My Favorite Bartender in New York City

Photograph by Jose Padua
My favorite bartender in New York
wasn’t much for giving out free rounds
and if you drank all night and ended up
getting a single free drink thrown your
way you were having a pretty good night.
My favorite bartender in New York wasn’t
some hot young thing with a sexy foreign
accent but a woman in her 60s who’d say
“Nice to see youse guys” whenever I went
there with one or two of my friends and
“Nice to see youse” whenever I went there
alone. At the old Scorpio bar on Avenue A
you never saw anyone famous because
anyone who was a celebrity conveniently
seemed to go there only on the days
you didn’t so you could drink in peace
without distraction. If there was anything
on the jukebox more recent than Tony Bennett
singing “I Wanna Be Around to Pick Up
the Pieces” you knew better than to play it
more than once a night if you were a regular
and wanted to stay one. When the simple
neon sign in the plate-glass window was on
and the bar was open you knew the day wasn’t over
nor was your life no matter how fast it seemed
to be going in dangerous directions and whatever
needed to be said or heard could be said or heard
inside. I wish I could say that the day Sally
my favorite bartender in New York died
was when I quit drinking so much but it wasn’t.
That, like many other things, happened slowly
over years that were stretched and twisted into
lovely shapes like so much heavy bleeding,
and bred in different spaces more scattered
than all the beautiful mistakes and lucky errors
ever made by any man or woman and me on
the lower east side of Manhattan, New York, USA.

-Jose Padua

Photograph by Jose Padua

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