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Jose Padua: My Favorite Bartender in New York City

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.


Copyright 2021 Jose Padua



8 comments on “Jose Padua: My Favorite Bartender in New York City

  1. Rosemary Roenfanz
    December 31, 2021

    I absolutely love this poem! For some reason it simply grabbed me and wouldn’t let go until I read the very last word which I didn’t want to arrive at because I simply hoped the words would keep going and the sentences keep running into each other until I had to breath but then it stopped and my joy ended.

    Please write more!!


  2. Barbara Huntington
    December 31, 2021

    I must have gone to bars with my first husband but before that it was all coffee houses. I vaguely remember bars in Mexico, hoping he would not drink to viciousness. Michael, I will send you a story snd poem privately about the only bar that I will never forget—Hussong Cantina in Ensenada, Mexico.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. melpacker
    December 31, 2021

    Excellent piece and fitting for New Years Eve. Thanks for posting it. My own remembrance of a favorite bartender was eons ago at a joint called something like Atwood Bar and Grill on (of course) Atwood St in the Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Oakland was then still what we would call a neighborhood, not yet taken over by landlords and predatory corporations busting up homes into bus station lockers for Pitt students. We, my then wife who was 5 months pregnant and I, had come back to Pgh from a CA sojourn to live at 430 Atwood St in a third-floor walkup. Just a few blocks away was this neighborhood bar, not yet discovered by students even though only one block from Forbes Ave, with a skinny handle-bar mustached bartender whose name has long ago escaped what little memory remains. But we went there a few times a week to hang out with some local residents who drank harder and longer than I did. My then wife’s pregnancy barred her from most alcohol, but her coming delivery was well anticipated by patrons with whom we had at least become friendly acquaintances. When the time finally came and she gave birth to a healthy boy, we wasted little time in taking him in a carrier to put him on display at the bar. We, and he, were welcomed with open arms and dollar bills that kept getting stuffed into his carrier as if he was a topless dancer with whom our friends and the bartender (who had announced our arrival) wished to become a favored customer. We had many more nights in the Atwood Bar but nothing matched that first night we brought a new child into a community of caring, gentle people.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sean Sexton
    December 31, 2021

    We went to a bar at 8:30 AM Christmas Eve Morning on our way to pick up a standing rib roast at the abattoir’s in downtown Vancouver, WA. My son in law born of the Northwest—where they have a whole different standard for alcohol consumption both with regard to time and occasion, insisted we stop in this place on the main street on our way and we started right in, dark Basil Hayden rye Old Fashioned’s she suggested when we told her we were whiskey drinkers. The girl, ivory skinned, pierced, with sleeve tattoos on her exposed creamy arms referred to herself as a “Mixologist” and to think of her otherwise was a “deal breaker.” I’ve never been inebriated in that hour, much less the day before Christmas and how gladly I became so. Somehow we made it home with the meat. I have a beautiful picture of her arms, in my phone I wish I could share here. They were leafy and evocative, grecian. Who knows what we remember and why—what we love of our moments in this world, and what, let loose.

    Liked by 1 person

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This entry was posted on December 31, 2021 by in Poetry and tagged , .

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