Ladies, gentlemen: pity the office workers of Lower Midtown. They report, every day, to one of the least interesting, most tourist-heavy sections of New York. They have been accidentally included in at least 5,000 digital photos of the Empire State building. They cannot walk for more than ten feet without encountering (a) an out-of-towner in need of directions or (b) a table arrayed with knock-off handbags and/or perfume. They get home by forcing their way, inch by bloody inch, through the wall of human flesh which invariably surrounds the 34th Street – Herald Square subway station, and which, in the dark days of the Macy’s Christmas window display (“look at Santa! No, seriously, stand immobile in the middle of the sidewalk with your mouth wide open, blocking all traffic, and just look!”) achieves a density and force that causes one invariably to recall both salmon struggling upstream to spawn and the last moments of this guy.
The Zipper Tavern
The Zipper Tavern is a truly superior Midtown bar. If you are have the misfortune to be sober and also stuck in Midtown, the Zipper Tavern is there to help you. This is because they have a fine selection of endrunkening beverages, and also a bartender named Andrew who is from New Zealand and loves PJ Harvey (why are Peej B-sides not continually playing everywhere? This would improve my life) and occupies some hithertofore undiscovered space on the friendly/grizzled spectrum. Oh, and also, there is an upper deck where you can (ssshhhhh) smoke while you drink, and if you appreciate the double-headed self-destruction of smoking con alcohol (my favorite scenes in Mad Men are always those wherein somebody casually lights a cigarette and pours out a Scotch on the rocks and then, like, performs brain surgery) that is just about perfect. Also, if you are me – and why aren’t you, already? – Andrew will buy back lots of your drinks. This is because a year ago at this time, the Zipper Tavern was pretty much empty pretty much every night, and I and my friends were the only people who drank there, chiefly because of the whole “no Midtown douches present” factor. Then they underwent some bullshit retooling to make it more “accessible,” and it promptly filled up with Normal People – I swear, I once heard one of them ask for a “cran-tini” at the bar as if that were an actual drink – with the end result being that if you do not get there early there are no good seats and the douches have taken over and you end up being a total asshole and complaining loudly to your friends that “before these tools showed up, we pretty much paid rent on this place, and now we can barely get a drink.”
In related news, I was unable to go to the Zipper Tavern on Friday because it had been rented out for a private party. BALLS.
Quick question: how misogynist is Katy Perry? Very, I am thinking; all of her Super Fun Empowering Girls Versus Boys ballads seem to hinge on hating girls and/or femininity and/or queers, usually queer dudes, because they are (in the cramped, enclosed world of Katy Perry’s mind) girly. There is, of course, “I Kissed a Girl,” in which other girls are tools she uses to turn on a guy, because she has no sexuality that is not a performance for the male gaze, and that’s so totes empowering, obvs. There is the current single, which opens with “you change your mind / like a girl changes clothes / you PMS like a chick,” because obviously the worst thing you can do to a man is compare him to a woman, because we are all awful! Then, of course, there was the trailblazing first single, “Ur So Gay,” which goes something like, “you listen to indie rock and read, therefore I suspect you are a homosexual.” (No one “reads in the rain,” Katy. The pages get wet. Had you ever opened a book, or acquainted yourself with the physical properties of one, you would know this.)
