not the way it used to be here
jack was used to serving artists in the bar
the joint was famous for painters in the 1970s
and jack was used to serving up beer and shots
to a lot of paint splattered bums who were maybe
good for some conversation and little else.
they’d sit at the bar while they talked shop
or made conversation with the neighborhood flies
and jack would pace back and forth behind the bar,
serving the beer and whiskey
and offering up a free one every now and then
if the tips were decent
or if someone was willing to talk about the rangers or the jets.
but those types had gone along with affordable rent
and the danger of wandering st. mark’s place at night.
the street still looked the same, jack thought,
but it was just not the way it used to be.
now st. marks was littered with yogurt boutiques
and high end lingerie stores
developers were building glass high rises around
the aging streets and buildings
the punks sitting on stoops wore brand name clothes
shopped at the cbgb stores
came on the train from the new jersey suburbs
never bothered anyone for a cigarette or money for a pint.
most of the clients now were film majors
wasting their parents cash at nyu.
why five minutes ago a group of japanese tourists
came into the bar and asked jack for plastic forks
because they wanted to eat their lunch over a pitcher of beer
in a real classic east village dive.
jack asked the japanese woman if it looked like he served food
and when she pointed to a stack of plastic forks
his own forks for lunch when the bar was at a lull
jack told the woman to get forked then walked to the end
of the bar to cool down
while the japanese tourist went back to her seat, gave up
on the food, and settled in to taking pictures with the other people
at her table.
she looked happy, jack thought, like she expected the rude
treatment and somehow thrived on it.
it was odd.
the sight of the tourists made jack tired.
he watched them as they continued to take pictures at their table
then he scanned the bar, until he found the usual corner of
old drunks who still held court underneath the dulling neon signs
the gatekeepers of the bar, he thought, the relics,
the vanguard even if things we just not the way they used to be here.
then jack poured himself a free one from the top shelf.
the boss wouldn’t mind so long as it didn’t become
a habit to stray too far away from the well.
the whiskey made jack shake a little bit.
but it made him feel warm, all right.
he dusted off the end of the bar and began making his
way back toward the center
where the dim orange lights glowed off the pint glasses
and where a couple college kids were waiting for a pitcher of beer
this new import stuff that jack had never tried
but the bar ordered
because they kept getting all of these new requests for the stuff.