This week I went back to Park Slope again, to a place called High Dive. I expected either a beautifully seedy shithole or, oddly, a pool-themed place. Why I thought that was actually possible, I have no idea. When I got there, I realized I had been there under previous ownership. I don't recall the name of the place; neither it nor the previous bar itself were notable in basically any way. Entering High Dive, I knew the change had been for the better.
It was a spacious bar, decorated casually and invitingly. There was the main bar area itself, a large corridor with some high tables, a back room with lower tables, a pinball, and lots of board games, and what looked to be a backyard, too. This would be an excellent place to throw a party, or just to party.
So I sat down at the bar and ordered a Lagunitas Brown Shugga to keep my brown ale streak going. I was surprised by the amount of hop in the beer. If you've ever read this blog before, you know that hops and I are not on the friendliest terms. I was, at first, disappointed. But I have to say, it really did balance the sweetness well, keeping it from being overly syrupy. So I guess those bastards have a point.
I really liked the "buy a drink" board on the bar wall. Anyone can pay for a drink for a friend they figure will drop by later. Three columns: To, What, and From. Some people bought whiskeys for friends, others just put money down. This is a place friends go, together or separately, to have a good time. I even recognized a name or two. My brotherman Alex came in, dropped down, and ordered a Jameson.
New York is a drinker's town. Public transportation almost everywhere you look, more bars than Rykers, and a rich semi-literary tradition of great indulgence in the sauce. When we first set out to make Here Comes a Regular a drinking blog, we didn't want it to be some frat house nonsense, nor a mere house for reviews, nor some apologetic skirting-around-the-topic neurosis-fest, nor even some misguided braggadocio list of times we got SO WASTED.
No, this blog is for the drinker's life, the real drinker, the kind that a lot of folks don't quite understand. I received an email from my mother today, the kind you never want to receive. There were concerns expressed that a thirty-three year old man like myself should not find himself "living like [he's] twenty-one." People I know from elsewhere, sometimes even new New Yorkers, they nervously laugh when they point out that I go out quite a bit.
So there's a special layer of drinking life in New York. I genuinely think it's the best city on earth, but it isn't without flaws. Perhaps primarily (other than vicinity to Jersey and the existence of Staten Island), is that this is a fucking stressful place to be. Every part of your life, in New York, has a heightened level of stress than it would in a lot of other places. Working in New York? Jesus, just getting there can give you hives, whether through overcrowded subways, aromas, or chapped legs during the summer.
And dating, shit! Some of the smartest, wittiest, best looking people in the world flock to this city. You see them all around you. But we're all so busy trying to be quietly polite by giving everyone their space that we don't meet all that often. It's difficult to settle down with anyone, too, when you see hundreds of new temptations on your way home every night.
So life here is stressful; that's not exactly news to anyone. Alex and I discussed work stresses and ordered another round. This time I also got a Buffalo Trace White Dog, perhaps my favorite market moonshine. I took a belt of it and chased it with the Brown Shugga. HOLY SHIT GUYS. I think I invented something right then. That shine mixed with the sweetness of the ale to form a creamy, powerful punch. I immediately started raving, and the bartendress talked about making a drink special out of it. It was that good.
So, yes, in New York you're stressed and you're working your ass off just to get by. But you get well compensated by living in the funnest place in the world. All those bars are joined by entertainment of all sorts. Gospel every Friday at Fat Cat, Kung fu film festivals, comic shops, comedy, comfortable theaters . . .we've really got everything. So after we work our ass off we party our ass off. So maybe not everyone in the country understands; I don't really care. In this town you have to fight to be happy, and that's one fight I'm not backing down from.
And there's no one better to party with than your friends. Alex and I yucked it up throughout the night, being joined by other friends later. Stupid running jokes and plays on words, the sort of secret handshake at the core of every friend group. There's not a sad face in the crowd if its friends.
And that's the ultimate drink special, isn't it? Booze plus pals equals fun. That is fucking SCIENCE, man (this post has had so much science). And I, for one, can't wait to make science happen at High Dive again. Check the drink board; if you're lucky, I'll leave you one.
Photos by D. Alexander Cox.