My Gremlins Were Acting Up, So I Hit Some Bars

Written by Alan Cabal on . Posted in Miscellaneous, Posts.

been struggling with my inner gremlin these past few weeks, and I don’t
always win. Schadenfreude seems to be the predominant theme of Summer 2001,
and while I don’t usually follow trends, this one is a natural fit. Lately
I’ve taken to interrupting people I see walking down the street chatting
on their cellphones to inform them that "it looks like somebody coughed
up a big nasty loogie and popped it right on your back." I keep moving,
because there really isn’t anything there. I glance back and invariably
my hapless victim is squirming around trying to check out the back of his shirt
or jacket to investigate this alleged blob of phlegm. This infantile prank lifts
my spirits whenever I do it and serves to tranquilize whatever anxieties may
be floating around in my head.

The Saturday
after the Fourth of July was a beautiful day, warm but not oppressively hot,
bright blue and breezy with none of the syrupy humidity that so often plagues
us here. I was broke, waiting for a bunch of overdue checks. I scooped up my
date, I’ll call her Jenny, and we headed downtown to hit some bars. We
took the subway because we intended to get pretty wasted, and I avoid driving
drunk. The New York City subway system offers more bang for your bucks in the
way of entertainment value than anything else going, anywhere. On our way downtown
on the A train, this great big lunkhead got on at 145th St. with a boombox,
a bottle of booze and a huge pack of scratch-off lottery tickets. He had the
severely pronounced occipital ridge usually associated with our Neanderthal
cousins, and his boombox was blaring some godawful racket consisting of primitivo
percussive noises and barely decipherable bloodthirsty chanting peppered with

He sat down
across from us, set his box on the floor of the car, took a couple of hits off
his vodka and set to work on his lottery tickets, scratching them with the intensity
of a slot machine addict or a chronic masturbator. Jenny and I looked at him,
looked at each other, and started giggling. He must have noticed this, because
he paused for a moment, and it looked like he actually had a flicker of cognition
going, probably something like "Mongo not funny, Mongo confused."
He took another pull off the vodka and turned up his boombox, then went back
to his tickets, cursing like a savage trying to figure out a can opener with
each losing ticket.

We got off
at W. 4th, still giggling, and transferred to the F train, figuring we’d
start off with the great open spaces of the East Village. We made our way to
the Edge, a wonderful bar for a bright sunny day. They have a good selection
of beers and the afternoon light through the huge windows spills over the exposed
brick walls and the cozy furnishings in a way that makes me think of Aspen,
CO, or Sandpoint, ID: the Edge has the feel of a bar in some mountain retreat.
The weekend barkeep, a young fellow named Kris, has excellent musical tastes
and is possessed of an easygoing erudition that one rarely sees in today’s
twentysomethings. In the course of our conversation, he mentioned that he’d
spent a great deal of time in Key West, enough to have been 86’d from the
Green Parrot a couple of times, so I assume that accounts in part for his nonchalant
upbeat charm. I hear he’s gone now.

I called
a couple of friends of mine, ex-circus guys currently at loose ends here in
the city, and suggested they meet up with us. They were recovering from some
booze-soaked debauch the night before and apt to take a couple of hours getting
it together, so Jenny and I ambled up to 7th and C, where we were stunned to
discover an authentic German beer hall in the heart of the mainly Puerto Rican
neighborhood. Zum Schneider is a real delight: long wooden tables on a rough
stone floor, open at the front, high ceilings and a portrait of Mad Ludwig over
the bar. It’s been there for about a year, serving up an excellent selection
of German beers and very reasonably priced German cuisine. We shared an excellent
brotzeitteller, which is a platter of cold cuts and cheese consisting of liverwurst,
salami, head cheese, ham, brie, swiss, tomato and pickles. The large platter,
which is quite enough for two to snack on, is just $12. They also have a smaller
platter for $6. The most expensive thing on the menu is the wienerschnitzel,
at $14, and they also offer such rarities as pfannkuchensuppe, Bavarian pancake
soup, for a mere $3, and a tempting sausage platter consisting of three types
of sausage, potato salad and sauerkraut for just $12. We washed our tasty little
snack down with a couple of Dinkel Ackers and then went back to the Edge to
scoop up my pals.

