Note: This is a continuation of yesterday's blog....
It helps to be 26 years old if you are going to awaken in a very dirty and dusty firetrap after a night of adventure. Older folks couldn't take it. But, Tom and I were young---I was 26 and he was about the same---so the dump in which we were staying for the weekend was a minor distraction.
I was up early and rarin' to go see the city. But Tom, unfortunately, had consumed copious amounts of spiritous liquors the previous evening and was not able to get out of bed. I kept hearing a low pitched "Oooooaaaahhhhhh" from under his pillow. Long story short, we were not able to get out of the hotel until noon.
By that time, we were both very hungry. So, the first thing we had to do was find a place to eat. I could have eaten anywhere, but Tom was single and he wanted to have a chance at meeting a member of the opposite sex. We hailed a cab. Tom asked the cab driver where there might be a restaurant where guys like us might fit in ( I didn't want a repeat of last night's fiasco where I was accused of being a cop because I was dressed too nicely for my surroundings). The cabbie said he knew just the place.
He drove us to a restaurant called "Friday's". I believe the eatery was at the corner of 1st Avenue and 63d in Manhattan. The cabbie told Tom if he couldn't meet a nice lady in that restaurant, there was somethin' bad wrong with him.
We got there around 1:00. We sat at the bar. We ordered lunch. Tom also ordered the first of what would become MANY beers. Yes, I was discovering lots of things, and one of them was that Tom had a drinkin' problem.
I struck up a nice friendship with the barkeep. He told me that Friday's was known as a "singles bar". He said it was the first restaurant of it's kind. He said that single men and women came there to meet. He said that around 5:00 the place would be so packed with women that Tom should have no problem meeting and talking to whomever he chose.
Of course, this sounded incredible to me. I had never heard of a "singles bar". I wasn't sure I believed him. The barkeep advised us to keep our seats at the bar because once we got up we would never be able to get our seats back. So, we sat there, me nursing two beers for several hours, and Tom downing about 12 of 'em. I recall we were watching a basketball game on the TV behind the bar---LSU was playing, and you may remember they had a total sensation of a guard named Pete Maravich. I vividly remember this game, because Pete Maravich was a magician. He scored fifty something points and had a gazillion assists and anyone watching that game was completely blown away by his performance.
Anyway, after the game, the place started to fill up, just like the bartender said it would. The place was soon teeming with single, beautiful, friendly women. Tom was talking with three at once. A huge group of them was pressed around the bar.
The barkeep came up to me and said, "Guys, my shift is ending now. I've really enjoyed talking with you. You know, I really like guys from the south. When I was in the army, I was stationed in South Carolina. So, I'll tell ya what---your tab is taken care of for today. Anything you want, just tell my brother---he's relieving me, and it'll be free. Dinner's on us! Have a great evening!"
Wow! People were so friendly! One of the girls standing next to me told me that New Yorkers especially like people who are different. And, Tom and I were different! We looked different and we talked different.
Tom soon paired up with one of the ladies and disappeared. I didn't see him again until Monday morning---he did manage to find his way back to the company headquarters in New Jersey. I made my way back to the Van Rensselaer hotel that Saturday night, another day in New York completed. My education was continuing.
Sunday morning, I was up and walking through the canyons of the city. For hours I walked, taking in the atmosphere. The streets were almost deserted. I ate breakfast at a diner. I gave a beggar 50 cents. I caught a cab back to New Jersey. I never forgot that weekend, the magic of the city, the friendliness of the people, the broad spectrum of sights, sounds and smells.
Although I have been back to New York many times over the years, I still feel the unique power of its personality. But, that one magic weekend in the fall of 1970 made a lifelong impression on a young man from the south.
---Near as I can determine, the Van Rensselaer hotel was purchased by the Cardozo Law School and refurbished as living space for its students. I am not sure, but today it may also be a co-op. Oddly, try as I did, I could find no photographs of the old building
---I believe the original Friday's has been closed, but there are many others now located near its original location in Manhattan
---Credence Clearwater Revival became one of my all-time favorite groups. They disbanded in the early 1970s, but the great John Fogerty still performs. Funny how our individual tastes in music continue to develop as we age