Monday, October 23, 2006

Bar Fly #1

Jerry Seinfeld is right. Again. On his most recent public appearance, Seinfeld surprised everybody (besides Jon Stewart) by showing up at "The Night of Too Many Stars," a benefit for autism education that aired on Comedy Central on October 15th. During his observations, he focused on the cell phone for a bit and related the confusion, anxiety, and depleted feeling we – as slaves to the RAZR – go through as our bars disappear. Seinfeld doesn't use the word, but I know that when my digital leash turns off, "fuck" becomes as key to my vocabulary as "the."

On my most recent visit to Rosemary's Greenpoint Tavern, my screen was black and my wrist was bare, so I asked the fellow seated next to me for the time. Thirty minutes later, Jeff Maze was relating to me the painter's plight in an increasingly gentrified New York. He used to live around the corner from Rosemary's, which is on Bedford Ave. in Williamsburg, but he couldn't afford the rent and he (and many of his artist friends) call Bushwick their new home. He was back that night to visit "the only original left in the whole neighborhood."

Jeff Maze is right. A walk through Rosemary's is like a ride in Doc Brown's DeLorean – hipsters, boutiques, and Smiths t-shirts turn into blue collars, Beer Nuts, and mustaches - serious mustaches. It's not exactly time travel, but it's traveling, alright. The proprietor, herself, hardly ever shows her face and I've never spoken with her, but she has a couple of replicas – older, diminutive Polish women with Jayne Mansfield locks – that enforce the rules (one being that no games can be played, including chess, because Rosemary says so) and pour the beer (into gigantic Styrofoam cups).

One can only assume that Rosemary's main duty is decorating. And, boy, does she ever. As the seasons change, so do the holidays, and so do the gaudy, overwrought, and downright kickass lights, plastic figures, and paper hangy thingies. It feels like your grandmother's attic exploded in this place…and there's beer, too!

And some of the people might as well be in your grandmother's bridge club.

The older gent at the corner of the bar who puts the coaster that reads "Out for a smoke" on his empty beer and steps outside. (The bartender always gives him a refill, sometimes takes a few bills from his standard pile, sometimes not.)

John, the troubled Vietnam Vet, who's losing his hair from stress and losing it for Kansas when they're on the jukebox. (In retrospect, it was a bad idea to wave my hands wildly in front of his face; he told me he wouldn't think twice about stabbing me. He did give his sunglasses to my pal, though.)

And, Jeff, who was back in the only place he felt comfortable with in Williamsburg. And why not? Like a drunken, dysfunctional family Christmas (or Halloween, Fourth of July, or St. Patrick's Day), this is a place that calls you back. The first time I went to Rosemary's, it wreaked of paint that had been recently applied to the pipes. The pipes heated up and my head was light before my first sip of Budweiser. I wonder if Rosemary asked Jeff to do it.

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