Ole Roderick
is an ex-skinhead from Boston who worked at some kind of youth culture joint
up there called the Middle East until he decided to run away with the circus.
Wes Hanson and I go back many years, we’ve worked a couple of shows together
and he roomed with my ex-wife and me for as long as he could stand it back when
we had that hideous dump of a loft in Dumbo. He just got back from Vegas. Carter
Lee has the manners of a serial killer and might just be the best stand-up comic
I’ve seen since Andy Kaufman. He lives on a diet of fried chicken and junk
food and lives with Ole in an apartment over a modest crack emporium in an all-black
section of Brooklyn. Ole is a shit magnet: he’s about the size of Charles
Manson and covered in tattoos. I struggle with my inner gremlin, but Ole actually
is a gremlin. I once extracted a tooth from the palm of his right hand with
my Leatherman tool after he got into a late-night altercation with some fratboys
up in Walden. He can piss, puke and walk at the same time, and he’s been
known to dazzle audiences in dives from here to Chicago with his ability to
wrap his cock around his wrist, a feat that he terms a "punk bracelet."

Jenny was
understandably nervous about Ole’s presence, especially in such close proximity
to the Hells Angels. I didn’t even want to entertain the possibility of
an encounter between him and them, so I moved us out of the Edge and off that
block as quickly as possible. We made a quick pit stop at the Mars Bar, which
is, like the Edge, an East Village institution, but of a very different sort.
The Edge is all mellow: nice comfy furniture scattered around and genuinely
tasteful artwork hung on the walls, mellow jazz playing. The Mars Bar is Link
Wray’s "Rumble" blasting out of the jukebox and hardcore drunks
throwing drinks at each other totally shitfaced by 4 in the afternoon, bizarre
mutant paintings and horrific graffiti on the walls. My current favorite is
an alteration of the health warning sign over the register. This is the sign
that says "WARNING: Drinking alcoholic beverages during pregnancy can cause
birth defects." Some wag (one of the bartenders, surely) wrote "LOOK
AROUND" down at the bottom of that, and it just cracked me up.

The sun
was going down, and so we headed for Nancy Whiskey in Tribeca. Nancy Whiskey
is a real peculiarity: a friendly cop bar in a neighborhood where the blue-collar
dive is all but extinct. They have a great jukebox and free shuffleboard if
you don’t keep score and the staff and the clientele are for the most part
a pleasant bunch. We played some shuffleboard and Ole regaled us with an atrocious
story about how he got rid of some awful woman who was stalking him by taking
a shit in her purse while she was in the bathroom and then hustling her out
of the house on the pretext of having to get ready for work.

Some weird
guy in an NYPD t-shirt approached me as I was punching up some tunes on the
jukebox and said, "They asked me to keep an eye on you." I said, "Who
exactly is ‘they’? I’ll let you slide because you’re wearing
the right t-shirt, but let’s not go anywhere with this, eh?"

We hung
out for a while longer, but the bloom was off the rose for me, at least, with
this drunk cop giving me the hairy eyeball from the end of the bar. By 10, we
were all pretty plastered and decided to split. As I made my way to the door,
this creep made a grab for me and said, "Do you know who I am?" I
said, "No, but I’ll let you know who I am: I’m the Son of Sam.

This gremlin
tendency is something I’ve been working on, but some people just have it
coming. All in all, it was a splendid Saturday bar crawl in New York. Nobody
died, and Jenny checked her purse in the cab on our way uptown, just to be sure.
It was clean.

The Edge,
95 E. 3rd St. (betw. 1st & 2nd Aves.), 477-2940.

Zum Schneider,
107 Ave. C (7th St.), 598-1098.

Mars Bar,
25 E. 1st St. (2nd Ave.), 473-9842.

Nancy Whiskey
Pub, 1 Lispenard St. (W. B’way), 226-9943.