Thursday, June 11, 2009

NYC: Take One

I have witnessed one common strain among all New Yorkers and it is this: they consider New York to be the city, with all other competing metropolises little more than barely mentionable also-rans.  Oh sure, they'll show appreciation for other cities like Chicago or Los Angeles, but it's always accompanied with a half-smirk that makes it clear that you've got a cute city and all but let's not get too carried away, hmmm?

When I caught my first glimpse of the Manhattan skyline I texted my New Yorker buddy: "That's one hell of a skyline."

His reply: "The only one that matters."

It must be said, also, that this common strain has always struck me as incredibly annoying.  New York is a big city, yeah, but for god's sake get over it.  There's a world out there beyond the borders of your five boroughs.

While in New York City, though, I began to see that this New York superiority complex wasn't really the result of narrow-minded arrogance as previously suspected.  New York really is the biggest, boldest city in America.  Love it or hate it, New York has the population to push things further than any other city is capable of.

I am something of a connoisseur of dive bars.  There's something about drinking cheap beer at a dimly-lit hole in the wall that resonates with me on a spiritual level.  I've done a considerable amount of globetrotting during the past two years and a theme throughout has been a need to seek out the best of local dive bars.  It's a way to take off the tourist hat for an hour or two and connect with the denizens of the city.

In New York I was taken to Mars Bar.

The hallway-like interior had no lighting except for that which emanated from the flickering neon beer sign in the window.  The walls were white and covered in graffiti.  I could see open pipes in the ceiling toward the back.

"What do you have on tap?" I asked the bartender.


I paused.  "What do you have bottled?"

She pointed wordlessly to the towers of beer boxes stacked against the wall.

I paused, and then noticed the smell from the bathroom.

This was New York City's answer to the dive bar.

It ain't boasting if you can back it up.