This candid, “scenes of life” outside an everydayish restaurant in New York footage (backed by a great Cat Power tune) besides showing the unscripted faces (Allen, Jack, Lucien?) whose work I/we know so well, reminds me of the importance of documenting just every day, day to day, you know, normal, ephemeral life.
Create and document your creations and life while documenting your own creations, and document that as well.
I am fascinated with this mysterious bar formerly frequented by poets, writers, bootleggers and miscreants – plus served as s top of sorts on the underground railroad (not sure how this shakes down but…) and a speakeasy during prohibition.
Had hoped to visit with my pal Ephriam in NYC in around 2006 but the building next it (owned by renowned photographer Annie Lebowitz apparently no less) had fallen in on the structure during remodelling/renovations construction. By the time the damage was repaired, the area had become rather “gentrified” with whiny neighbours complaining about potential noise. Eph-man keeps an eye on the story for me and it seems it is now re-opened (as of Dec 30th 2017). Trip ahoy!
See the “Consider Perusing” section for previous articles about this humble and noble location.
Today’s Facebook moment is dedicated to my friend Dave Olson. Almost 10 years ago we were on our way to Chumley’s only to find that it fell apart. Hopefully this pic will put a smile on Dave’s face. Glad to hear that it will reopen and not be 86’d forever.
Did I ever tell you about the time I met David Letterman?
In front of the NBC building in 1990 probably. I had spent a homeless night or two in Manhattan, wandering streets, napping on benches, and soaking in the culture.
I happened around a corner and saw the affable Mr. Letterman waiting for a ride, so of course I went up to say hello. He was talking about baseball as opening day was approaching. He liked with the Dodgers had going that year.
He asked about the bongo drums I was carrying.
I explained that I was a wandering hippie from way out west elsewhere. He really liked the notion of a wandering hippie from Utah with bongos. Years later, he had a recurring character/guest called Manny the hippie who would show up in tie-dye and shaggy blonde hair. I’m only partially convinced I inspired the segment :-)
While I am not a fan of TV per se, I am a huge fan of the way Mr. Letterman treated guests and bands with dignity and humor, and is clearly an advocate of radical honesty.
I’ve watched clips from the last few weeks and enjoy seeing the love bestowed upon him. But mostly, the music from Tom waits to Bob Dylan to James Brown to Foo Fighters to REM and all points in between –this is perhaps his shows greatest legacy to popular culture.
Conan, Jimmy, Jimmy, Arsenio, and whoever else is out there do not even begin to inspire me (Though Craig Ferguson definitely had his moments) With Mr. Letterman and Jon Stewart both moving on, I am shocked I was not offered one of their jobs, … but I’ll get over it.
My pal Tim Tulloch shared this spontaneous snap of a VW microbus rolling in Manhattan saying (obviously enough).
“VW Bus cruising on Manhattan’s East Side today. You don’t see that often!”
I replied with:
Right on! I drove my turtle top 74 VW bus into Manhattan but they wouldn’t let me leave via the tunnel coz i had propane tank (it was a camper) – i recall having to stop traffic and wheel my achey bus around in the rain with folks hollering and honking. Then we tooled over George Wa instead.
then Mikael LewisWhy oh why did I ever part with my 1963, 23 window??
and me again:
Indeed, besides the fun it would be to restore it and road trip in it, well restored ones go for six figures now. Unbelievable. My 74 sat in my grandma’s backyard for years until I gave it away to some young heads hoping they would find inspiration and adventure within it’s hallowed walls
ya i will for sure. i walk past it almost everyday. just around the corner from my pad. another really great bar that dylan thomas drank himself to death at is called “the white horse tavern” one of nyc’s oldest bars. it’s another block away. i’m going to set us up on a really cool tour of neato places to go see and do. way better then any tour you sit on a bus for. and the great part is that it’s all walking so we can start out with a special pit stop on my terrace, then head out, and come back again for another pit stop etc… just doing it walking down the street here will land you in trouble and they won’t let you out until monday, no judges work the weekend. they’re like crazy here. they run around in ‘fake’ taxi cabs that are actually cop cars. and they come up out of nowhere. i’ve been smart about it all. the paranoid survive.
My attempt to drink at this noted literary haunt which oozes with counter-culture history from the underground railroad to prohibition to dog laws (damn health authorities), was thwarted by de-construction and i was met by a mass of scaffolding rather than a tasty pint. You can follow along on my ill-fated, personalized tour at: NYC Speakeasy Stroll with Bubble Bands and Falafel Bars – Choogle on #45.
[photo Wally G The interior of Chumley’s, pre-collapse.]
