I ended up sitting at the coffee shop with my latte and a magazine that featured a couple pieces about Gondry's new film - the Science of Sleep (which I was sorry I didn't get to see before I left town). I was the only customer in the place, most of the time, and the two guys working there alternated between sitting down the bar from me and puttering around. Eventually a group of 3 girls, about 7 or 8 years old, came in and tramped upstairs and sat on stools overlooking the coffee shop, chattering away like little birds.
While I was there, they had a satellite radio station playing, and I heard an announcement that the station was going to broadcast the "historic final show at the legendary club CBGBs". Richard and the Dictators are playing, of course. I can't say that I'm going to miss CBs, since even if I lived in NY, I probably wouldn't spend a lot of time there. Still, when Kirstin and I first moved to NY, it was sort of this planet that our lives revolved around for a while. We rarely went in to the actual club. Instead we spent a lot of time at the CBs annex next door, playing pool on their crooked table and putting on whatever grungey stuff was in the jukebox back then. I was 20, and I bet there was some Alice In Chains in there somewhere.
The first bartender we made friends with was the guy who took us into Elizabeth NJ to get tattoos, but you'll hear about that later, no doubt.
The second and third bartenders we... I'm not going to say "made friends with" here, that would be an overstatement... instead I'll say, heckled regularly, turned out to be our first NY boyfriends.
Kent gets a mention here because he was also the person who inadvertently got me my bartending gig in New York. He made me a regular at a little bar around the corner from CBs, where he would sometimes go with the other CBs folks after their shifts ended.
For years I've struggled to write about this place. When I looked on the web for photos, I found descriptions like this: "If Satan were a whore of a bar, that bar would appear in the form of [this] bar." and "Go ahead, drink yourself to death! Everyone else here appears to be." The phrase "Daycare for Drunks" used to be painted underneath the name of the bar on the outside.
Photo by Cat Sparks
Photo by Cat Sparks
Still, we had the best jukebox there. I would go in at the start of my shift and put on "Helplessly Hoping", Patti Smith - "Kimberly", Jimi Hendrix - "Three Little Bears", Rolling Stones - "You've Got the Silver" and the song that, in my mind, was the anthem of that bar, Blind Faith's "Can't Find My Way Home".
It was a tiny place, only one bartender at the bar, with a bar back who sat and looked out the window and drank coffee, keeping an eye out in a way that only a regular would be aware of. My regulars were some of the most broken but also the sweetest people I have ever come across, which was good for a barely-21-year-old who thought she was messed up. It was impossible not to see how I looked to them - shiny and young and only passing through.
There was almost always someone who insisted on walking me home after my shift ended. The guys would take turns - when it was down to just a couple of them, they would check with each other to see who would stay until the end. We'd link arms and walk up the street together, but it was sometimes hard to tell who was walking who, given how challenging it is for someone who has spent the night parked in front of a tumbler of Jack Daniels to put one foot in front of another. Most of the drinks I poured were straight shots of Jack, in a quantity that any other bar would have called a triple. The second most common was vodka cranberry, but the cranberry was really just a splash. Most of the rest of the drinks were Budweisers, from the bottle, no tap.
I loved it there. When I left, everyone signed the little journal I used to write in when there wasn't a drink to pour. The regular I mentioned in a post back in August used to send me long rambling letters, unsigned, for years after I left. I still walk by when I'm in New York, just to see it, but that's definitely a time in my life that's gone, so I never go in.
The place has stuck with me though, and it's what I was thinking about today, when I thought about CBs closing, and things that are gone, and things that we turn into legends for ourselves. Mars is one of mine.