Saddle up! Tonight’s the night, 8pm at Parkside Lounge. Come join us for some good stories, a few laughs, some thrills, some chills, and the chance to win prizes in the 1970’s Cinema Demon Child Trivia Contest. Just $5 for all this and more!
Saddle up! Tonight’s the night, 8pm at Parkside Lounge. Come join us for some good stories, a few laughs, some thrills, some chills, and the chance to win prizes in the 1970’s Cinema Demon Child Trivia Contest. Just $5 for all this and more!
The other night I was at the bar in Keens Steakhouse. It’s kept the same Manhattan location since 1885, so it’s the very definition of old school. Hell, JP Morgan, Teddy Roosevelt and Babe Ruth used to eat here. The crowd these days is mostly businessmen having a whisky after work with their colleagues, nicely dressed couples waiting for their anniversary dinner reservation, and a few tourists with backpacks who have stumbled in after shopping at Macy’s Herald Square. Truth is, I don’t come here for the crowd. But there’s something reassuring about this place, knowing it’s been the same for all these years, and they’ll never pull the rug out from under you with some new fusion menu or start calling their bartenders mixologists. It’s one of the classic places in New York, along with KGB Bar, 21 and The Rose Room of the New York Public Library, that you could blindfold me and I’d know it by scent. Point is, here at Keens bar, it’s pretty staid under the portrait of Miss Keens and her hairless pudenda on the wall.
It was a regular night, with people trying to guess the trivia questions on the chalkboard, watching the game while keeping an eye out for empty barstools to snag. All was calm. Maybe a bit dull.
Then it happened.
It was like the door opening on a hot summer day, letting in warm air into an overly-airconditioned shop. It was a presence. Eyes looked up from tumblers, jaws dropped, audible snickering was heard and if you listened really closely, you may have even heard elbows nudging sport coat clad arms.
I turned around to see a woman with platinum blonde hair cascading all the way down to her voluptuous ass. She was about 5’4, dressed in a skin tight pink polka dot dress that stopped at mid-thigh, the thin fabric straining to contain her massive tits. The polka dot pattern had a dizzying effect, as she teteered in six-inch heels and threw her head back to laugh loudly with the men who surrounded her, tossing her hair. I was certain that if not for the din of the bar, I’d hear the tell-tale sound of exposed metal on cheap heels that are never repaired; ground down from dancing, standing around at the bar, running for the bus because it’s the last one home. It’s a tinny clack that my mother taught me to associate with “loose women” and sends me running to the shoe repair shop.
Even from a distance, I could see her nails were painted with blue sparkle polish, her lips were shiny bubblegum pink, her skin was a tanning bed induced citrus shade that I used to associate with college girls prepping for Spring Break, but now seems oddly Presidential.
She was in the place for a grand total of two minutes before I heard the woman next to me lean in and say to her husband, “Look at that trash. So disgusting.” He nodded and looked away, as though she were an actual pile of trash and he had just seen a roach scuttling out. He rested his eyes on the hairless pudenda of Miss Keens portrait. Much safer that way. Maybe he was afraid of being found out. Because maybe, just maybe, his feelings were more aligned with mine.
Me? I wanted to hug her.
The way I saw it, this wonderfully trashy blonde shook up the whole vibe of this place. Into our dreary world filled with muted shades of grey, dark brown and black, came a bolt of bombshell. This polka dotted vixen was our savior, damn it, rescuing us from the boredom of a random Tuesday! She deserved our thanks and praise, not our scorn. Hallelujah! But looking around the room, it seemed that I was alone. No one else felt moved to evangelism at the sight of this bleached and bodacious vision.
But then, I have always loved trashy blondes. I’m the only person who agrees with Truman Capote’s opinion that Audrey Hepburn was all wrong as Holly Golightly in Breakfast At Tiffany’s. Of course she was! Audrey Hepburn was too elegant, too slender, too pulled together. Did you even read the book? Capote wanted Marilyn Monroe. Vulnerable, childlike, messy and yes…a trashy blonde with a murky past and an uncertain future.
