THE LAST FIVE ...

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101 in 1001
American Road Trip, 1998


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Sunday, July 27, 2003 - 10:23 p.m.

Old Town in the afternoon

It was like there was a quota: As one man dressed in a red Hawaiian-print shirt walked out of the Old Town Bar on 18th St., another walked in. They passed at the door, two Hawaiian shirts passing in the afternoon.

While Jim bought theater tickets in Times Square and Carol browsed the Chelsea shops on Broadway and the other couple enjoyed six floors of ABC Carpet and Home, Casey and I ducked into the cool, dark, comfortable Old Town and agreed, once and for all, that it is our favorite New York bar. If we ever move to the City, we said, it has to be near Union Square. It has to be near Old Town. Ornate decorative panels on the ceiling, colorful tile arrangements on the floor, stained and foggy mirrors bearing the grime of decades behind the bar. And yet, the bartender, on a slow afternoon, removed the bottles of liquor one-by-one, wiped them down with a formerly-white-but-now-gray rag and then Windexed the mirrors themselves.

"I don't think that's going to do much good on those mirrors," Casey said, and she was right.

The second man in the Hawaiian shirt, now sitting two stools to my left at the bar, drank two glasses of cheap white wine and talked the barkeep's ear off about baseball and fitness clubs and marriage.

"Last time I was in here I tied one on," he had said when he sat down. You could tell immediately he was the kind of guy who's going to talk your ear off about boring, nonsensical things.

"I figure I should clean the place about once a month," the bartender said with a laugh. You could tell he knew what I was talking about.

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