When: Wednesday (St. Patrick’s Day), 9:26pm.
“Why did you come here?” asked a drunk man who wasn’t possibly yet born when “Touch of Grey,” the only Grateful Dead song I know despite being raised in Oregon, was on MTV rotation. Now it was someone’s jukebox pick at Billymark’s.”We were looking for shittiest bar in NYC,” I was told before I could reply.
One man’s shithole is another’s salve. I’d just escaped Porchlight with a friend. Wrong color for St. Patrick’s Day, but I wanted to experience that much-Instagrammed $14 blue drink for myself. Porchlight could be summed up by the long wooden table seating eight women ranging in age from 28 to 29, all with Patti Stanger-approved lady manes, one particularly platinum. Their server asked our bartender for a check. “The one in the blonde wants it,” she said. So blonde that she ceased being blonde and became consumed by blondeness.
“Bland,” was the friend’s assessment.
“We need to go to a dive,” said me, always seeking counterbalance.
Billymark’s was the closest contender. And it delivered in spades. Blue curacao was suspiciously absent, and most of the liquor brands were deeply bottom shelf with an unusual amount of double consonants: Du Bouchett, Llords.
9:30 seemed early enough to avoid trouble and I assumed that all of the revelers who’d started drinking at 10am would be long passed out by now. Not so. We witnessed two verbal altercations, one which involved a young woman stumbling into me while trying to run out the door without paying. Caught, she attempted to turn it around by screaming about her ID being stolen by the bartender and threatening to call the police. Mark, whose brother Billy was wise to stay home this evening responded unsympathetically. “Retard does not even begin to describe you. You’ve got a terrible problem, miss, because your life sucks. I don’t know what your problem is. Bring a cop because I will press charges and have you arrested.”
While invisible at Porchlight, at BillyMark’s we were the recipients of two rounds of Brooklyn lagers from two different men, just for being unaccompanied women, exchanging names and chitchat. And best of all? Being gifted with bodega crackers even after insisting “I’m good.” Danny Meyer has his hospitality, sure, yet the dive has its own beauty, and there aren’t a lot of strings if you feel like engaging.
Despite three drinks, two more than I’d intended, we never did hear our songs on the jukebox. No complaints about two Duran Durans, “Night Moves,” “Take Me Home Country Roads,” and unexpectedly, Mazzy Star’s “Fade Into You,” which will always imprint itself on my psyche and convince me of a bar’s favorability.
Was I carded? Despite ribbing that we couldn’t possibly be old enough to have lived in NYC in the ’90s and a comment on some exposed cleavage–“I’d like your ID”– no one truly asked for IDs. There was a whole lot of carding going on, though. The second dust-up was a result of a fake driver’s license. No amount of arguing could save the guy in a leather jacket and bleached hair from getting the boot. “Put it on Yelp. That’s what you kids do,” Mark cracked.
Age appropriate? Women-wise, the scene was unexpectedly young. Two middle-aged-plus female solo drinkers did eventually appear. “Are you getting off work?” one was asked with familiarity. No, on her way.