my new friend and i managed to spend several hours of friday early evening pretending that we were in some other city, and some other time. this is why nyc is the king of cities, because it is itself and several other places in the world, all rolled into one. as we bravely dove into a rather unusual second meeting, we celebrated with visits to 2 dives.
first stop: the burger joint, tucked away in the lobby of the swish parker meridien hotel. enter the hotel at 118 west 57th street. between the two front desks, find the brown floor to ceiling curtain with a small neon hamburger sign over it. part the curtains and you are suddenly inside a shitty, ceiling-tiled, nappy-smelling greasy spoon. there are burgers and fries. and beer. and soda. and milkshakes, or so it said on the hand-written sign. the burgers are perfectly sized and well-dressed, wrapped in white butcher paper, and oozing juices. the fries are shoestring, mcdonalds style, staining their paper bag with their golden grease. i half expected to see sawdust on the floor. as it says oh-so-modestly on the parker meridien website: "no complication, no confusion, just great burgers and fries."
the second stop was the subway inn, on 60th and lex. having discovered it the night before, by bringing myself back i instantly became a regular. awkwardly squashed between modern storefronts and the 59th street subway station, it is the most unlikely place you would ever expect to find on the (sorta) upper east side. i have walked by it for years, and suspected it held untold treasures inside. it does: red vinyl booths, a dusky light, and dirt cheap top-shelf liquor. the crowd, just as at the burger joint, is diverse and unchartable. who are these people, i wondered? where do they come from, and where do they go?
i don't know why a dive is called a dive. what are the characteristics? is it grime on the walls, or affordable booze? a gruffness on the part of the waitstaff, or a complete lack of pretension? as a verb, the word has a head-first connotation; for that reason, i do know why diving into things is scary. and also necessary. i never do it in a swimming pool, but i try to do it on dry land. my new friend and i, we dove, and for the first time there was a synchronicity for me between "dive" the location, and "dive" the verb.