Wednesday, February 2, 2011

First Visit To New York City, Part II

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


  1. I have been to New York a few times and I have to say that I found it to be very unfriendly. Maybe I am used to Pittsburgh, because we always rank high on the friendly chart. Or maybe the times have changed. Glad you had such a good experience.

  2. What an enjoyable the last two blog are. I enjoyed the read very much.

    Thanks for your visit, glad you liked my pic on the slide, hope they got some in Nashville.
    I was supposed to have gone last June but owing to flooding there in the April it was postponed until now.


  3. Neat memories, for sure. My hubby and I went to NYC for a weekend when we first started dating. It was an adventure and lots of fun - and those cab rides! Yikes! Nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there. I'm a hermit and a country gal all the way...

  4. I loved the recounting of your experiences in New York City. Did you keep in touch with Tom over the years? Have a great day. Blessings...Mary

  5. Jane---Believe me, I had heard all the stories of NYC rudeness, but I must say I was very pleasantly surprised.

    But I've also been to Pittsburgh, and it is indeed a most friendly place.

  6. Hi Clint,
    thank you for your memories.

    Can you tell me abaout the blizzard in the USA?
    Look here:

    I thought of you 'cause you are living in Texas.
    And the blizzard goes over Texas.

    I hope you are allright.

    Many Greetings Sabine

  7. Yvonne---thanks for your kind comments about my story. My wife, Cindy, has had a painting hanging in the lobby of the Opryland Hotel in Nashville for many years. The painting---and others, were removed during the floods. We don't know what they did with them, if they were re-hung or what. We are anxious to see the refurbished hotel on our next trip.

  8. Texwisgirl---I couldn't AFFORD to live there!---even if I wanted to, which I don't. Ha.

  9. Mary---thank you for your kind comments. No, I lost track of Tom a long time ago. He was a real character. I have often thought of him as being a lot like Joe Buck---Jon Voight's character in "Midnight Cowboy".

  10. Hi sabine---Yes, my friend, we have pretty bad conditions here in north Texas. Out temperatures fell into the teens yesterday, with snow and ice. Because of the heavy power demands, we are experiencing rolling, controlled power outages every two hours or so. These outages last about 20 minutes each. The freezing conditions are expected to last until Sunday. Thank you for asking, and best wishes to you!

  11. Nice your story in two episodes :-))
    I've never been to New York (and one of my dreams) by reading I learned a little!
    I saw on TV the snowstorm, I hope everything goes well!
    Ciao my friend,a hug!!

  12. It's fun to read your stories.

    I've heard about the weather conditions over at your place. Hope you are doing fine.


  13. Franz and Petra---Thank you both for your comments. Everything is fine here---the freeze will last until Saturday. After that, we will get back to normal. Blessings to you both.

  14. Hi Clint -

    Thank you for sharing your NY adventure from your youth.

    New York is one of my favorite places to visit...

  15. Hi Clint,
    the best wishes from me.

  16. That is quite a memoir you have going here. I have been to NYC once...and I'll never forget it