After a long summer’s day in NYC with its fumes, horns and smells, there seems to always be a need for some sort of refuge.
Some people take spin classes, some undress in a cool room with large fish bowl windows and others just sleep. But for other people, the ever shrinking population of native New Yorker’s, there remains a small almost undiscovered slice of Babylon. The elusive dive bar.
Usually filled with dimmed crackling neon lights, calloused old hands and decades of stories and hazy nights, it remains a familiar old haunt to the patrons who have been getting numb there since they were grandfathered in by an old friend or a random night.
I have a few old favorites and I will reveal them from time to time on here, so keep looking out for these places, as you will surely want to visit them if you are fan of dark lonely bars. The one that I am going to tell you about this week has been on my list of favorites since 1999. I had just turned of legal drinking age and all of New York City was there for me to pick through.
I stopped at every place that had a romance to it. Most had soured me before the last bit of whiskey in my glass had kissed my lips. Sometimes it was because the Jukebox had let me down and others due to the over testosteroned screaming men with too much muscle and too little brains. Either way, I was often let down and seldom comfortable.
A lifetime ago, I was roaming around the streets of the Upper East Side with an old friend and we had no particular place in mind.
Our only requirement for the evening was cheap whiskey and great music. We stumbled past a dark yet shining dive bar on 78th and 1st called American Trash. The top half of the front window was down to let some of the city seep in and the smoke seep out (back when you could smoke in the bars). We walked in, showed the suspicious bouncer our freshly legal ID’s and hurried to the back corner of the bar.
From my faded memory, I recall just over 15 people inside and most were near the half window, chatting and laughing. The place had a great vibe and some of the most interesting decor my innocent eyes had seen. There were bras and panties hanging from the ceiling. Not the fancy undergarments of tourists headed to Coyote Ugly to partially disrobe and tell all of their friends about there “wild and crazy” night in NYC. No, this was a different breed.
The things left here were ghosts on overly drunk locals who let the night get the better of them. It was a nice change of pace. The pictures on the top of the bar were of the old owner (Mark) and random A list rock stars who would crash into the place when they blew through the city on another seemingly endless tour. The likes of Metallica, Joni Mitchell and Pearl Jam had all graced the hollowed walls of American Trash.
The bartender was an attractive girl. Not overly attractive, but good looking enough to keep our eyes firmly on her seat cushion.
She seemed to be polite, but not overly polite as in “I’m going to be extra nice to you so that you give me a big tip”. Again, it was a refreshing change of pace, especially for this neighborhood. The drinks were heavy handed and light on the wallet and the evening quickly started to slip away from us. The dusty Juke Box in the back of the place had the best music selection I have ever found. It still had some of the typical dive bar anthems, but no one played them. It was wafting out the sounds of smooth voices and almost familiar melodies. Everything you could want in a bar was at our eager finger tips.
I’m not sure how that night ended up as the whiskey had gotten the better of me. But I have been back there time and again and I have never been let down. The place still has every needed element of the perfect dive bar. The music, the bar keeps, the same familiar drinkers and of course a now smokeless yet still worn out pool table. Some of the pictures have been taken down after the old owner sold it, but the very essence of this place remains the same, a small slice of home.
You can only imagine the things that people have seen and heard in this place.
So next time you are in NYC and looking for a new place to explore, make sure you take a stroll past American Trash. If for some odd reason you find it not to be your speed there are tons of other reputable drinking establishments on the same block. There is also a wonderful 24 hour diner next door if you crave grease to help eliminate the inevitable hang over.
American Trash is located at:
1471 1st Ave
(between 77th St & 76th St)
New York, NY 10021
Neighborhoods: Yorkville, Upper East Side
David DiVona was born n NYC in the fall of 1977. He grew up on Long Island and shortly after high school started traveling in an attempt to pursue a music career. Although David is accomplished and recognized (David was a founding member and is still part of the rock band Lint). That adventure has taken him to many amazing places and allowed him to rub elbows with some of the world’s most talented artists.
Traveling is what inspires and drives him. He is a gourmand and a nomad at heart. In the course of his travels, he has eaten some of the finest and most bizarre foods that this diverse planet can offer. David has traveled to every state in the United States and all over Europe to date. His journey is just beginning, and he looks forward to exploring every part of the globe possible. NYC and Los Angeles are his home base and he is currently working in televsion. You can follow him on twitter at www.Twitter.com/DavidDiVona or email him at DavidDiVona@Gmail.com