Last Friday night I went out to the W Hotel Lounge for a friends birthday ... a reasonably (to me) surreal experience that I am sure I will get used to but for now it seemed bizarre ...
Owing to my previous experiences with bars and clubs in NY, I wrote my friends wife, who was organizing the event, and asked what to wear. I was told that the bar was, and I quote, a little foo. I looked up this strange word in the dictionary of urban slang (www.urbandictionary.com), and discovered that when used by Mr. T or someone speaking ebonics, it is a contracted version of the word fool, while in most other cases it is a programming term, either used for unimportant variables in programming when the programmer is too lazy to think of an actual name, originating from the programming concept that 2+2 = foo, or to define a programmers skill, as in "This is my kung foo, and it is strong."
Aware that my friends wife is not Mr. T or a computer programmer, and probably does not speak ebonics, I queried her about this strange word and learned that it was in fact a New York synonym for the word shi shi, which either means classy, overpriced and contemporary or is a synonym for urination. Since I had no desire to join my friends at a urination club, I made the executive decision to assume that the bar was fancy and overpriced, like many places in New York, and wear some of my nicer clothes, which really aren't that nice but do manage to get me in the door of most places.
So I put on my best Foo garb and headed downtown, hoping, by skill or luck, to evade the vast conspiracy that aims to keep those in the outer boros out of Manhattan on the weekends. Over the last few weeks I have been particularly prone to encounter agents of this conspiracy, mostly disguised as subway traffic, construction or other issues. In fact, thinking now, I cannot recall the last weekend that I was able to ride into the city in a standard fashion, i.e. simply riding the 5 train down the East side. This night was no different, as I arrived at the Williamsbridge station only to find that the downtown 5 was not running, and that I needed to take a shuttle to the 2, which was decidedly inconvenient, as the 2 goes down the west side and I was trying to get to the W hotel on Lexington and 50th. I manage to get there a little before midnight, about an hour late. The whole concept of starting a birthday party at 11 at night seems pretty foo in and of itself, but my friends had been out to a show before the bar and since bars in NY do not close until never, it seemed reasonable. Still felt strange to be leaving at 1030 to go out.
I spend a good ten or fifteen minutes just gawking at the crowd. Understand, this was the first time I had been out in NY at a reasonably foo location since I have moved here, and a long time before that. First off, the crowd was old. I don't me they were skipping out on curfew at the old age home, but that the average age of the people there seemed to be older than me, which, given most of my going out experience in San Diego, was a remarkable and welcome observation. Secondly, the crowd was most definitely foo. Labels all over the place. Expensive ones like Prada. Well made, stylish, and generally expensive outfits were the norm. And this was not a ultra-ritzy bar, just a nice, swanky place and the outfits befitted that ... but they still made the bar look glamorous and exciting to me. I don't really like that sort of thing, I am more of a dive bary person myself, but that sort of nightlife is one of the things New York is known for and even though this was probably a very poor sample of it, to my outsiders eyes it was a more than adequate thrill.
After a bit I sidled over to the bar to get a drink, and while I was standing there, almost drooling over the very large selection of different whiskeys, I felt a push from behind.
"Can I get by, honey?" said a voice. "Uh, sure" I said, trying to get out of the way and turn around at the same time. There wasn't much space to move to, so I did not really get out of the way, but as I moved and turned, the owner of the voice pushed up against me, a short, busty blonde with lots of freckles and a low-cut top, and said, "Its the tits honey." "What?" "The tits, that's how I can get a drink faster than you." she said. "But the bartenders are all women." I point out cautiously. "Just watch, sweetie" she said as she pushed up past me to the bar. Taking a seat on the stool, she leans back, grabs my head and whispers in my ear, "I think you're adorable, now what do you want to drink?"
I decide that I like Foo.
"Ketel One and tonic" I say, and then try to think of something to say to her, but before I know it the drinks are there and she has turned around, refused to let me pay and handed me her drink to try, saying, "Don't you think this tastes like bacon?" Its a very dirty martini, I try it and its awful, but doesn't really taste like bacon. "Well, it certainly does not taste ..." but before I can finish she has draped herself over the guy next to us, who is talking to another girl, and said, "Does this taste like bacon?" He tries it and agrees that it does and starts to talk to her, I give a sympathetic nod to the girl who has just lost his attention and is not happy about it, and then my mystery girl has gotten the bartender to make a different martini that does not taste like pork. While she is waiting I ask, "Whats your name?" She winks, straight out of the movies and says, "You are sweet, but why do you even care, its not like you are going to remember it anyway. You don't have to stick around you know, I mean you can get back to your friends." Not know what to say at this point, I mumble something about maybe being sweeter than normal and having a good memory, find out her name is Nita and then listen to her berate the bartender about her second baconish martini before slipping away from this crazy, swine-obsessed girl.
The night moves on, I chat with a number of people, finding out interesting facts about real-estate, notably that it is basically impossible to rent an apartment in New York without a real-estate agent, and acting, get hit on by a girl who wants me to find her a seat in my lap and then move out of the bar and upstairs around 1, when one of the waitresses informs us that the table we have been sitting around for 2 hours is reserved and we need to evacuate it. Reserved for 1 am. I ask where the sign for the reservation was and am told that I should just know. We get up and the table that was seating 12 is given over to two couples ... good business model. We walk out and upstairs, past a large number of boxes and pillars covered with live wheat grass ... almost over foo at this point. Live grass. Because there is no nature in Manhattan, so they are hoping to attract people with the local vegetation? I mean, the drunker individuals in the group did try to eat the grass and use it to whistle, so there is that attraction. We spend the rest of the night in an area on the second floor set out with a number of cozy couches, where we chat and lounge, waxing philosophical over the remains of a hamburger plate at our table and over the strange clapping guys who walk back and forth to the bathroom and clap as they pass us ...
The evening ends around 3, with everybody getting in cabs and heading uptown, all of them feeling genuinely and rightfully sorry for me as I spend the next 1.5 hours subwaying home, thinking about the evening. I have decided that dressing up extra nice and spending 3 hours getting to and from a place full of overly well dressed 30 somethings where the drinks are overpriced and underalcoholed and small boxes of grass adorn lounges full of textured light and where crazy girls tell me I am adorable, complain about swinish martinis, offer to sit in my lap if I can't find them a chair ... is completely foo ... yet somehow, totally worthwhile.
Welcome to New York.