high GPA's could get jobs, and you could see this in the new crop of legal assistants (of course, the legal assistants I'm currently friends with are excluded - for the most part). The magic of the Blarney special was gone, and there were less people willing to go, and so we slowly stopped going.
But there was still the occasional visit. About a year ago, the bar was bought by a young guy, a former Marine who returned from a tour of duty in the Mid-East. He was a cool guy, and was interested in turning the bar into a better place for people to hang out, an idea my friends and I were receptive to. But by this time we were going to the Blarney, now renamed O'Sullivan's, maybe only once every four months, so it was too little, too late.
Last week, I was walking around the area and decided to stop by the Blarney. As I approached, I noticed a white sheet of paper on the door with the word "CLOSED" written on it in big red letters. I looked in the windows and though I couldn't see much, it looked like the place had been cleaned out. For some reason, possibly because I was in denial, I thought that this wasn't a big deal and the bar was only closed for the day or something. Because bars do that a lot - close in the middle of the day and have no furniture. I mean, whatever.
On Monday, I went back and finally I came to grips with reality: the Blarney was gone. Closed down. Done. And only now have I been able to write about it.
I know that I haven't been an active patron of the Blarney for some time. And part of me does feel guilty for that - perhaps it was my friends and I that drank them out of house and home, abusing the special so much and then stopping going altogether, both resulting in the bar closing its doors. But the more I think about that, the more I have to remind myself that nothing is ever my fault. And so I move on.
The reality of the situation is that when that bar closed, part of me closed too (probably an artery). But as a proper Irish Catholic, I know that death is not about lamenting a life lost, but rather celebrating a life lived. And so I will always have the Blarney and the memories of the great nights that my friends and I shared there, most of which I can't remember because I was very drunk or are entirely unprintable, even by my standards. The Old Blarney was a major part of my life and New York City experience, and for that I am and will always be very grateful.
And so this weekend I promise to raise my glass to the scummiest and bestest bar on the island of Manhattan and toast to some great times, some great company, and most importantly, some really, really cheap beer.
[Did I mention it was $13 all you can drink? I might start crying.]