Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Barography: The Reservoir

You've got to be kidding me! Sorry, that has no context for you, reader. I just finished writing out a few paragraphs of introduction explaining the lack of posts on this blog for the past month. And right when I was about to wrap it up, I somehow unplugged my computer and lost the entire thing. I could not make up how, when I finally got to explain the frustrations that kept me from writing so long, A VERY FRUSTRATING THING HAPPENED TO KEEP ME FROM WRITING.

So, you know what, this blog isn't about my ailments or breakdowns (well, not directly), so maybe that was a sign to just get on with a new Barography.

When last we left, I had found my first New York bar, Shades of Green. While I still will go there from time to time even today, the second half of my college years found me having a new semi-permanent haunt, The Reservoir. The Reservoir was quite a bit more convenient for me, only about four blocks away on the same street as the dorm I lived in all four years of college. (Those of you who did not go to school in NYC, getting an apartment as a college student is an insanely expensive/difficult procedure. Those of you who went to NYU, yes, I stayed in Weinstein all four years, but guess who never got his ass booted out to Broome St or some other semi-official wayward home. I got my own room, yeah.)

The Reservoir was and is a local, sporty bar. Wood walls all around, plenty of TVs with various games/commentary on, a pool table, a juke. They serve food late, and their burger still is one of my top ten favorites. The staff has always been friendly; in fact, this was the first place where I truly made a friend with someone on staff. My dear Anna-Lisa was/is an NYU classmate, the introducer of Old Whiskey River, partner in crime, Jets and Mets co-fan, wedding date, and all-around great person.

Anyway, at Reservoir was when I really came into myself as a drinker. No more ciders, no more whiskey sours, no more starter-set bullshit. This was a place for bourbon and beer. It's always had a decent selection of both, and plenty of good specials throughout the week. I was there fairly recently where every pint was three dollars. You can bet I enjoyed that special, yes I did.

So Reservoir is where I went from "a guy who drinks" to "a drinker," if you can parse that distinction. I found my habits, my tastes, and my path. It was a home to parties for years. It remained my regular after college . . .it's not like I was going to pick a joint in Jersey City. Not until I moved to Brooklyn did I begin to switch over. So, while the Calamity Cafe is where myths were born in my drinking life, Reservoir is where stories started.

One of the great pleasures of drinking, whether with old friends or someone just-met, is the sharing of stories. We all have our canon, don't we, along with our apocrypha? We have our epics and our picaresques, all our life-bits with ample amusement or portent. Reservoir might be the home of my short stories. I've got several all set there, some only a line long. For instance, it's still the first and only bar where, while sitting at a table talking to friends, a waitress approached, asked if I was in fact, me, and then told me there was a phone call waiting for me at the bar. That was a nice feeling.

Reservoir was my bar when I first fell in actual adult love. It, of course, was a terrible, terrible idea; this helps explain some of my more erratic behaviors there over the years. One night, while seeing a friend walk in and sit at another table. Well, I thought of the funniest joke ever and knew that was the time for it. I stood up at the couch where I was, next to a wooden column. I then screamed, "DAVE MORREALE! THIS IS YOUR FUCKING HEAD!" upon which I stuck my Spyder Knife* into the column as hard as I could, stared him down, then laughed and sat down. Dave got it, but my companions at the time and many patrons were much less comfortable.

I also recall, one odd night, burning holes in my t-shirt and then ripping it Hulk Hogan style. (This girl really did a number on me.) My dear Captain, Kirk Diaz gave me a shirt to cover up with. I was lightly hit by a Taxi upon walking out of the bar that night. We were caught nearly breaking into the NYU library. "You're a very good guard," I recall saying.

That's not the only time I lost my shirt there. I remember a girl coming up and asking to buy my shirt emblazoned with the symbol of Cobra (GI Joe's terrorist nemesis) for her brother. I haggled her to 20 bucks and stripped right there. I think Kirk came to my rescue again that night. (Perhaps he was just saving himself from looking at my hirsuitery.) We all thought that was pretty cool. Of course, it wasn't until a day or two later that I thought, "Hey, maybe I should have talked with her for a while. She might have been flirting." Again, this girl had really done a number on me.

The last great Reservoir story, at least so far, was when I first started the Teaching Fellows program. Here I was, surrounded by girls near my age, smart, young, dedicated. We'd spent our first week in courses, started to get to know each other. I invited my table to a bar for lunch after class on Friday. Out of the six, two agreed. As we ride the train there, one says, "So this is a bar? I don't really go to bars. I don't drink much. I mean, occasionally I'll have a glass of wine while reading Shakespeare."

The other girl agrees**. Well, you can imagine the panic I was feeling. A) This sounded like an awful time and B) I was worried this might be the norm in this program (it most definitely wasn't). So in my desperation I start playing along. "Yeah, I don't really go much either. I don't drink much. Yeah, uh, this was just a restaurant near my college . . .I think they're a bar, too."

I should have known it would not be that easy. We walked in to find three people: a bartender, a patron, and a waitress. The bartender immediately says, "Hey, Joe!"

The patron turns. "Joe Rice! Good to see you!"

And the waitress was the aforementioned Anna-Lisa. She hugged me. "Joe! What are you doing this weekend??" I stammered and answer as she brought us to a table. She asked for their drink orders (water) and didn't ask me. She came back with a bourbon neat and a beer.

"Why do you have two drinks?" the Little Miss on the Prairie asked.

The jig was up, so I dove in. "Because that's how I like it." I downed the bourbon and chased it with beer. I knew then it had been wrong of me to hide. I am a drinker, unashamed and unrepentant.

There were lots of little times at the Reservoir. Snowy birthday cab rides with roommates; a free round in tribute to the just-died King of Pop; after-hours Yahtzee; the time Kirk tried to light Dubin on fire.

The Reservoir may not be home to epics, other than The Worst Idea for Love Ever, but I love all these small stories. Perhaps the Reservoir is the best Anthology of Short Stories my drinking life has had.

*-So, in preparing for this post, I looked up those Spyder Knives. I lost mine years ago (to the thanks of many), but thought I might get another now. It was an impromptu Christmas present from a buddy's dad. He gave us both one. I remember his solemn advice. "I know you two are assholes. If you find yourselves in a fight, I want you to take this knife and throw it as far away from you as possible. I don't want your asses beat AND cut." Anyway, DEAR GOD they are pricey, never mind.

**-I thankfully later found out this second girl, Juli, was just as horrified as I was. We've had many a beer since.

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