THE BARTENDER KNOWS #20
Welcome back, kiddies. We’re going to have a lovely conversation about a very important activity that happens here in New York City everyday. We’re talking about tourism. Now, here’s a couple of facts I must confess. 1) I am a licensed tour guide in New York City. 2) I constructed and ran (personally) my own tourism business — giving guided walking and food tours in four different unique NYC neighborhoods. 3) Of course, because of Covid-19, my business was brought to its knees. No more tourists. All food establishments were closed (some stayed out of business). No meetings with groups of people. My whole business was reduced to rubble.
But I digress. I’m sharing this information with you because essentially, I LOVE tourists. New York City is the most visited city in all the world (only rivaled by Paris). I will say though, I have recently run into some absolute idiots deep in the heart of Manhattan (most New Yorkers would answer: “why are you surprised?”). Allow me to pass on some Bartender Knows advice to you future travelers coming to spend your hard earned cash in our fine and historic city.
WHO YOU ARE WHERE YOU LIVE IS NOT WHO YOU ARE HERE.
There I was, sitting at a bar (surprise, surprise), when a gaggle of ladies strode in. I just happened to be bitching to the bartender about the lack of women in the bar. He said: “Matt, it’s noon on a Monday.” Often times, I’m quite stupid and live in a parallel universe diametrically opposed to others. No…it wasn’t a packed bar full of fun loving visitors…every seat was taken by mildly overweight Irish and Albanian brick layers and carpenters. But I had a seat open next to me, and just seconds after I was lamenting about the members of the opposite sex, these ladies circled around me and started chatting. One of them was partially beautiful and talkative, which is a big plus. She saw me working on my manuscript.
“Oh, are you like one of those writers or something?” she asked, her accent dripping with a southern drawl. I love the Southern dialect. I didn’t love the immediate condescension. This happens all the time for writers.
(NOTE: For all you would-be writers out there — don’t let ANYONE condescend to you like this. There’s so many misnomers about the writing act. The first one is that everyone can write, like physically write. Not everyone can physically play the violin off the bat. So perhaps because every one can write with their hands, people unnaturally demote the talent of artistic writing. I don’t know. The second bullshit misnomer is that you’re not a ‘real’ artist if you’re not getting paid for it. Would you tell a plumber just because he’s not working that weekend that he ceases to be a plumber? What a reductive world view. If you write stories, you’re an author. You might not be a good one…but you’re still writing. And if you get paid, then even better. But no real writer ever solely writes to get rich. That, my friends, is a real fools errand).
Back to the girls. I stay friendly. I shoot back: “So where are you visiting from?” You could tell this offended her. “How do you know we’re visiting?”
We both knew she was lying. “Just a hunch, I guess. What do you guys do down where you’re from?” This was me trying to be friendly.
“We’re all bartenders. You should go there sometime. We the shit.”
“Savannah, Georgia. Our bar is the best around. We the shit.” What is this, we the shit, business?
“Huh,” I said. “A little far from Hell’s Kitchen, but sure, if I find myself on a bus going down south, I’ll pop in.”
The girls continued acting like they just received a Tony award for their Broadway performances. They weren’t actresses. They were sort of attractive, kind of portly and injected with an ego and narcissism that psychotic Roman Emperors would envy. They were even dismissive to the nice iron workers who merely wanted to chat. I’m sure your bar is awesome down in Savannah, but up here, sweetheart, you’re a 6 in a 10 kind of town. I even overheard the lady say: “God, what losers drink at noon?”, she quipped, sipping on her own drink.
I raised my glass. “Me! Nice to meet you!”
MAPS WILL GET YOU HURT FASTER THAN A BULLET.
Don’t do it, guys. Here’s the rules. You bust out a paper map on the streets of New York City and I almost become inclined to rob you. This applies to every major city, but especially NYC. Please don’t do it. Detail your own adventures in the privacy of your own hotel or BnB. You even have a phone that maps out your routes. Yes, I will admit, New Yorkers do love to tell people directions. It’s true. This has become a fetish for New Yorkers — explaining to people which way to go. But it always pegs you for an outsider. Yes, people will follow you. Yes, breaking out a map or even walking in a funny way can make you a mark for thieves and assholes. I hate this about humanity. I mean, be a real thief and steal from serious power jerks, not the average, working class people. I will always be a Robin Hood archetype fan (even without the bow and arrow).
When I first arrived in this town, I too wore that retched perfume of the outsider. There used to be a sort of warning when you were about to be robbed. It was usually an interracial experience, quickly followed by a phrase: “You know what time it is?” That could be loosely translated as: “You’re out of time, white boy.” It also resembles one of the most famous hustles down in New Orleans I learned the hard way. Most drunk people walking down Bourbon Street will get a very funny sort of engagement with a total stranger who says, and I quote: “I bet I know where you got your shoes at! You give me 10 bucks if I can guess where you got your shoes at!”
How could this odd stranger know where you bought your shoes? But as these graduates of the hustle learned — it’s a trick question. Of course they know where you got your shoes at…ON YOUR FEET…and they are not wrong. Now you better give them your ten dollars or it’s your ass.
Here in NYC, when you hear, “hey man, what time is it?” — that means you’re about to get a beat down. I’ve dodged most of these attacks (knock on wood). Usually you can see the attack coming, but when you’re just visiting, it’s tough to know the foreign terrain. I’ll give you a hint. I call it the “three man position”. Picture it. You’re walking down the sidewalk in NYC. A man approaches you and starts asking you dumb questions. You, as the outsider trying to be cool, engages. Little do you know, there’s a guy coming up behind you. And if you do figure out the trap, there’s a third guy across the block ready to corner you when you try to run away. Classic “three man position”. Total chicken shit move, but one well used and earned — so you best thank me for telling you about it here. Just buy my book when it comes out as compensation.
WHEN IN ROME.
I have never, ever, ever acted outside of my lane in a different city. No way. When you travel, you shut the fuck up and gauge your surroundings. Hopefully, you’ve read a thing or two about the place you’re going to. I understand the flimsy will of bouncing off to a random city or country. But please, darling, study up. Even if I’m going to St. Louis, Missouri, I will still do my research. It’s even more integral when you travel abroad to foreign speaking countries. “When in Rome”…as they say. 99% of other countries do not roll like Americans, and it’s important to remember that. If you are in Germany, drink beer. If you’re in Holland, smoke weed. If you are in Spain, take a siesta (you’ll need it). If you are in Mexico, bribe a cop (I wish I was kidding).
It’s a big world out there. The one thing you do not want to do is to disturb the locals. That’s a sure fire way to make your vacation horrible (or they will find a way to make it so).
I hate pop club music. But in Berlin, did I dance to shitty Euro Trash?
You’re damn right I did.