The myth of the trashy blonde is as much about a doomed ending as it is about “having more fun”. Penance, you see, for unabashedly commanding so much attention. So why do we begrudge them whatever happiness they seize? Trashy blondes are the flip side of country club blonde wives, DC Beltway blondes, ice princess WASPs. They derive no true power from it. Quite the opposite. People are often disturbed by them, deeming anyone who chooses to present themselves like that as “untrustworthy”. I once had a friend tell me over dinner she refused to hire some woman because she came to the interview with “big blonde hair” and “big red lips”. When I asked if her resume was good she said, “Well, yeah. But…” She had no excuse. I was just supposed to understand, as though it were a pact decent women make, that there is no place in civilized society for trashy blondes.
As for men? I’ve noticed something strange. They may find them attractive, but they’re secretly embarrassed by trashy blondes. Sometimes they try to change them into more acceptable women. Force them into respectability. I’ve seen these “redeemed” trashy blondes. Married, in the suburbs, their hair dyed a more palatable color, no longer wearing the heels and tight clothes. They have been subdued. Is the trade off worth it? Or are they itching for that bombshell energy again, the fuck you spirit that comes along with knowing that people think you’re trash and you don’t care?
I honestly don’t know.
Make no mistake. I’ve been a trashy blonde many times in my life. I know how it feels to have people look at you with a mixture of disgust and desire, hatred and scolding. Sometimes I chose to be a trashy blonde: strutting around in a red vinyl jacket or metallic gold boots, throwing back gin, wantonly slapping other people’s boyfriends on the back and cracking dirty jokes. And sometimes it happened by accident. I’d find myself in an environment and realize I was NOKD, “Not Our Kind, Dear”. Either way, the sheer spite directed towards me was fuel. There’s something so delicious about being despised by just the right kinds of people.
And that’s why I wanted to hug this particular trashy blonde, on this particular night. I wanted her to know I was on her side. I wanted to pull her close, smell her drugstore perfume and whisper in her ear, “Keep pissin’ them all off.”
So imagine my surprise when I heard one of the guys she was with yell out, “Hey Jennifer, our table’s ready.”
Jennifer! Could it be? I turned as she walked right past me. I got a close up look at her. It was true! Even under the very forgiving low light, I could see what her name suggested. She was not particularly young. Everyone knows that Jennifer is the most classic Gen X name out there: Jennifer Garner, Jennifer Lopez, Jennifer Aniston. Sure, you have a few outliers like Jennifer Lawrence, but as a rule, the Jennifers belong to my slacker era tribe. Here was one trashy blonde who had been at the game for a while, and it didn’t seem like she’d be “redeemed” any time soon.
Well. That was it. I couldn’t help it. I smiled at her and said, “You look beautiful!” She smiled back, big and gorgeous and kind and said, “ You too!”
And as she was enveloped by the men who escorted her to their table, I just thought, “Go on, Jennifer, go on…”
I still keep seeing tedious articles about why people are leaving NYC. Like the rest of us give a shit. Move it along, toots. Someone else will rent your cramped, overpriced, roach-infested apartment. Or not. Maybe all those crumbling apartments will be replaced by gleaming glass and steel; sterile real estate that sits empty for much of the year. And who knows, maybe I’ll be forced to move too. But you can be damn sure I’ll never write a dull “Why I Left NYC” piece. (Although I did write an essay shitting on the people who do. So I guess I do give a shit, just to throw it back at people.)
Anyway, so much is written about what’s missing from NYC; that places are shutting down, that NYC has lost all of its charm. It’s nuthin’ but chain drugstores, banks, empty storefronts (kept empty by owners hoping to fill them with more chain drugstores and banks.) A city populated by trust fund twats eating fashionable produce, wearing someone else’s ideas, binging some Netflix series and then annoying passersby with their stupid conversations about it.
But hold up!
Here’s a little something that is thriving in NYC. It may not be much, but it’s a place that I love. A place that embodies the best that this city offers: community, serendipity, connection between different kinds of people, and you can enjoy it for the price of a cup of coffee or a hot dog. Actually, you can enjoy it for free. Plenty do. Just hang around on an adjacent bench and take in the scene.
