There are few things I love more than a nasty dive bar. Beer is the same everywhere, and I prefer to drink it someplace where it's not marked up too much, and the atmosphere is subdued and unpretentious. Like a lot of the finer things New York, the city's dive bars are disappearing. In the last year or so we've lost O'Connor's, Odessa, Blarney Cove and many more whose losses are, I'm sure, just as gut wrenching, but which I myself never frequented. These bars are old growth timber—alcoholic redwoods—and when they fall, they can't be replaced.
I'd read on Fucked In Park Slope that Jackie's Fifth Amendment, the last dive bar standing in my evermore bank branchified patch of Park Slope, was on its way to joining that list. It's a peculiar bar, and one at which I've never felt entirely at home, mainly because most of its bar stools are permanently occupied by men of 60 and up, as though sometime around 1980 they decided to actively discourage the acquiring of new clientele. It is dark, the back room is musty, and there is usually not much to do there but stand awkwardly and pretend not to be upsetting the average age of the place. But the beer is cheap and comes in pony bottles, and it is a fine place to drink once in a while. Last call was set for September 16, and I planned to go and say my goodbyes, as I did for fair Blarney, but I missed the closing.
And so it was a pleasant surprise, last night around 7 o'clock, to walk up from the G train and find Jackie's still humming along, as though the bar closed but nobody bothered to tell the regulars. I stepped in for a quick beer—in those 7 oz bottles, ever beer is a quick one—and decided to let that serve as my goodbye, if indeed the bar is going. I sat for fifteen minutes, eavesdropped, and overheard some of the craziest dialogue I've heard in years.
To my right, a man bitched about his family's upcoming trip to the theater district:
They got three tickets to the Lion King, and I'm not going to see the Lion King. I like, Broadway shows, I like the Fiddler on the Roof. I never saw the Broadway show, but I saw the movie. And that, that fucking Springtime For Hitler, that I took you to see? I never saw the Broadway show, but I saw the movie.
Good stuff, I thought, and settled in to soak up his opinions on Broadway theater while I finished my tiny High Life. My attention was quickly picked up, however, by the men to my left, who blew "that fucking Springtime For Hitler" right out of the water. Two men, a moustachioed 50-something and a rumpled 70 year-old, traded a pair of intense stories with all the emotion I might use to discuss a baseball team I don't care about.
Moustache: A friend of mine, when we were kids I used to play stickball with him. We had a falling out, and lost touch. A few years ago, I was talking to his sister, asked her, how is he? She said, 'You didn't hear? He's in jail for 125 years, on five murders.' He fell in with the wrong people. He killed three prostitutes, didn't rape them but he shot them, a store owner, and a priest.
Old man: A priest?
M: Yep. Just walked into the rectory and shot him. And he's in for 125 years. He'll never get out.
O.M. That's just like my younger son.
M: He'll never get out. Been up for parole three, four times. He'll never get out.
O.M.: That's just like my younger son. He always liked to fuck around with younger girls. And I told him, that's what you want, that's fine, but wait until they're a little older. And he said, but I like it! And I said, you're going to get in trouble. And he was fucking around with this Mexican girl. This was before we moved to Connecticut, and he was fucking around with this Mexican girl. And I told him, I hope she's a great hump.
M: I bet.
O.M.: And then we moved to Connecticut, and he was fucking around with this girl up there. Somehow he ended up getting eight years. All right, that's okay, doesn't matter to me. He does his eight years, gets out, and—
M: And he's fucking around with young girls again.
O.M.: And now, with time served, whatever, he gets twenty years. I remember being in the courtroom, watching him, he came up to his mother, he couldn't even look at me. He said, I'm sorry mom. I'll do my twenty years. He couldn't even look at me. He's got ten years left.
M: How long has he been in?
O.M.: Ten years.
M: And how old is he?
M: So he'll get out, forty, forty five. They let em out a little early.
O.M.: But I'm 70 years old!
M: Oh, so you'll probably be gone by the time he gets out.
O.M.: He'd better hope I'm not.
Thank you, Jackie's, for reminding me that anytime I think New York is boring, it's because I'm hanging out in the wrong places. Walking away I thought, "Jeez, that's straight out of Elmore Leonard." But it's not, actually—it's just straight out of Jackie's, in Park Slope, in 2013. Happily, the bar may be sticking around.