New York City Before & After Dark Stories

New York Before & After Dark: A Wild Night to Remember in the City That Never Sleeps

It was important to me to be open to spontaneity when I was younger, the best things that have happened to me have happened because I just so happened to be in the right place at the right time. It’s difficult to escape routine entirely, and in some cases, there is benefit to routine, the first couple of hours of your morning and the last couple of your day give credence to routine. There was one particular New York evening that was so far from routine that I couldn’t possibly forget it even if I tried. I lived in the city in my mid-twenties for a spell, and a number of my tales have emerged from a dozen twenty somethings exploring New York City on a dime, but few are as elaborate as this, especially considering it all happened within only a few short hours.

            I remember standing on the street near the intersection of 86th and 2nd on a warm late July afternoon watching four or five of our friends split off, I forgot why they were leaving, and where they were going, but we were planning on meeting up with them again later that evening. Five of us started walking south on Second Avenue. My friend Stuart was a sound technician for Broadway, and we were supposed to be meeting a couple of his friends who were Broadway dancers at Brady’s bar. Brady’s was, at that time, just a random spot on the map where everyone could meet. None of us had been to the bar. Although it was apparently on one of our friends’ radars because somehow that friend had figured out that A. Rod lived near there and Brady’s was his local bar (A. Rod, a.k.a. Alex Rodriguez, played third base for the New York Yankees at the time). We walked into Brady’s, the windows and doors were all open, and I could see dust floating on the imperceptible waves of sunlight that was leaning into the bar both shading and illuminating the tavern; the pub was quiet, there were maybe four people on stools and in chairs in different corners of the large single room—we would more than double the patronage—and every one of the existing patrons was a barfly, you could say that they knew their stools pretty well. Stuart and I went to the bar to order drinks, Dustin picked up a pool cue and made himself at home at the pool table, while Eugene found a place for us to sit near the pool table. Stuart and I were waiting to get the attention of the bartender, and as we waited, Stuart turned to me, leaned in close, and then whispered, “Just go with me on this…”

Brady’s really was a nice bar. The rear wall was exposed brick, and the aged oak bar was settled at the center of the brick wall. Everything was a dark stained oak, and whether it’s my imagination or not, I’m never really sure, but there’s always a faint oaky smell that makes me feel welcomed, and comfortable in a place like that. There was a part of me that wanted to tell Stuart, Hey, let’s just…you know, just sit and have a drink, and then move on, but I didn’t say that. Instead, I watched Stuart walk to the AMI digital jukebox hanging on the wall, and he would stand there for much longer than my attention span was willing to acknowledge. At that moment, I got distracted by an argument that was developing behind me. Dustin had been making himself comfortable at the pool table, a little too comfortable. The bar apparently had a system when it came to playing pool, and that system didn’t include Dustin, at least not as immediately as Dustin was willing to concede to; he had interrupted someone’s ongoing game, and two different schools of pool etiquette were now beginning to clash. As the argument between Dustin and a couple of Brady’s barflies began to crescendo the music started playing overhead, and I turned to see Stuart walking back toward me smiling, while I sat patiently on a barstool at the bar.

On any given night it wasn’t unusual for us to drop $60 or more in a jukebox, which was nothing compared to our drink tab. When we went to a bar, we made the bar our own, which was likely why we usually went to the same one bar. Ignoring the music at first, the bartender muttered something inaudible at me as he left our first two pints on the bar, but I think I heard something about the pool table, and our friend, and trouble. Stuart still had a smile on his face as he slid back to me, and his elbow hit the oak bar just as the bartender had finished gathering our order. There were puddles of beer forming at the center of where our pint glasses were left, the head had spilled over the top of several of them, and Stuart hugged his shoulder as he wiped beer from his upper arm. Leaning in close again, Stuart said, “Ok, this is what’s going to happen…” Stuart whispered to me. “First…”

A moment later I was able to make out that Frosty the Snowman was playing overhead. Stuart had just explained to me that when they notice the music it’ll start with one or two people who are going to grunt and moan when they first hear the song, and when the second song plays they’ll likely try to ignore it knowing full well, after all the years of life that each has between them, that all things shall pass, but by the third song, when it becomes clear to them that all things that shall pass have not yet passed, they will begin looking around the bar trying to figure out who did it, and after the fourth song the bartender will pull out his little remote from behind the cash register and start skipping songs, and then, after the eighth or ninth rendition of Frosty the Snowman, he’ll just turn the whole damn jukebox off.

Stuart’s dancer friends walked through the front door and met us at the bar. Eugene walked over to us, grabbed his beer, and let us know that things were getting pretty heated with Dustin at the pool table. We all stood and watched Dustin argue with the barflies for a minute and I nearly forgot that Frosty the Snowman was playing overhead. Stuart put $40 in the jukebox and played only different versions of Frosty the Snowman, each with a different introduction so the lucky patrons of Brady would have to sit through a few seconds of something fresh before it all started again. I noticed a couple people at a table in the corner looking around, to see who “did it,” and then I noticed a barfly at the bar staring right at us. It occurred to me, “Hey Stuart, we’re probably the only people in this bar that haven’t come here every single day for the last twenty years.” “Right,” Stuart chuckled. “No, I mean. I think they know it was us.” Stuart perked up and yelled across the tavern, “Dustin, put the cue down, forget about it, we’re leaving!” And before the door closed behind me, I saw the bartender reach for a little remote behind the cash register.

