Sometimes it comes with Hare Krishnas. A whole bunch of them.
Lemme back up. OK, so this past weekend I went to NYC to catch up with some friends. A dude who smells like a wet dog joined me, and we had a couple of hours to kill. So we went down to the East Village. I was gonna take him to Burp Castle (over there on the sidebar), but as soon as we walked in the stench of spilled beer, piss and testosterone overwhelmed us. I don't know what happened to that joint, but it's been overrun by frat boys the past couple of times I've been there. Used to be a real haven for beer geeks. Maybe it still is and I just went on a couple of bad days. I dunno.
Anyway, we went to the joint right next door (a place called Jimmy's No. 43...awesome!) for a couple of pints and a bite to eat. Then over to St. Mark's Place to meet up with my friends. But on the way over I told my buddy about a little bar that I've always wanted check out. The Holiday Cocktail Lounge. It looks like the diviest of the dive bars. Just an awful looking place. Even the name screamed "awful". The Holiday Cocktail Lounge.
My kind of joint.
So he convinced me to take 15 minutes and go in for a drink. You know what the kicker behind the decision was? Right as we were heading across the street, hemming and hawing about ducking inside, an entire parade of Hare Krishnas came dancing down the street. They had instruments and flowing garb and bald heads and, frankly, some pretty incredible dance moves. Those cats were pretty damned funky.
Seeing this as a sign from, well...the Gods, we manned up and headed into the joint. Inside we were greeted with a semi-circle bar, a couple from Tennessee, a string of Christmas lights and the oldest fucking bartender you have ever seen in your life. Seriously. Check him out...
That's Stephan (or Stefan). The oldest fucking bartender you have ever seen in your life. I didn't catch his name while were there, I found out his name after I Googled the joint. In fact, I barely understood a word he said. And apparently it was likewise. Seeing the array of bad beer and bad booze, I thought it would be prudent to order a couple of Jack and Cokes. Safe bet, right?
Except Stephan has a heavy hand. A very heavy hand. And he thought I said Jameson's instead of Jack. I stopped him after he poured one and told him I wanted Jack. He proceeded to yell at me in a mumbling, 400 year-old man kinda way. I have no idea what he said but he kept pointing at the "J" in Jameson like that was supposed to ease my pain. It really was one of those perfect moments in life.
My buddy took one for the team and told Stephan that he would drink the massively strong Jameson & Coke leaving the newly poured (also extremely strong) Jack & Coke for me. But you know what? Jameson & Coke is a pretty good drink! We would up having a couple of more later on in the evening, but none nearly as strong as the one Stephan poured.
One mistake I made? I used the bathroom. Wow! Might be the worst shitter on the East Coast. The cramped room had a toilet filled to the top with piss with a big, black dead fly floating in the middle. I opted for the urinal, but I didn't touch a goddamned thing in that room. I'm pretty sure the Black Plague was living in that room someplace. I've developed a little cough since Saturday, and I'm kinda scared.
I forgot to mention Stephan's other bartending skillz besides the big pour. He also likes to take his time with getting your order. A really long time. When we walked in he was sitting at the bar. He got up, looking a bit pissed that we interrupted his nap or something, and made his way behind the bar. When he got there he must have forgotten why he did because he immediately turned his back to us and started to stock the beer fridge with Budweiser. For 10 minutes. It would have been hilarious if we weren't so thirsty. Aww...it was hilarious! Who am I kidding?
A group of six walked in as we were finishing up our drink. It's Monday night as I type this and they still might be waiting for their first round.
I can say without any reservation that the Holiday Cocktail Lounge may be the most perfect dive bar in existence, and I can't wait to go back. I hope Stephan is still there. Hell, he will probably out live us all.
Note: Remember to play the Bug-Eyed Trivia Challenge every day. All the best cowboys have Chinese eyes.