My Favorite Bar in New York, For Some Reason
On Monday, while snapping pictures of things I love and miss during my exile, I found myself on the Upper West Side visiting one of my old haunts, and realized that I can finally take a few pictures of it, since I brought my real camera for once. So here is Yogi's, also known as "The Bear Bar," for the obvious reason that there's a large wooden bear out front. But also because there's no name "Yogi's" anywhere to be seen. Here, surrounded by high-end boutiques and fairly pricey rents, and just up the street from the Beacon Theatre, there's this wooden-fronted country bar with the cheapest whiskey in all five boroughs: a shot of well is $2.75, which I couldn't even get in Tallahassee. A pitcher of PBR is, I'm told, six bucks. (I don't drink anymore, but even when I did drink, I never liked beer.) When I first moved here and had no money, I had to find a way to go out and still save money, and this was my solution.
The other attraction are the bartenders: a continual succession of sexy, brassy, trashily-dressed women who on weekends will stomp on the bar ("Devil Went Down To Georgia" is a pretty consistent impetus), and who have to have a very high tolerance for alcohol, because the guys will buy them up to twenty shots a night. They're also fierce, as you'd expect from women in bustiers who have to juggle a bunch of drunk men. The woman in this picture is Jessica. I know nothing about her, because she's new--as you'd expect from the Monday shift before five. But she fits right in with the others. (Hi, Cyndi! Hi, Patience! Hi, Jen!) Tip them well.
I should have taken a picture of the jukebox (country clean through) or the floor (liberally strewn with peanut shells), or the seats in the back (held together with silver duct tape) or the bathroom (unspeakable), but I was afraid of how the flash would eat up my already-low batteries. But I did take a picture of this graffito, which was right behind me while I took Jessica's picture, and which has always amused me. Anyone know what it means? (My guess: "Eating, drinking, sleeping, love: all things in moderation." And I doubt it's original to Hugo.) Met one of my favorite people in New York here (Hi, Traphofner!) because it's a magnet for smart, thrifty people in general (and, I assume, because it's off the 1 line, which makes it an easy ride from Columbia up on 116th).
One of the bartenders here has--or at least had--a stunt she'd pull: on weekend nights, she'd wear a strapless corset dress, and if it was someone's birthday and you slipped her twenty bucks, she'd take her top down, wrap paper matches around her nipples (she licked them first, but there was probably something about the twist too), and light them on fire for the birthday boy or girl to blow out. There's something about even seeing that happen that adds a festive spirit to the entire room.
I haven't been in months between the not-drinking and the housesitting in Brooklyn and Jersey City. But if I manage to find a place on my return that's convenient to the 1 or the A, I'll be back in a shot. And if you ever come to visit, beware: this is a place I'll likely take you. It's not for the faint of heart. Wear disposable shoes.