Sitting in Bars and Talking Nonsense

A week ago, I sat down at a bar in the West Village for a long overdue drink with a friend. Amongst the white table cloths, worn oak bar, and dusty glass bottles of Cafe Loup I asked him what he’d been up to, and he said, “A lot of this,” motioning to sitting at a bar and simply talking with a friend. I don’t know if it was his sentiment or the setting but reminded me of the creatives of the past. Writers and artists that we all claim to be our heroes, who were never as constantly connected we are, but instead where granted the luxury of time, the freedom to just call up a friend and talking nonsense.

The Beat Generation and the New York School inhabited city haunts like the The Cedar Tavern and The White Horse Tavern while over in Europe, Picasso, Hemingway and their respective crews frequented Parisian locales like Henry’s New York Bar and La Rotonde as a way to let their current ideas breathe, while all the while formulating new new ones. These men and women would pass the hours in bars, talking, smoozing, socializing, but more importantly they were simply getting drunk. Leaving their work was a way to stimulate it all over again.

Sure they might’be been talking about the worries of the world, but more than likely they just rambled on about nonsense. Escaping into their conversations, they left work behind to give it all a rest. So, step away, escape the cold, and whatever’s on your mind, go to a bar, stop worrying about seam allowances and lapel heights, go talk with a friend, change your perspective, tie on one, and just let time pass. You’ll be sharper when you return.

The Cedar Tavern - While it unfortunately shuttered way back in 2006, the Cedar Tavern, located on University Place between 11th and 12th streets in New York, was once the place where Jackson Pollack and William de Kooning crossed paths with Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. Nights at The Cedar Tavern were notoriously wild, case in point Kerouac, who was allegedly banned for peeing into an ashtray.

La Rotonde – An outdoor cafe on the Montparnasse Quarter of Paris, La Rotonde was popular with everyone from Diego Rivera to Amedeo Modigliani to Picasso to Hemingway. La Rotonde became so beloved by Parisian artists and writers they often worked the cafe into their own pieces.

Chumley’s - Another West Village bar that became a favorite amongst New York writers. Dark enough to get drunk in, worn-out enough to not care, and busy enough to steal a bit of dialogue from anyone at any given time.

Harry’s New York Bar – Opened in 1911, Harry’s not only has the dubious honor of being the birthplace of the Bloody Mary, but was also frequently visited by Bogart, Gershwin, and Hemingway (who let’s face it was a staple at pretty much every Parisian bar.) Although, It was Ian Fleming who had the most legendary experience with Harry’s. At the ripe age of sixteen Fleming was visiting Paris when he stopped by Harry’s and got so drunk he not only lost his mind, but his virginity along the way.

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7 comments
  1. Ndu said:

    Oh my that just inspired my soul. There is something so deeply romantic about literary heroes in dim bars drinking rum over some witty banter that is actually profound. My how I wish…

  2. Joy said:

    Great piece. Something to ruminate on is always nice.

  3. Drinking to history, what I’d give to have a beer with Hemingway

  4. Mike said:

    For a young cat, you really speak my language. Keep up the interesting writing and good taste.

  5. Nice Classic Pix. Pretty stylish duds too! I do wonder how they all remembered so much after all that drinking, but sounds like it was a good time. And I always wondered where Pollack was doing all his drinking when I watch the movie about his life and art. Thanks!

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