Last week was a rough one. There’s nothing like a cocktail to ease the stress and pain of life in the big city — on a Tuesday. Happy hour is not the norm for me. Usually, I am content with a glass or two of red wine in my New York apartment. But today, I needed a different scene. I texted my husband and we met at 6 pm.
Reif's Tavern, established 1942 was the place. It was a warm day for the end of February and the drink of choice was an ice-cold beer. PBRs are only $2 until 7 p.m., every day. That’s the New York deal of the century.
We grabbed our glasses and headed for the backyard. We came to this bar when we explored the Yorkville neighborhood, even before we lived in Manhattan. I loved it then, and I love it now. The fire escapes from surrounding buildings hover over the outdoor cement space, and in the summer months, clotheslines hang between the tenements. It takes me back in time.
Today, there was a surprise visitor crawling up one of the garbage cans. It was approximately 12" long, not including the tail. No need to elaborate. I felt the immediate desire to drink my beer inside the bar.
We snatched two seats. There were only a few regulars. The bartender was Ray, and he was just as sweet as they come. The song playing was "New York, New York" by Sinatra. "I Love New York, and I’ll never leave," Ray commented as he sang the lyrics. "I’ve lived here my whole life and I still love it." He was born and raised in Spanish Harlem and now lives near the tavern at 92nd and 2nd Avenue. He is a full-timer at Reif's.
There were a couple of women too. Lynne, who works for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, had consumed a few before we arrived. She’s proud of her $1,100 per month rent for an apartment a few blocks away. I get a charge out of rent-stabilization stories in Manhattan, especially considering the price I pay (as a newbie) for 900 square feet. Why didn’t I move here in 1990?
The character of the night was a gentleman named "Too Tall." I’ll guess that he was awarded the nickname because he’s just that — too tall. Never did get his real name. He was about 6 feet 4 inches with messy white hair, a mustache, and a rather rough looking face, but a gentle demeanor. He sat quietly, drinking his poison, as the ruckus went on around him.
This was a wild and colorful bunch. They went to breakfast the previous weekend, then partied for hours but had no bar tab. Or maybe they just didn't remember.
From Sinatra to Axel Rose to Springsteen, the music ranges like the ages. All are welcome at Reif's.
Ray started mixing kamikazes on the house and we had a few, but we just can't handle them like we used to. We guzzled the last sips by 8, and our heads were still throbbing on Wednesday morning. What happened to the days of closing the bar and waking up at 7?
Our next visit to this 70-year-old establishment, or another divey drinking post in Manhattan should not be on a school night. But then again, Tuesdays can be rough in the big city.