A New Yorker's First Time on the Fort Lauderdale Bar Scene

Categories: Essay This

In fact, New York's greatest gift to the public house world is probably the dive bar. Where the drinks are stiffer and cheaper, in dimly lit corners friends gather to engage in progressively sloppier conversation and convince themselves they are still living in the pre-Disnified city of Joey Ramone, graffitied subway cars, and affordable rents. Its presence on the streets of the East Village and the Lower East Side is becoming ever more a rare thing, as chain pharmacies, banks, and frozen yogurt joints replace these bastions of the city's grimier days, blunting its once cutting edge into a dull spoon. Fort Lauderdale's version adds a refreshing shade to the sunnier places it's reputed for.

Afterward, we shift a block away and attempt to indulge in a little Jazz Age hedonism by making our way to mixology joint Stache. However, there will be no expertly poured cocktails by debonair bartenders for us this evening. The bar is closed for a bar mitzvah. F. Scott Fitzgeralds would be appalled.

With the Sex on the Beach wearing off more quickly than it was consumed, we wander around the corner and hit upon where the rest of Fort Lauderdale has been getting blitzed for some time. Today was apparently the annual St. Patrick's Day parade, a day when the proud history and tradition of the Irish people is reduced to binge-drinking and "Kiss Me, I'm Irish" T-shirts. Not that Fort Lauderdale is unique in this revelry. There were two days on the New York calendar when parades, plastic kitsch, and marathon boozing prevailed -- St. Patrick's Day and Halloween. One is full of people in daft costumes pretending to be something other than they are, soused by sundown and trying desperately to get laid; the other is something to do with ghosts.

The Floridian version of the Irish holiday is centered around Dicey Riley's tonight. Here the Guinness and Jameson are flowing freely as a sea of glassy-eyed, green-shirted patrons, rock ever so slightly out of time to the rock music blasted throughout the bar. Most of the crowd probably knows as much about Turkmenistan as they do about Ireland, but hey, that's not really the point.

My wife and I end the evening across the street at Original Fat Cat's. It's dark and understated, and the beer is good. Images of Sid Vicious and David Bowie adorn skateboards fixed to the wall. The Clash plays on the jukebox. Again, memories of East Village watering holes return. I think back to old friends and casually check Facebook on my phone. Someone has posted pictures of bulldozed First Avenue dive Mars Bar. It's now going to be a TD Bank branch below new luxury apartments. Joey Ramone rolls over in his grave. We order another round and plan a trip to the beach for the following day.

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