I don’t know what to say about Johnny’s. I don’t know how many hours I have spent there. How many dollars drunk and how many songs played on the juke box. Christmas Day one year, right before I got married, right after i got married, to celebrate my grad school graduation, to celerate the birth of my daughter, the arrival of a friend and her departure a few months later. To celebrate that it was Tuesday, to console a friend, to mend a heart, to drink because it was quittin time or because it was noon. And every single time, every single time for the last 10 years that I’ve been in there, I’ve played at least one song. And it never gets old.
[wpaudio url="http://theaboutness.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/A-Long-December.mp3" text="A Long December - Counting Crows" dl="0"]
Once, some guy tried to sell me a green laser from the eye ward at St. Vincents, it could burn a hole in a garbage bag or paint a plane 15000 feet in the air. The next night, someone else tried to sell me a watch that was full of lighter fluid and when you started the stop watch a little flame came out of the other side. I helped someone write a pretzle cookbook. Two strangers helped pick out baby names for my first kid. A co-worker barfs tequilla shots. Some girl gets naked in a window across the street. You walk in and your brother’s sitting at the bar, or your best friend, or a total stranger that is just as happy to see you as anyone else is ever going to be.
I was born in NY. And I love it. But I also know enough to know, it’s a fucking horrible city, drowning in a pestulance of unsustainable capitalist angst. Velvet ropes holding back the 20 year old sluts in short dresses trying to fuck the next partner at Goldman, meatheads and uberhipsters chasing a pair of legs or a purer line of powder in the bathroom. The streets are crowded by ceaseless illusions. Strippers on stages. Relentless competition. A neverending stream of unforgivable trespasses. Infinite objectification, specialization, untraceable trends; it is a city designed to destroy love and make simplicity complicated and everything commercial.
Johnny’s is the only place I’ve ever found that wasn’t that. The only place that was safe, or mostly so, from the insanity of the city outside. Yeah, sure, occasionally a bartender flashes her tits when things get late at night, or someone gets a little finger business at the other end of the bar, but for the most part, Johnny’s is where true denziens of the city find a place that is loud enough and not too quiet, to drink and share. To be themselves, to relax, to be whole at the bottom of a bottle.
I don’t know what it is that make’s Johnny’s what it is. Maybe it’s the bartenders. They’re phenominal. Vonya, Zach. Christie! Maybe its the simplicity of the place. The open window on the street and a summer breeze blowing in. Hudling together outside for a smoke at 2 in the December morning. Maybe it’s because it’s cheap. Maybe it’s because there’s a drawing of a robot on the wall of the bathroom. Or maybe it’s the regulars who drink there. A playwright working a script in the corner, a mechanic talking about overhead cam’s and gear ratios. A comedian and a day trader. Some punk rock guy doing shots. A nurse. A delivery guy, taking a break between rounds. I don’t know. And the best part is, if you wanna be a regular, all you gotta do is walk in and drink what you want. And if you get hungry? Order delivery. Sit at the bar, play a song, buy a round, whatever. And then do it again the next day; that’s all it takes.
Who know’s what it is, where that magic comes from. I don’t know. And i don’t even spend that much time in there. All I know is that Johnny Cash is on the juke box and so is Avril Lavigne, they make me rum punches or bloody mary’s when I ask for ‘em, they keep a tally on the board for people who buy me a drink, and I can sit in the window as long as I like with as many of my friends as I can fit inside.