Wednesday, November 23, 2005

And The Elephant Jumped Over Mars

It was such a miserable day yesterday, rain and win, that I just holed up and caught up on the Sunday paper. It was a lot nicer today though, cold but sunny, so I headed back to the Lower East Side.

956) Mars Bar

Hey, I finally made it to the mother of all dive bars. The inside of this place on 1st Street and 2nd Avenue looks just like the outside, and that is saying something. This truly is one of the last holdovers from the bad old days down here when you took your life into your hands every time you walked down the street. But this place is so bad it is good. It is in the same category as CBGB, a place you got to see while it is still here to be seen.

I stopped by in the early afternoon so it wasn’t as bad as I expected, but then maybe I am getting a bit jaded. I guess you have to be here late at night to fully appreciate the ambience. The bar has a black vinyl top with a wood arm rest completely covered with carved initials and crude attempts at lewd art. The front is covered with graffiti reminiscent of the old days when “subway art” was so popular. There is a well worn wooden footrest and bar chairs and stools of various shapes and sizes, all suitably banged up and, if there was any kind of vinyl seat, well torn. A set of old black cabinets behind the bar have a few bottles of liquor on top and much more in an open shelf below.

The white plasterboard wall is covered by an assortment of “art” by locals and any open area has the remnants of scrawlings that have been inadequately whitewashed over. The tan ceiling has a single overhead fan and it to is covered in an assortment of black drawings and what have you. The back wall and the wall opposite the bar are a bit more colorful but only because the graffiti artists had a more colorful palette. Pretty much every square inch is covered with graffiti including the bathroom that I could catch whiffs of from half a bar away.

There were lots of cases of empty beer bottles stacked against two walls, a Roller Coaster pinball machine upfront by the windows, which are a combination of glass blocks and small window panes, a colorful jukebox and a Megatouch 5000 video game in the back. There was a candy machine and a couple of peanut machines, but I think I can pass on those. Come in and check the place out. My feeling is that there is a reason that the artists whose paintings hang on the walls hang out in a place like this.

I had a bottle of Budweiser.

957) The Elephant

I don’t know why I like this place, but indeed I do. Maybe it was the two guys in the corner having an animated, but friendly, conversation in French. Maybe it was the bar with the hammered copper top and foot rest and black metal front with a stamped patterned black front that was chipped to reveal yellow paint underneath (or was yellow chipped to reveal black). Maybe it was the low sun streaming through the glass paneled doors and windows in front. Maybe it was my Pernod on the rocks. Oh well, what difference does it really make. It is only about half a block from the Mars Bar, on 1st Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues. You can’t miss it though because it is bright yellow.

This is just a small place that advertises itself as a Thai bistro. The bar, although small, was quite pleasant. At the end of the bar close to the front are three milk white lights hanging over the bar that look a bit like reservoir tipped condoms (small tips though). Over the center of the bar is one of those water-sprinkler fixtures with a couple dozen small red bulbs. In the back are two old schoolroom looking milk-glass lights fixtures.

The bar back is mostly glass shelves, half backed by the same stamped metal that fronts the bar, and the other half backed by mirrors. The shelves are full of liquor bottles, wine bottles, beer bottles, and a single light tan ceramic Mr. Peanut statue. A couple of bunches of green banana complete with the large, somewhat phallic, flower hanging from the bottom. Lots of red and orange topped tables line the walls that are bright blue and covered with mirrors up front and more of a pea-soup green in back. The tables have old wooden chairs on one side and benches with leopard-skin and green cloth backs above red seats on the side by the walls. A couple of elaborate mosaic round tables with chairs are in the center of the room. The ceiling is light stamped metal and the floor is dark. Three fans hang from the ceiling. An interesting enough place and I may very well stop by for dinner one evening, or perhaps just lunch.

I had a Pernod on the rocks and caught the subway home.

A decent enought day, just two bars hit but that makes 957 for the year and only leave 43 more to go. I will be taking tomorrow off to celebrate Thanksgiving so have a good one your self.


Rochester Bar Man said...

Mars Bar is truly a dive. I remember one night there when I thought I'd stumbled into something from Dante's Inferno or maybe a Hieronymus Bosch painting. I particularly remember some old drunk with a wild-eyed look on his face and most of his teeth missing screaming something unintelligible into my ear and laughing demonically. But on a more recent occasion it was just quiet and dull. That's part of the fun of going to bars, I guess. You never know what to expect.

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