Tuesday, February 3, 2009
One winter evening not long ago, I was having a beer alone at the Brooklyn Inn before meeting a friend for dinner. As I arrived, the bartender was setting out tea lights along on the bar, and through the iron grille-work on the windows, I could see bare tree branches turning to shadows against a purple sky. I was delighted to find my favorite seat empty: at the end of the short end of the L-shaped bar, right next to the old mirrors and the radiator. I hung my coat beneath the bar, got out my book, ordered a Sixpoint Brownstone ale, and settled in.
After a few moments, a man walked in and took a seat a few stools down from me. The bartender appeared to have his drink—a Manhattan—waiting. After a few sips, he asked me what I was reading, and I told him. Then I returned to my book. The combination of quiet, a cool beer, and the warmth wafting up from the hissing radiator was what I’d come for, after all.
As I was heading out the door—my coat nicely warmed—the regular swiveled toward me. “Have a nice evening,” he said, extending his hand. I extended mine in return, and he grasped it with both of his. “Ah, your hands are so warm!” he said. Then he paused. “Let me do that again!” So I offered him my warm hand.
A month or so later, I was once again enjoying a beer and a book at the seat by the radiator on a winter evening. The same man walked in and glanced my way before the bartender presented him with his Manhattan. I wasn’t sure if he recognized me, but I gave him a small smile all the same. When I got up to leave, I thought he might wish me a nice evening or reach out to shake my hand, and found I was slightly disappointed when he didn’t. Instead, he picked up his drink and walked over to claim my stool. Apparently, even the regulars know it’s the best seat in the house. No doubt it was still warm.