            We continued walking down Second Avenue, now looking for a place to eat, and that’s never an easy thing to do when you’re in your mid-twenties and with five other people. In five blocks we walked past two Spanish restaurants, three American, three Italian, a seafood, and a Mexican restaurant. And not a single one of which we could agree on. We walked up and past each once again, and while standing in front of a Japanese restaurant (that we hadn’t noticed before), still deliberating, we realized that we had lost Stuart. He was spotted slipping into Comic Strip Live, a club across the street. The Broadway dancers followed him into Comic Strip immediately, and Dustin, Eugene, and I were on their heels when two of our friends who had split off earlier found us crossing the street. We all agreed that we were hungry, and irritable. We were hangry. We wanted to find Stuart, the dancers, and then to grab some food. There was nothing more important in that moment.

Comic Strip Live was packed, and it was standing room only. The five of us looking for Stuart were getting a number of strange looks, and eventually a small handful of people stopped us to tell us that this was a private party, and that we needed to leave. “We’re on our way out, we lost a few of our friends here. We’re just trying to find them.” I looked at Dustin and he was staring at the stage at the back of the room. “Oh shit.” I remember blurred faces, heads, and bodies, and the white and red checkered world spinning around me as I turned in the direction of Dustin’s line of sight. Standing with his back to the packed private party in front of an exposed brick backdrop and on top of the stage was Stuart.

“Coming to America” by Neil Diamond started playing, and on the stage, with his back still to us Stuart raised his arm and pointed toward the ceiling, he was holding a microphone. During the song’s intro Stuart started to improv a monologue, and it was then that the audience turned on him. The outline of Stuart’s face with the microphone pressed to his mouth, his poor attempt at singing “Coming to America,” as it rattled overhead, in between his angry thrusts and shouted profanities toward the private party, was the catalyst to the realization that, “We need to get out of here.” The crowd didn’t tackle Stuart per se, but they did try to pry the microphone from his hands, and as far as Stuart was concerned, they would have to be his cold, dead hands. I turned toward the entrance, trying to come up with an exit strategy, and when I looked back Stuart was laying on the floor, he held the microphone tightly to his lips, he was pushing himself with his feet, and sliding across the floor, he was still singing, and there were dozens of outstretched hands reaching for him.

When the crowd picked Stuart up off the floor, and the crowd, now an angry mob, started moving toward the exit, the five of us pushed our way through the front doors. We had lost the dancers, none of us would ever see or hear from them again. We stood outside waiting for Stuart to be tossed out, or something, I’m not sure what we were expecting exactly, but we were still mapping our exit strategy down the streets of the Upper East Side. Suddenly we could hear Stuart right behind us. He was chatting it up with a cute member of the Comic Strip mob, “Stuart, hey, we should go.” “Hey! That’s my girl. What the f$&k you are doin’ talking to my girl?” When we looked at Stuart again this girl’s boyfriend was in Stuart’s face. So naturally, Stuart challenged him to a race. And the terms would go as follows. Stuart would have to run backward around a parked car twice, before the girl’s boyfriend could run around it, forward-facing, and only once. Everyone stood there frozen for a moment, as one might do in such a confounding situation, until the faceless second assassin from the grassy knoll yelled, “Go!”

Stuart was off to a great start, he had almost completely rounded the parked car using his long, low backward strides, until he got his foot caught on the tire of a parked van in front of the course, and as the boyfriend was rounding the street side of the car, and heard Stuart cry out in pain, the boyfriend turned his head back just in time to not see an elderly woman exiting a taxi that had stopped in the street. The boyfriend slammed into the open door knocking the elderly woman to her knees, before he fell, and nearly rolled under the parked course. The elderly woman yelled out, “Oh my God!” as she fell, and Dustin, Eugene, and I helped her to her feet. “What the hell are you people doing?” We looked around, “I, uh…” we shrugged.

Shortly after, the crowd had dissipated, Stuart had his arms wrapped around Eugene and my shoulders as we helped him to the nearest subway station. The train ride was quiet, and contemplative, the adrenaline was beginning to wear, and we started to remember how hangry we were. We helped Stuart to his building and up his—however many—floors walk-up, and then knocked on his apartment door. Stuart’s girlfriend opened the door and saw us standing there, Stuart’s arms wrapped around our shoulders, his right leg lifted and bent at the knee to avoid using or bumping his foot against anything, and she said, “Oh God, what happened?” The four of us that had made it through the night took turns exchanging glances, and then I broke out into uncontrollable laughter, and everyone else did the same, except for Stuart, and his girlfriend.  

And we never did see A. Rod.  

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.