So The Cedar Tavern, where I’ve been working forever, closed down for construction two days after Thanksgiving, casting me out of the job, and leaving my Fridays wide open. I have been working Friday nights for an embarrassingly long time and the idea of having them free has caused me to sympathize with newly released convicts who have to face the exciting and intimidating prospect of their newly entrusted freedom. Frankly, other than the chance to ask patrons, ‘do you want that on the rocks or straight up?’ I have no idea what this city has to offer on a weekend night.
I must say, the opening in my life was refreshing and immediately my roommate and fellow Cedar expat and I began planning a regular Friday night outing. “ How about we have a cultural night?” she suggested, “ almost all the museums are free on Friday nights.” The museum was a great idea; it would fulfill the novel and expansive potential of this newly realized freedom, yet there seemed to be something missing from the equation. “ The museum followed by martinis,” I exclaimed, and just as I spoke the words it occurred to me what it was that was absent.
The Cedar Tavern, as with many other bars, had been its own self-contained universe, stocked with a wide variety of regular customers. There was every flavor you could imagine, there was the belligerent loud mouth who Steven-Got-Even, the best bartender in NY, would eighty-six every other week, only to have Joey, the second best bartender in NY, welcome him back the following week. There was the jovial and talkative regular who joked around and made it his business to keep abreast of the goingons, as if he were the elected mayor of this intoxicating universe. Then of course there were my favorites, the ones who came in alone to enjoy a martini and read a book, to observe, and perhaps even to participate in some light banter with employees and fellow regulars.
They, all of them, were like fixtures and, like the sun and the moon you could estimate the time of day by their arrival and their departure. If, at two o’clock on a snowy afternoon, you found yourself in the neighborhood you could always stop by for a quick Guinness and a chat with Norman about the works of Gabriel García Márquez. If, at five o’clock on a weekday you had a half hour to kill, you could join Harold for a martini and an extremely overused, yet always entertaining joke at somebody else’s expense. If at two o’clock in the morning you found yourself a little lit, yet curiously questioning the laws of physics, you could always stop by for a bourbon with ‘Martini’ Dave and he would explain it to you using metaphors in jazz.
I could go on and on and on, but I think you catch my drift; the closing of The Cedar has created unfamiliar and exhilarating possibilities in my life, but it has also left a giant chasm where this comforting and familiar universe once resided. It might be the case that a search is in order. Of course we could never find another Cedar, but we might be able to find a few different bars that could provide at least a fraction of what The Cedar had to offer. It was certainly worth a try!
So what is on the menu for the inauguration of Cultural Fridays? The Picasso and American Art show at The Whitney museum followed by Martinis at The Bemelmans Bar located in The Carlyle Hotel. Stay tuned to find out how my first Friday of freedom panned out.