I’ve had some time now to absorb some of the shock of my coast to coast move, and I’m finding I like it here more and more, despite the lingering California homesickness. One of my favorite things about the east coast so far has been the ability to walk from place to place – this is especially good for bars (and bookstores). Coincidentally, this is also the worst thing about the east coast (always walking=always sweating).
I’m here, soaking in the skyline of one of the most famous cities on the planet, revved up, inspired, and a little boozy, again perusing some Whitman.
I was asking for something specific and perfect for my city,
Whereupon, lo! upsprang the aboriginal name!
Now I see what there is in a name, a word, liquid, sane, unruly, musical, self-sufficient;
I see that the word of my city is that word up there,
Because I see that word nested in nests of water-bays, superb, with tall and wonderful spires,
Rich, hemm’d thick all around with sailships and steamships—an island sixteen miles long, solid-founded,
Numberless crowded streets—high growths of iron, slender, strong, light, splendidly uprising toward clear skies;
-“Mannahatta,” Walt Whitman
So many literary greats rose out of New York (Walt Whitman among them, if you recall from my previous post). Every time I turn around, I find I am discovering a new bit of American literature history – from visiting the original Winnie the Pooh at the NYPL, to strolling past Herman Melville’s residence, to having a drink at the Algonquin hotel, home of the famous 1920’s “Round Table” poker games of authors and intellectuals.
For my first official New York literary happy hour, I wanted to seek out one of the famous haunts of a favorite author. Alas, Pfaff’s Beer Cellar, favored by Whitman back in the day, closed in 2013. How’s that for shitty timing, eh?
So instead, I went for a page from American history and found myself at the Fraunces Tavern – made famous not by an author, but by George freaking Washington, who gave his famous farewell speech at the tavern following the end of the Revolutionary War in 1783. Beyond that, the tavern, first established as a bar in 1762, is rich with American history, cool rumors about the Sons of Liberty, and is part of the American Whiskey Trail.
So, of course you need to have a whiskey while at this bar.
The bar is nestled in some of the oldest parts of Manhattan (some claim it to be the city’s oldest building), near the financial district and within spitting distance of the waterfront. It’s easy to find yourself totally immersed in the spirit (or spirits, haha) of the city – surrounded by weathered streets and buildings, the inimitable warmth of bourbon on your palate, the damp smell of the river wafting by.
To bring it back full circle, because after all, this is about literary happy hour, I’m going to throw it back to Whitman, resident New Yorker. The city inspired him – as it inspires me, and many, many others who wander through the forest of buildings – to write. I love his poem “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” – it embodies the enduring flow of New York City and how generations upon generations have and will continue to cross from one end to the other and enjoy the many splendors the city has to offer. To tie it in even further, I even took a ferry to get to the Fraunces!
Flow on, river! flow with the flood-tide, and ebb with the ebb-tide!
Frolic on, crested and scallop-edg’d waves!
Gorgeous clouds of the sun-set! drench with your splendor me, or the men and women generations after me;
Cross from shore to shore, countless crowds of passengers!
Stand up, tall masts of Mannahatta!—stand up, beautiful hills of Brooklyn!