The place is called Dag’s.
Dag’s is an outdoor cafe named after Dag Hammarskjold, the Swedish economist and diplomat who served as the second Secretary General of the United Nations. Frankly, I enjoy the fact that someone who was 2nd at something is so revered around here. It gives me hope.
Point is, this cafe is named after a secondary person, nestled under a dingy orange awning in midtown Manhattan, next to the United Nations building. This is an unwritten about, unthought about, untalked about neighborhood. Sandwiched between Sutton Place (full of Old Money hold outs) and Murray Hill (where Old Money used to stash their mistresses) no one has ever thought this neighborhood was cool. It’s called Turtle Bay because at one point there were actual turtles around here. They’ve long since gone but nobody cared enough to give it another identity. Maybe that’s the point. On the taxi map of the city, this area is just a grey mass, as if depicting the grey faces of career diplomats.
But I say this neighborhood is so uncool that it circles back around and becomes cool. It’s such a peculiar mix of people; different nationalities, different professions, different age groups. And it seems like everyone comes to Dag’s. If you joined me there (and I hope you do) you might see little kids drawing with pastel sidewalk chalk, older people playing cards, my crazy neighbor (stoned off her gourd) rich women with Gucci bags, a homeless woman who wears an “I LOVE NY” shirt, Chinese tourists, a sign saying “Happy Birthday Avi!”, strollers, dogs, roller skaters, my good friend Pete and his two cute kids, Nigerian women dressed in colorful dresses, UN workers with their badges flying in the breeze, and sunbathers…all under the shadow of the Trump World Tower.
One afternoon I saw director Wes Anderson gracefully glide his Citibike into a docking station in front of Dag’s, while wearing a cream colored linen suit. He dismounted, and strode past the Church of the Holy Family as the wind tousled his hair and the church bells chimed. If I didn’t know better, I’d assume he’d directed the scene.
In the evenings there is live music sometimes, where couples dance and laugh and friends catch up on neighborhood gossip over a beer.
Dag Hammarskjold once said, “Our work for peace must begin within the private world of each one of us.”
Pretty sure he’d approve of the peaceful scene at the place named after him…
Hello…anyone out there? I’ve been a stranger around here lately, but I have news…I got hitched in New Orleans! It was just as weird and wonderful as I’d hoped, and my pal Kristyn captured it all for you to enjoy. Happy summer, everyone! Give your loved ones a kiss…
It is snowing as we pull into the Land of Love. Driving past the big red heart Cove Haven sign, my boyfriend Mike and I see their tantalizing pitch spelled out in all caps: “Recharge Your Romance, Liven Up Your Love!” The “E” in love is about to fall off.
Established in 1958, Cove Haven couples resort sits on 150 acres in the Poconos. The architecture reflects the era of its birth. The rows of one-story hotel rooms with big picture windows are straight out of a suburban 50’s dream. Couples who honeymooned here back then probably returned to cul-de-sac homes that looked very much the same.
Actually, this resort is a lesson in the history of love, where you can see the changing trends of romance across the decades: the heart-shaped whirlpool tubs that were introduced in 1963 would fit right in blonde bombshell Jayne Mansfield’s Hollywood mansion.
The Garden of Eden indoor pool, with its fake plants, faux-stone hot tubs and copious wood paneling is a horny 70’s playground.
The 7-foot-tall champagne glass hot tubs, first offered in 1984, epitomize Dynasty-era glamour. Cove Haven isn’t just a honeymoon resort. It’s a sex-fueled time trip.
After parking the car, we head to the guest services lobby to check in. Stepping over some smeared dog shit on the sidewalk, we walk in to find some vinyl chairs, a pink plastic replica of the champagne glass hot tub and a vending machine. Mike whispers,
“They weren’t lying. This place is pure romance. I’m at half-mast already.”