So what’s going on? A conundrum betwixt landlord, leaseholders, building permits and neighbors and drinkers … here’s a snippet fromt he Observer article by Chris Shott,
Nearly eight months after a brick wall collapsed, forcing famed Greenwich Village tavern Chumley’s to indefinitely lock up its notably unmarked entrance, the once illustrious literary haunt remains a mere shell of its former self.
Barely a shell, even; the old bar is beyond gutted.
“A gutted building implies that there are walls standing,” said Steve Shlopak, proud proprietor of the former Prohibition-era speakeasy turned fully liquor-licensed landmark turned much-lamented pile of rubble at 86 Bedford Street.
“There are only two walls that are still up,” Mr. Shlopak said. “The rest of the building is held up with construction scaffolding. There is no ceiling and there is no floor; it’s just a dirt hole.
“It’s almost as if you’re watching an old World War II film,” he added. “You know how soldiers would gather in the corner of a bombed-out farmhouse where just two walls are still up? That’s what we’ve got here.”
I took the liberty of commenting at the Observer’s remarkably decent site, thusly (pardon the redundancy):
As an enthusiast of tasty beer and quality literature, I was disappointed to find the scaffolding surrounding the building on a recent trip from Vancouver BC. I recorded a Choogle on! podcast while out and about in the village so all was not lost (i love falafel at 3AM). I’ll be watching for the reopen and hope to make another trip east from the idyllic left coast to imbibe a few pints in the legendary atmosphere.
While on the road for a day-job gig, I filmed some taxi rides around Manhattan and then out to JFK airport (one day after an alleged bombing attempt). Take a look won’t ya. Shows a variety of cityscapes, roadways, buildings, busy roadways, and culture. Just rolling in the city. That’s all.
Late night hoots on a historic Greenwich Village rooftop with Uncle Weed talking with a Canadian friend about NYC scenes and buildings plus 9/11 recollections, vacuum tubes, ferries, oreo cookies, the last ink factory, Hudson fireworks, hockey lock-out, law school ideas, propane tanks and lawnmowers, 2002 Cannabis Cup (see pics if you are Uncle Weed’s ‘friend’ on Flickr) and minor police incidents plus a few confessions (lousy joint roller and typist) and a self-aggrandizing plug for Zhonka Surfbreaks free wi-fi for the people!
I am headed to NYC next month for a biz-ness trip (staying a fancy mid-town hotel shockingly enough) and my amigo out there pointed me to the private stash of all bars boasting a history of runaway slaves, literary heroes, illicit alcohol and haunting poltergeists. I am totally going.
The bar is up for sale (3.75 million USD in case you are wondering) and the place doesn’t necessarily have a name. ‘Chumley’s‘ or ’86 Bedford’ seem to be the parlance of choice.
Anyhow, here is a snippet from the article 86 Bedford Street in NY Resident magazine by Rachel B. Doyle filling in the pieces of the stories,
Despite the building going on the block, Chumley’s isn’t going anywhere since its lease isn’t up until 2085. Touted as “the oldest speakeasy in the country to retain its original ambiance,” Chumley’s has been around since 1926 —when it was purchased by Leland Stanford Chumley, who remodeled the front of the former blacksmith’s shop with innocuous garage-like doors.
Behind this obscure facade, lay the favorite illicit watering hole of literary luminaries such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner, Jack Kerouac, Norman Mailer, AnaïsNin, Simone de Beauvoir and J.D. Salinger (before he became a recluse). The original incarnation contained kitchen entrances disguised as bookshelves, two trapdoors to conceal spirits, and a trick staircase designed to foil the police.
“It’s supposed to give the illusion that we’re in a basement, when in reality we’re on street level. It allowed the bartenders some time to clear away alcohol during Prohibition,” said John Lefebvre, a waiter at Chumley’s.
The entrance remains the same as it was in the ‘20s: unmarked and only accessible by a clandestine rear passageway leading from Barrow Street. And Chumley’s will likely never have a sign, as landmark designation restricts anything having to do with physical changes.
A little known fact about 86 Bedford St. is that its seditious reputation actually precedes Prohibition. According to legend, the building was also a refuge for runaway slaves – due in part to it’s proximity to Gay Street, which had a large pre-Civil War era free black community.
“In the floor of the bar there is a trapdoor that lifts up. These same tunnels that may have been used to transport slaves were later used to transport the alcohol into the restaurant during Prohibition,” said Lefebvre, who also just completed a documentary about Chumley’s. “I’m looking right at it.”
While some reviews speak disparagingly about the Chumley’smicro brews (flat and lifeless) and the meat heads (read fratboys) who have found the enclave (to high five in) while others mention the proximity to a firehall which suffered major casualties during the WTC incident or the discussion if this is where the term “getting 86’ed” originated and yet one more talks about the dog patrons – (geez i though it was just Oly’sEastside Club which allowed dogs) – in a post What’s up with the dogs at Chumley’s?