A thought that recurred fairly often: "If I can't think of anywhere else to go, I'll just stop in Telephone Bar." Perfectly located on Second Ave, around the corner from St. Mark's Place and St. Mark's Bookstore, a few block from my subway stop, I could always find a seat at the bar. This past Saturday, that thought was quickly replaced by "uh-oh" when I walked past and saw that the windows of the front door and the three red British phone booths that lent it its distinctive look were covered in brown paper.
At first I hoped they were just remodeling, though there was no sign on the door promising to reopen soon. Once home, I went online and discovered that, after 22 years, the Telephone Bar and Grill has closed. It has been sold to someone who owns other bars in the East Village, all of which sound, from their online descriptions, rather crappy. So another piece of "my" New York is gone. Unfortunately I missed their final night on January 31st. Apparently it was a "thank you" for their regulars.
It didn't quite capture the ambiance of pubs in Britain, which at their best, feel like auxillary living rooms, but it was a comfortable place just the same. Their chicken wings had the right blend of sweet and spicy and their portobello mushroom sandwich was wonderful. Nice mix of beers and whatever game was on tv was never too loud.
My friend Karl reminded me that when we first lived in New York, it was our "go to" place in the Village. I think I've taken everyone who ever visited me there at least once, although recently I didn't stop in as often as I once had. To be honest, I don't go to any bar as much as I once had. But four or five years ago I was a regular. I recall one particular couple I met at the bar: he was a researcher in neurology and she was born in Germany. They had met and married while he was stationed there in the army; her accent was still strong. They were at the bar having a drink before they went to see an off Broadway play. She liked experimental theater and he was a good sport. We had a great conversation, which was unexpectedly continued when I stopped in the bar the following Saturday...and there they were in the same seats, this time having a drink before dinner.
This was shortly before I traveled to Europe (which was the initial catalyst for this blog). She had traveled widely and gave me suggestions of places to see and what to avoid. Disappointed that I wasn't going to Germany, she kept making a case for the beauty of her homeland. He and I talked about conclusions drawn from neurological experiments, or rather, he replied to my naive questions with explanations on how the brain works and how this impacts our behavior. I understood a meager fraction of what he was saying but no matter. The conversation helped form a new way of thinking for me, moving the source of human behavior from personalities created by nature/nurture to synapses firing away in our mushy brains. In my completely undisciplined manner, it's become a subject of study for me. Just as her recommendations on travel influenced what I saw in Europe, his explanations on how I was experiencing "experience" influences me still.
I never saw them again after that day.
RIP, Telephone Bar and Grill.