The woman at the front desk takes a phone call before checking us in. “Sorry about that,” she says after hanging up. “My daughter. She’s pregnant with another one.” She rolls her eyes.
“Sounds like you’re sick of it,” says Mike.
I smack his arm, housewife sitcom style. “Don’t be silly. She’s not sick of it.”
She looks up from her computer. “Hell yes I am!” she says. “I got two kids. 18 and 24. And I got four grandkids already. They’re starting too young. You know, I gave ‘em the sex talk. They just didn’t listen.”
She hands us our keys, a map of the resort and a contest entry form. “Fill this out and enter to win a free night’s stay for the next time you visit us!” As we head off to our room, Mike says, “I really hope we don’t win that contest.”
Our room is not one of the ultra-deluxe Champagne Tower Suites, but it’s one of the better, split-level ones. We open the door, immediately enveloped in the stench of industrial cleanser. It smells like a truck stop bathroom. Or that one relative’s house that no one wants to visit. The floor is wall-to-wall raspberry carpet, with matching heavy drapes. There is a fireplace and a sign next to it that says, “Got Wood?” which encourages you to hit the gift shop to pick up a Duraflame log, the only kind they allow.
Next to the fireplace is an old TV with built in VCR on a stand, a nod to ‘90s romance. There are mirrors everywhere, except the ceiling, which is a shiny black sea of adjustable star lights. I can only imagine the amount of “Big Dipper” quips that have been made in this place.
I head down the steps to what is presumably The Love Zone, where I find white stains one of the chairs and on the floor. I let out a shriek. “Holy shit! What is that? Is that cum? Mike, get over here. Look! Is this cum?”
Mike sets down the luggage and sighs. This trip was not his idea. He has the same look on his face as he had when I dragged him to Weeki Wachee mermaid park in Florida, pushed him to get our Tarot cards read by a prison warden in Ohio, and begged him to take me to a Furry convention. I am his cross to bear. He studies the suspicious stains carefully and announces,
“Unless they allow bulls in here, that’s not cum.”
I’m not convinced. “Maybe it’s multiple cum shots! Years of cum shots! Vintage cum shots!”
Mike grabs the Cove Haven brochure. “Were you not listening to Reluctant Granny when she told us how we could get a special bonus package of strawberries and whipped cream for an extra 45 bucks? If I had to guess, someone enjoyed a Vagina Sundae on that chair…and the action spilled out onto the floor.”
I look down, following the trail of whipped cream, which heads to the bathroom. It’s like Billy’s footprints in a Family Circus cartoon.
Mike has lost interest in the stains, and glares at the round bed, complete with multiple mirrored headboard.
He leaps on it, and the panels of mirrors create 8 heads. He flips me off as I take his photo.
I walk over to give him a kiss and notice a 5-fingered palm print on one of the mirror panels.
Mike leans in. “If I had to guess, someone was steadying themselves while being mounted from behind.”
His detection skills are stellar, but I’d really like some Windex.
I study the Hot Spot Daily Dose of Fun pamphlet. Supposedly, there is a Chief Excitement Officer to guide us through all of the fun activities. We can also dial up the Fun Phone to hear more.
“Wouldn’t it be great to write that down as your profession on your tax return?” I ask. “Chief Excitement Officer.” Mike stares up at the fake star-lit ceiling glumly. The Chief Excitement Officer has his work cut out for him.
It turns out we’ve missed Bingo and the Adult Match Game. The only thing we haven’t missed out on today is the Deer Feeding, in which our Chief Excitement Officer will be feeding the deer at the Blizzard Chalet. We are encouraged to take photos. Seems to me this is a very broad interpretation of “excitement”. We can also guess how many heart-shaped candies are in the jar at the Gift Shop. They don’t say what the prize is.
“No!” shouts Mike. “What if we win another night’s stay? Fuck that. Let’s get a drink. I need one.”
We head off to Spooner’s Sports Bar and Grill. Outside, some couples are attempting to snow tube down the hill. But it is slushy and this is unsatisfying. I expect they’ll be joining us at the bar soon.
