Thursday, February 22, 2007

We went to the Ear Bar today for lunch and to scribble on the papered table in crayon.

I had the chili.

I love the Ear Bar, a New York City institution we take for granted because it's three or four steps from our office. It's one of those fucking bars that claims to be the oldest in Manhattan, founded in 1837 or some goddamn thing. Back when the Hudson shoreline came up to the plaque-commemorated mark right outside the door and a few feet to the left. Back when sailors would stagger off of ships on wobbly sea legs to drink whiskey, sing their chanteys, fuck whores and then be off to sea once more.

I love the Ear Bar but lately I've hated the food. The room has an oppressive stench, not unpleasant but inescapable, irremediable. It's the smell of 175 years of goddamn beer and whiskey, beer leaking out of tap lines to gently rot the bar wood till it wasn't rotten any more. Whiskey spilt in the cracks of the floor, blood let from lips and noses, falling richly on tables and chairs, vomit in the bathroom sinks, in the toilets, on the floors. Upstairs – whores, itinerant ne'er-do-wells and seamen sleeping, fucking, shitting. Performing their ablutions. Water pipes with rusted joints and cracked and peeling paint bearing their unspeakable filth to parts unknown.

And so it has a smell. A smell you cannot really describe, you can only faintly conjure in your mind when it's not there. It's the smell of the damp and of the stale. And of cheap spices and of grease, of salty grease. And beer and booze, detergent. Crayola crayons. The crayons they put in glasses on each table. Maybe that's what it is, mostly. Crayons.

And two centuries of puke and booze and blood.

So for whatever reason. I've been balking at the food. It's just not a place where it feels like you should chew on something. Seems like a place, you should be careful when you open your mouth. So I got a whiskey and a bowl of chili and I drew a picture on the table, and Jim and John got martinis and we were at the Ear Bar in the year 2007.