A Guy Walks Into a Bar in Brooklyn (part 1)

by Paul von Zielbauer

There is a reason that Roadmonkey was invented in New York City. Tonight’s experience in a dive bar in the heart of Brooklyn illustrates the point.

I walked into Denny’s Steak Pub, on the corner of Church Avenue & McDonald Avenue, in Kensington – deep enough into Brooklyn that you’re not here just by accident. I’m in the ‘hood because I’m crashing at a friend of a friend’s apartment, and I was on this corner in search of two New York City sine qua non: food and a chance to eat it watching the Knicks and the Rangers in playoff games.

In a growing Bangladeshi neighborhood, a haven for white men over 40.

Finding food was easy: The Bangladeshi-immigrant owned Gyro joint offered a tasty lamb & rice platter for $6. (Recommended.) Outside the deli, a portly street vendor in a black leather jacket and sandals stood behind a miniature cart, selling fresh green leaves with seeds and spices sprinkled on their faces. “It’s sweet,” he said, after I broke through a circle of his friends, which served to instantly cease what had been their lively conversation. “Like a dessert,” the vendor said with a gesture that was half courtesy and half “please go away.”

This area of Brooklyn is west of the emergent, some might say tragically hip Flatbush neighborhood. It has yet to capture the imaginations of young and trendy set being priced out of Manhattan.

There was far fewer choices to watch the playoff games. Denny’s Steak Pub (the “Steak” part of the bar ended “in the 1980s,” according to Jimmy the bartender) was the only commercial establishment around with a TV that was not playing a terribly acted South Asian-language movie. So I walked in, past a guy standing in the doorway inhaling a Marlboro Red,  past a couple doing a beery two-step to early Rolling Stones on the “internet juke box,” and took an open bar stool.

I had barely ordered a beer when behind me I felt an extra-large man bump into my stool once, then twice.

I gave the XL figure the New York City Pigeon Glance. All NYC residents have their own variation of the Pigeon Glance – a way of quickly sizing up someone with a momentary, barely noticeable sidelong glance – like a sidewalk pigeon simultaneously hunting for food and avoiding danger – that gives you just enough information to know whether or not the person is potential trouble. Subway riders use this method, which involves just enough eye contact without seeming challenging, daily when people who radiate higher-than-average levels of desperation sit down beside them on crowded trains.

My pigeon glance didn’t catch this fellow’s face. Just the outline of his extra-large frame.

“Who dafucks dis guy?” a voice behind me asked.

I thought, “Ah, Brooklyn, how I’ve missed you.”

You won’t hear “Who dafucks dis guy?” in any bar in my current hometown, Santa Monica.

(to be continued)


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