Despite its amorous name and flirty cartoon spoon couple logo, Spooner’s is most definitely not romantic. It’s all florescent lights, and the mingling scents of old French fry grease and mop bucket water. The bar overlooks a basketball court behind glass. There are pool tables upstairs, along with a stuffed animal grab claw machine, and a games room downstairs. Among the video games, there is a vestige of what this place used to be: an abandoned coat check encased fancy brass trim. At least, I think it was a coat check. I’m no archeologist. But it’s used for storage now. Somehow it makes me sad to see it collecting dust. I imagine perfume-scented brocade opera coats and felt fedoras in there, once upon a time.
The only romantic touch in here now is the music, which I find out is the same all over the resort: Lionel Richie, Elton John, Marvin Gaye. Love-makin’ standards. Billy Joel’s “Just The Way You Are” comes on and I’m reminded of my dad’s rant whenever he’d hear it:
“This guy is such a prick. ‘I don’t want clever conversation, I never want to work that hard?’ So he just wants to bang some dumb bimbo? I hate this song.”
No one here seems to agree with my dad. The various couples all seem very mellow and happy. They are all different age groups, different shapes and sizes, wearing assorted styles of clothing. I look around and think,
“Wow. All these people are going to have sex with each other tonight. There truly is a lid for every pot.”
Looking out at the basketball court, Mike must be thinking something similar because he says,
“Yep. Get your hoops on and get your box pounded later on.”
When the bartender finds out we came here from New York, he tells us he hears there are several Cove Haven signs right before you enter the Lincoln tunnel. I wonder aloud if this is a sly reference to the old movie technique of implying sexual activity by showing a train go through a tunnel. He makes a fist and rams it through an “O” he makes with his hand, howling “Aw yeah!”
When he walks away Mike mutters, “A regular Casanova.”
Pretty soon it’s time for our 8pm dinner seating, and we head over to the Colosseum Restaurant. It seems there’s no reason to take the “Love Machine” van they offer, as everything is within walking distance. As we pass it, I feel slightly cheated.
Waiting in line to be seated, I see a mailbox and some stationary. You can write love letters and leave them in the mailbox, to be posted on the Cove Haven website. I grab a couple sheets and toss them in my purse for later. As we get closer to the hostess stand, I notice that a mouse has decided to join us. I step back and let out a little shriek, but not as loud as when I thought I saw cum on the carpet. I look around to see if anyone else noticed. The couple behind us says, “Yeah, we saw him too. Isn’t he cute? You can’t blame him for coming inside. It’s cold out there.”
I’m starting to think Mike and I are the only ones not wrapped up in the passionate joys of Cove Haven. Love does crazy things to people, I guess. I quietly tell the hostess that there is a mouse sniffing around. She grins and says, “Well, we’ll put him on the menu as an appetizer!”
I do not think this is the first mouse she’s seen here in the Land of Love.
After we eat, wondering if the mouse had also enjoyed the breadcrumbs on my stuffed chicken, I hand Mike a pen for his love letter. On mine I write,
“Mike, Thank you for always making me smile, Love Saara”.
Mike scribbles something on his paper and folds it. On the way out I sneak a peek before putting it in the mailbox. It is both unsigned and not addressed to anyone. It says,
“Please send help. I am stuck at Cove Haven.”
Next up, it’s the Champagne Palace nightclub. It is half-empty, but the band is actually pretty good, jumping around in the dry ice haze. The lead singer shouts out, “Everybody get up and dance!” When no one obeys, she says, “Aw shit. Well, if you can’t get up, drink up!” Somehow this convinces a few couples to dance. Even Mike seems somewhat happy. Of course, this could be because he’s on his 5th glass of whiskey.
But then the band finishes and introduces the comic and it all goes to shit.
Bad stand up comedy is something I just cannot stomach. I will sit through sleazy horror movies, crappy concerts, and read trashy novels. But if you force me to listen to bad stand up comedy I will lose my damn mind. There is something about the audacity of an unfunny person expecting me to laugh, to give them instant gratification for their lousy jokes that really pisses me off. It actually offends me.
