Williamsburg, as much of a pain in the ass as it can be, is really accessible from Bushwick. So since the past couple weeks of work have been particularly draining, I decided this week's bar should be closer. So, after walking by it for years, I finally went in Macri Park.
The first thing that struck me was the music. It's not every day you get a Nancy Sinatra deep cut that segues into some obscure early rock and roll. Perhaps it was the Sinatra thing, but I immediately felt that Quentin Tarantino was DJing. Anyway, the bar looks great. Rich red, semi-velvety wallpaper, a fireplace, plush booths, and a long, well-worn bar all added together for a sort of old lodge feel.
The crowd was decidedly gutterpunky. In my polo and blazer, I started out feeling fairly out-of-place. This was an afternoon regulars crowd, really, not that dissimilar to those of which I've been a part. But something struck me as different this time; I really felt "other."
The beer selection was very standard. Nine or ten drafts, the ones you always see (Brooklyn Lager, Hoegaarden, etc). Not really caring for any of the selections I went with a Stella. Stella is not a very good beer; it has an acridity that is never quite refreshing. But it is a reliable beer, and one I've had during dozens of funtimes, so I kind of give it a pass.
As Beck came on the sound system, I jotted down some notes as I looked around more. There was a backyard area I didn't bother with. I was more interested in the front . . .there was an open-air area with couches where you could drink and smoke outside under an overhang. I got another Stella and a Maker's Mark (again, not a great bourbon, but one that I can still enjoy) and went outside.
The view was . . .well, absolutely shitty. Yes, there's a park across the street. But it's a terrible park. Noisy cars drive by, annoying Williamsburgers strut by, and there's Kellogg's Diner reminding me of all the terrible meals I've had there. Still, it was outside, and that was sort of novel. I was about to pick up my book to read when I recognize a passer-by. It's my friend Chris who I haven't seen in ages, and who was recently talking to me about this blog. So he gets a beer, "Oh, shit, sitting down with Joe and I know I'll be stumbling home."
We catch up; I met Chris through his girlfriend, an old friend of mine from grad school. She's a teacher, too, so I do some minor co-venting through him. After a bit, my planned guest arrives, as we are joined by Sarah. Sarah's the girl that gave me the coupon book in the first place, and she's brought hers along. With a couple of notable exceptions, I've never had trouble staying friends with exes. It's not always an ideal situation every moment of the experience, but it's way better than some sort of dramatic bitterness; at the very least it's better than the spine-tingling fear you get when you find yourself in an unpleasant ex's neighborhood.
So the three of us shoot the shit, drink some rounds, smoke some cigarettes, and generally have a pretty great time. Chris leaves and Sarah and I go in; with the weather turned chilly, the novelty of the front area had died. Also, those plastic couches are the least comfortable non-medical thing I've ever sat on.
At this point we whipped out our coupons and got our free Stellas. And I think here I should talk about the service. I've hedged a bit on this, because I bartend sometimes and I have a shit-ton of friends in the service industry. I don't like bitching about service like some indignant, entitled Yelper or something; it feels crass and generally low. So maybe it was an off night, or maybe I looked like an asshole, or maybe a lot of things. But the service was lousy. Getting the tender's attention in a bar with only seven people in it should not be a Herculean task. My inner insecurity told me it was because I was "other." I don't know; my inner insecurity is often full of shit.
The bar has a great look. It has a great soundtrack. The location is extremely convenient. But the fact is, I just didn't like it. Sarah and I tried to suss out what exactly made this bar seem so inadequate. I knew I'd surely not love every bar in the coupon book, but I usually, at worst, feel neutral about a drinking joint. I actively don't like Macri Park. I mean, it's no Union Pool; I'm unlikely to have some sort of mental breakdown amongst the sweaty bearded, be-tightsed twentysomethings looking for excuses to fuck around indiscriminately. I don't hate it. I just didn't like it.
But here's the thing: something doesn't have to be good to enjoy it. Shit, you don't even have to like it to enjoy it! One thing Sarah and I have always had in common is that we say "Fuck you" to not having fun. Joy and beauty can be found anywhere, as long as you're willing to look. So when Ricky Nelson came on, I took her hand and we got up and danced. There we were, the non-regulars dancing in a bar with no other signs of such activity. But fuck your self-consciousness; dancing is goddam fun.
I don't like Stella. I don't like Maker's Mark. I don't like Macri Park. But I'll be goddamned if I'm going to let any of that get in the way of a fine night.
Speaking of fine nights, I hope to see you all Saturday at King's Head. This crossover is going to be stellar, and if you're lucky, you might be able to buy me a drink.
Photos by Mr. Rice on his shitty phone.