At times, it seems that my entire life comes down to Katy Perry. I used to work for folks who shared a publicist with her, meaning that I was requested to write about 9,000 articles regarding her clothes, concerts, singles, and Feminist Impact on Pop Culture (which is, as we’ve established, ridiculous, AND YET: like Sex & the City or Camilla Paglia or Sarah Palin, she adheres to an anti-feminism that sells itself by yelling “girl power” a lot, and this fools many people, which is why I fear her). Not wanting to screw over my editors, whose relationship with said publicist would, I then feared, be disrupted by my agreeing to write a post on Katy Perry and turning in something that began, “Katy Perry is a festering sore on the labia of humanity,” I politely requested that the assignments be turned over to other, less rageful girls. I did write one article on her eventually and it was so divided between hatred and the need to be polite about it that I now believe it to be the worst thing I have ever been paid $10 for. Now, of course, I know that I might as well have written a hit piece, since one of the Katy Perry Brand’s qualities is “controversy,” and bad reviews only feed the beast. I thought, after that whole thing, that I would be done with her, aside from the inevitable, “ha ha, why don’t you write something about Katy Perry, ha ha ha?” ribbing that has characterized my life since she first rose to prominence. Then this popped up in my hometown. Then a friend of mine was asked to write songs for her next album. I can’t wait for the breakout single, “I H8 U Because U Don’t Uphold Traditional Gender Roles In Which I Am Subordinate 2 U,” or, as it is alternately known, “R U a Homo?”
Anyway, guys: I could say a lot of bad things about Concrete, the bar directly next to the Zipper. I could say, for example, that it is so aggressively Normal I suspect it attracts people who think the newly Normalized Zipper is too “weird.” I could say that they have a $14 cheese plate, yet the bartender doesn’t know how to make a whiskey sour. I could say that I would bet they serve “cran-tinis” there. It would all be true. Yet, of all the terrible things I have to say about Concrete, the worst is this: in the time that it took me to finish one gin and tonic, I heard all three Katy Perry singles. In a row.
The Distinguished Wakamba Lounge
Oh, my God.
Oh, my God, oh, my God, oh, my God.
This is the best bar I have ever been to in my life.
So, it’s right next to a peep show, right, and also right next to a Gray’s Papaya, which means that, at any point during your visit, you could step out for a hot dog… OR A WEINER. These are the sorts of amazing pun opportunities The Distinguished Wakamba Lounge provides. Then there is the fact that “The Distinguished” is part of its name, as if the bar were in Congress. (You know who else is “in congress?” Probably some dudes at the peep show! KAPOW. Thank you, thank you!) There is also the fact that it is decorated in the kind of kitschy plastic Hawaiian exotica that I had despaired of ever again seeing in my life, and that it is at present further augmented by being draped head-to-toe in seasonal Christmas tinsel and blinking lights, so that, when I entered, I stood dazed for several seconds, wondering, where the hell am I? like the heroine of one of those children’s stories in which a lucky girl stumbles into a closet or a rabbit hole or a tornado and ends up in a surreal dreamscape.
They can make you a whiskey sour at The Distinguished Wakamba Lounge. That much is easy. What is not easy, in my experience, is trying not to stare at the bartender, who was, at the time of my visit, wearing cut-off denim hot pants and a rhinestone-encrusted leotard that was precisely the same color as her skin and was cut out around her abdomen like a particularly newfangled late ’80s/early ’90s swimsuit. If one got the sense that this outfit were required, one would of course be greatly offended and skeeved out, but after looking at the other bartenders, it would seem that this was not the case: like most women working food or drink service (yours truly, at one point in time, included) they were a little tarted up for tips, but not at the naked-rhinestone-swimsuit level; it would simply seem that, upon waking up that day, this particular bartender thought, “whatever shall I wear to work?” and answered her own question with, “why, a glittery leotard and some hot pants, of course.” There was not a shred of irony to this outfit, yet it was ridiculous in ways Dov Charney could only ever crudely approximate and/or dream of, and when she approached me I was so viscerally struck by it that my head wobbled a little on my neck and I gained a new sympathy for the old perverts who used to steal glimpses down my shirt back when I waitressed. (Not that much sympathy. They were old perverts.) So I meekly ordered my drink and retreated to a table, where I promptly began texting everyone I knew about this AMAZING BAR.
At which point the person I had been waiting to hear from called me, and I left the bar with such speed that I actually injured myself on the door frame. Yet it is an enduring testament to the beauty and charm of the Wakamba Lounge that, for the first time in my life, I was sorry to be leaving Midtown.