Krishna Mehta’s life had been an uneventful one since his arrival at John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York City, two days ago. Having come to one of the busiest cities in the world as an exchange student from India, he had made few friends. New York can be pretty intimidating to any newcomer. Located on a natural harbor on the Atlantic coast, NYC consists of five boroughs, a unique form of government that administers the five parts of the city, Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, The Bronx and Staten Island. To someone who had spent all his life in a small village in India, Manhattan can be really scary. His university, the New York University’s main campus, was in the Greenwich Village section of Manhattan. Founded in 1831, the NYU is one of the largest universities in the United States.
After spending two days in the hostel finishing his induction procedures, he felt bored and was very intent on touring the city. He waited for the weekend with great anticipation, as he knew it would be the only one he had before his classes commenced. At last, Saturday morning arrived and his excitement knew no bounds. Having bought a few maps at the campus, Krishna set out on foot along the thoroughfare that was the pinnacle of the American Theatre industry, Broadway. The New York University is bounded by Broadway to the east, 14th street to the north, Houston Street to the south and the Avenue of Americas to the west.
Krishna walks the streets around his university all morning stopping at a few shops to buy him some everyday necessities and souvenirs. It is half past two when he takes a peek at his watch. Realizing his usual lunchtime had passed; he decides to have tea at four at one of the most famous Cafes in NYC, The Café Lalo in West 83rd Street. It is a place he had been dying to see since watching the movie You‘ve Got Mail! Having had his tea, he whiles away his time by visiting many landmarks in Manhattan like the site of the World Trade Center and Times Square.
He goes back to his room, puts a pair of pajamas and his toothbrush into a bag and informs his friends in the hostel that he will spending the night at a relative’s place. However, he intends to make one stop on his way to their home. A place that he had heard so much about, from his friends and seniors, Chumley’s, One of New York City’s oldest bars. A historic pub and a former speakeasy located at 86, Bedford Street. Chumley’s is also a haven that was once frequented by many of the famous poets and novelists of American literature like William Faulkner and E.E. Cummings.
Chumley’s still reminds one of the Prohibition periods. “The Garden Door”, Its Barrow Street entrance, has no exterior sign and the entrance to Bedford Street is also unmarked. Inside, the trap doors and secret staircases still remain. There exists a lot of ambiguity regarding the origin of the term eighty-six, meaning to leave or cut-off, one of the stories is that it originated at Chumley’s as a reference to its address. During the Prohibition, Patrons were asked to 86-it out of the Garden Door during a police raid.
He leaves his room as the clock strikes 7. The cold winter evening sends a shiver through his body. He pushes his hands deeper into his jacket pockets. The cold draft of wind makes his face go rigid. Though it is close, he decides to take a cab. Having gotten into the comfortable interior of a cab, he takes off his jacket and settles in for the short drive to Chumley’s.
Krishna is dropped off at the Bedford Street entrance. Having dinner at a former speakeasy had been his dream since reading about the rumrunners and bootlegging. He walked through the curtain inside the door to enter an era that had passed decades ago. It looked exactly as he had read about it. Photos of famous writers adorned the walls and the “secret rear exit” that patrons 86-ed through when the coppers used to bust the joint was still there. It was very cool! Chumley’s was a four-leveled structure with booths in the middle and more booths hidden in the back. The beer collection from the Chelsea Piers Brewery was very impressive.
After spending almost half an hour looking at the old photos and walking around the bar area’s open space, he decided to take one of the booths in the middle. Looking at the menu, he realized he had no idea what to order. For someone from a village in India, the menu was in Greek and Latin. He asks the waitress for an opinion and then decides to go with some French Onion Soup for starters. He orders a pint of SunRye ale. He is served that in the traditional slope-sided pint glass. Having finished the soup, he orders Linguine with Pesto sauce, chicken wings and some French fries. It is the most wonderful food he has ever had. Except maybe for his mother’s cooking!
As a final addition, he tries Captain Drennan’s Irish Red Amber, a special Lager beer. That he was served in a tall, slope-sided pilsner glass. As he takes his time finishing the beer, he realizes that it is becoming a bit too much for him and decides to stop at that. It is the most wonderful evening he has ever had. The best food, some wonderful ale and amazing Lager beer in a former speakeasy and one of the oldest pubs in New York City. You just cannot beat that. For Krishna, this was like a dream come true.
He realized it was time to go to his relative’s place. He had informed them that he would be home by eleven. It was late evening when he entered the pub, it was past eleven now. Time had flown. The evening had passed and the night had crept on him. In a place like the Chumley’s, the night dawns on you! It’s the magic of the place. Cold Beer, SunRye ale, great music and a loud crowd in one of the most historic pubs in New York. The best plan for a Saturday night! The pricing was a bit on the higher side for a student’s budget. Still, he felt he would save for it and come over, at least once a year.
As he was leaving the pub, he hears a voice in Hindi. Then he hears the same voice in English. “Sir, Are you Mr. Mehta, Krishna Mehta?”. The next thing he knows, he is being shaken by someone. He opens his eyes and sees an Indian woman dressed in a Red Saree holding a walkie-talkie. He looks around and realizes he had dozed off in the Air India waiting lounge at the Indira Gandhi International airport, New Delhi. It had all been a dream. He was on his way to New York and his he had almost missed his flight. After collecting his belongings in a hurry, he is escorted by the woman to the aerobridge. As he walks through the bridge, he smiles at himself knowing that his dream would soon be a reality.
Note:The details in this story are based on information from the Chumley’s website and other sources on the internet. Chumley’s has been closed since its chimney collapsed on April 5, 2007 and is scheduled to reopen in 2011. I am not sure if the details mentioned are still the same and if it will reopen in 2011 as planned. This is just a piece of fiction.
Chumleys’s Website : Chumleys’s
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