Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Fraunces Tavern

It was as if they'd given up by the time they'd gotten to the bar.

The entrance was imposing. The coat check was an elegant parlour, with two lovingly upholstered armchairs flanking the fire. The toilets had the sort of discreet piped music that made you keep an eye out for Lizzy Bennett emerging from the next-door cubicle. But the bar itself - the room where a revolution had been plotted over mugs of porter and snifters of bourbon - that was two parts mid-town sports bar, to one part Williamsburg dive. I half expected to be fallen over by an unfriendly Polak.

As my Dad and I sipped our Pinot Grigios in the table by the window we talked about what made the effect so jarring. Maybe it was the fact that one wall was covered with the old Union Flag, with the stars going round in a circle, while the other held a flat-screen showing the DOW index. I suppose we were only steps from Wall Street, and even bankers deserve their post-work pint after a hard day of gambling with other people's money. But the silent UEFA match being played out on the third wall was equally out of place. That old soak George Washington surely wouldn't have approved of this distracting incursion from the Mother Country.

For me it was the music - the kind of music that you'd expect to hear belted out from the next-door karaoke booth (your party's choices are, naturally, a little more eclectic). If we'd been drunk or driving or drunk-diving down America's vast, straight freeways it would have been perfect. We could have rolled back the roof and belted out American Pie with the best of them. In this small, candle-lit room, surrounded by mementos of a glorious past, it just didn't fit. Even the football players weren't kicking in time.

So maybe the kids don't want to listen to chamber music these days, but couldn't we at least had something a little more weighty? Don't you know, talkin bout a revolution now.

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