And this guy is unbelievably bad.
To make matters worse, this is such a polite crowd that nobody heckles him. I mean, all these people want is to laugh and dance a bit before going back to their smelly, whipped cream stained rooms to get their boxes pounded. You don’t get a friendlier crowd than this. But this asshole comes out doing a Kramer from Seinfeld imitation, followed up by lame weather and driving jokes. Then he slides into his imitation of John Travolta in Grease. There is some weak laughter and at the wrong moment, when the crowd and the comic go silent I bang my fist on the table and bellow,
“This is appalling!” It echoes throughout the Champagne Palace.
A few people turn to look at me and I smile sheepishly. I feel bad now. These people are just trying to enjoy a romantic evening. So I say, “Well, maybe Coven Haven stipulates that the comics have to ‘work clean’.”
Mike frowns. “So weather jokes and John Travolta imitations would be funny if he just tossed a few “motherfuckers” into the mix? What’s wrong with this guy? It’s like he wrote his act in 1993 and never changed it.”
Mercifully, the comic finishes up and leaves the stage. The band comes back out after a costume change, but I think they’ve even had it for the evening. Before launching into their second set, they tell us there’s an after party at Spooner’s going on.
At this point, a return trip to Spooner’s seems like a good idea. We hightail it over there to find that the joint is jumpin’. They’re playing loud mix of salsa music, hip hop and classic 70’s rock and they’ve turned on some flashing colored lights. The same bartender is still on duty. He greets us by doing a repeat performance of his “train through the tunnel” hand gesture. Couples are dancing, playing pool, and a woman in high heeled boots and a mini dress is dancing while playing pool, doing high kicks, using her pool cue as a prop for her one woman chorus line.
A guy in pleated slacks his pumping his pelvis all over the place. He’s humping chairs, his wife, his wife’s friends, and the bar stools. He’s humping the pool tables and the jukebox. No one and nothing is safe from his pleated, pumping pelvis.
The song “Sweet Caroline” comes on and the woman in the mini dress and boots has forsaken her pool cue. She dances over to me, kicking up her heels, grabbing my hand, pulling me out of my seat, forcing me to chant, “So Good! So Good! So Good!” against my will. Much like when someone puts up their palm for a high five, or asks you to sign a birthday card for some dickhead at work, I have never found a polite escape from this situation.
We finally disentangle ourselves from the pelvis pumping, high kicking Spooner’s crew and head back to the room, where I decide to test out the heart-shaped whirlpool hot tub. For fear of catching crabs, I wear my bathing suit. I know that crabs are pretty much non-existent these days, but I suspect if they exist anywhere, it’s in the heart-shaped whirlpool hot tubs at Cove Haven. I dump in a bunch of body wash. The bubbles nearly overflow as I hop in. It’s actually rather pleasant. Mike dons his trunks and gets in too.
Our faces turning pink from the hot water, Mike looks at me and smiles. Could it be that he’s actually having a good time? I smile back. “Saara,” he says. “I…I…don’t ever want to come back here again. But if I have to be here, I’m glad it’s with you.”
And that night as we fall asleep, fully clothed in our round bed, under the adjustable star-lit ceiling and the palm print from an unknown sex act on the mirror above our heads, next to whipped cream stains on the chair, with the Duraflame of passion glowing in the fireplace, I figure romance is wherever you find it.
On Friday, February 16th at NYC’s Parkside Lounge, welcome to our Tourist Trap! We’ll all be telling stories about our worst vacations…so come aboard! We’re expecting you!
Nostalgia is a funny thing. Just bought the same phone I grew up with as a kid on Whidbey Island.
This hideous, shit brown phone came free with your land line back then. Just paid 50 bucks for it now, and was thrilled to add my 212 (!) area code number on the front of it, which still seems impossibly glamorous to me. It gave me a giggle, thinking about my dad using this same phone back then, taking calls from patients or talking long into the night with his buddies from Honolulu, telling dirty jokes and hashing out plots for books that would never be written, while I dreamed of living in NYC.
I miss you dad…