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February 7th, 2007

The SoHo Gadabout

by Anthony Venditto

There’s a magical time between the noon lunch rush and the 5:00 happy-hour crush when the cobblestone streets of Soho are gloriously calm. It’s a quiet, serene time when the rabid pulse of the city slows down and the place takes on a soft, bucolic pace. That’s the time of day when I like to go a drinkin.’

9:00am-Call sick out of work. Jokes on them, I’m not sick, only hung-over. I roll over catch some more z’s.

12:30pm- Still hung-over, I shower and head to for SoHo

1:00- OK Cigars on West Broadway. No booze here but I dig the vibe and the smell of the place; it’s a homey mix of Grandma’s Pall Malls and the old Chelsea flea market. Plus they let me smoke inside and play with their antique lighters.

1:30- The Broome Street Bar. I order a liverwurst with onion sandwich (the breakfast of champions and recreational drunks) and throw back my first couple shots of Jack for the day. I overhear this witty repartee between two waitresses:

“Industrialized hams are the worst!

O. My. God!”

“Ugh, I know, like they don’t even taste like ham, they taste like crumbled plastic shopping bags. But, if I ever came home with an organic ham my Mother would like totally kill me!”

“Wha?…Why?”

“She says they’re too expensive, they don’t taste any different, they’re cruel, I don’t know…But my Mom and brother are also the type of people who go to the Outback Steakhouse drive thru and consider that a fancy pants meal.”

“God. I totally get you.”

I pop another shot and mosey on before my ears start bleeding.

2:30-Wooster Street. I run into a Marithe Francious Girbaud boutique. Not too many folks know this, but in central Jersey, circa 1988 there was nothing hotter than sporting a pair of Girbaud jeans cuffed hella tight and tucked into one’s high top black Reeboks, and back in the day none were more caliente than I. Feeling saucy, I enter the shop to try on some denim nostalgia. After lightly browsing, the sales demon approaches:

“Hello, may I help you with something?”

“Absolutely, I’d like to try on some jeans please.”

“Really?” Cocking an eyebrow she gives me a look like I just asked her to pull my finger.

“Well…Um…let’s get you sized.”

She measures me up and in a voice dripping with evil informs me: “I’m sorry, we don’t have ANYTHING to fit a husky frame.”

Flabbergasted, my first instinct is to give her a freshy across the mouth. However, realizing discretion is the better part of valor, I merelysmile and give her the finger as hard as I have ever given it to anyone.

3:00-Boom on Spring Street. I order a much-needed double shot of self esteem and a cup of joe for balance. I look at the old broad to my left and give her a perfunctory smile. Her eyes light up: “You look just like Everybody Loves Raymond.”

I toss back my double in a snit, “Yeah? You look like the not so recent corpse of the I Love Lucy Show.”

“OOH you’re bad, you. I like that. How old are you? WAIT! Don’t tell me, let me guess.” She eyes me like a side of beef. “You’re 32.”

She’s right and it freaks me out, but her enthusiasm was genuinely warm and more than welcome.

“Now do me, now do me! Guess how old I am!”

“I don’t know, older than Joan Rivers, but youn-ger than Phyllis Diller. Let’s call ya a spry 92.”

“OOH! You ARE bad, I like you. I’m Marie, buster, pleased to make your acquaintance.”

I buy her a shot of Jack, which she sips, and just like that we’re pals.

4:00-six shots in, still at Boom on whatever street this is. I’m still hanging out with Marie who tells me she’s a double widow, currently engaged to her third, maybe fourth husband.

“And I’m in my 70’s you potzer, but I dare you to tell me I look a day over 60.” “Marie, my dear, I am a gentleman and would never perform such a dastardly deed.” I order up another shot to cover up my lie. Marie tells me she’s in town from The Island with her 19 year-old granddaughter and her little friends. Marie’s hangin’ at the bar while the girls flex Grandma’s plastic all over SoHo. Switching gears I order a beer and wax poetic. “Marie, if you were 50 years younger we’d paint this town chartreuse.”

She gives me a twist of a grin.

“Boy, if you were 50 years older I’d take you home with me and give you a stroke.”

4:30-seven shots, two coffees and a beer later, still here with Marie. I order us another round of whiskey. I think Marie is getting tipsy because out of nowhere her hand clamps my inner thigh, inches south of my lil’ manimal. She tells me a story:

“Be wary of marriage kiddo. Oprah, Oprah Winfrey from TV? She says 56% of Americans are in sexless marriages.”

Is she puttin’ the moves on me? “No way.”

“O yeah. Hell, divorce just springs from money- or lack of it- but you know that. I guess people just think it’s easier to stay together. Less of a hassle. You know, the other night I was at a cocktail party and met a lovely couple. Handsome man, a sweet lady, gorgeous hair. They asked me to guess how many divorces they had between them.” I bite.

“How many?”

“SEVEN! Seven divorces. Then the lady turns to me and said, ‘Yeah, and I thought this one had more money.’ I said to myself: Hello divorce #8.”

“Marie, you are a piece of work. Tell me something: did you make a New Year’s resolution this year?” With her hand still on my thigh she looks me dead in the eye. “Damn right I did. I resolved to let hubby number three outlive me!”

I leave before I declare my undying love for her. She buys me a shot and smiles. She’s disappointed when I bid her adieu and, honestly, so am I.

5:00ish maybe-much Jack Daniels, beer and caffeine later, I stumble into Fanelli’s on Prince Street in a cloud of drunk sweat and cigarette smoke. I’m in an Irish pub with an Italian name and a Londoner for a bartender, I’m hanging on to consciousness by a string at this point, but I feel very cosmopolitan. I order a shot, a beer and a cup of coffee, you know, for balance.

????-I hear a couple of teamsters next to me talking college football and in the spirit of drunken friendliness I decide to chime in. “Hey, how about those Scarlet Knights?”

“Fuck the Fighting Irish! Cowards!”

I thought maybe he misheard me, maybe I slurred my words a little, I’ve had a cocktail or two. “No, no. Rutgers, the college team from New Jersey.”

“And fuck New Jersey too. Armpit of America…what a shit-hole that place is”

I am now HAMMERED and nobody bad mouths the Garden State to me! “O yeah fella? I think maybe you’ve had a little too much to drink.”

The whole place gets quiet and I notice the ENTIRE bar is filled with teamsters; all of who are now glowering at me. “O yeah, bucko? And just who the Fuck do you think you are?”

I don’t say a word. I smile like an idiot, get up and leave. I stumble towards the train and then home. I had lied to get out of work, gotten really, really drunk, brutally insulted, fell in madly, and deeply in love with a septuagenarian and almost got the ever lovin’ life beat out of me. All in all a great day out in Soho. In fact, I may have to call in sick tomorrow!

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