Walking down Avenue B last month, ten years after moving away from NYC, I saw flashes of the ghosts of old yippies and squatters wandering among the thick stream of hipster douchebags that shuffle along the sidewalk there now.
Glimpses of hand-painted signs on funky little shops…that are now wine bars with sleek metal facades. Spectral Joey Ramone drinking beer from a paper bag on a brownstone stoop…that now has a locked gate at the bottom. It was just fatigue and nostalgia playing tricks on me. Nothing to see here but chainstores and $18 glasses of wine and people staring at their iPhones. The same bland trust fund twits you see in any hip city.
Then I visited Manitoba’s. You know those science fiction movies where you step through a portal from the mundane world into a one of unlimited possibilities? It’s like that. Or maybe like a fantasy movie where the bad guy has razed the whole world except one hidden valley that’s still full of magical elves and courageous heroes.
I could’ve happily fed in a $50 bill and played every single thing on the jukebox, and it smelled just enough like a bar, a difficult trick to pull off since the law sent the smokers outside.
Get a beer and drink it while squinting at the amazing museum of photography crowding the walls, then go outside for a smoke. Amazing! A whole different world. Go back in for another drink. Maybe it’ll take a few.
Head out, and…wait? Was that David Peel with the guitar over his shoulder crossing E 6th? Could’ve been. And that dude over there looks like Clayton Patterson. The 60ish lady walking her dog has a Missing Foundation tattoo on her neck. And you know what? Some of these hipster kids probably are sincere, struggling artists in their way. Even if they all look like 70s easy-listening music sounds.
It wasn’t just the beer that improved my outlook, it was the place. If you have a punk rock or metal bone left in your old body, get down to Manitoba’s and drink a reasonable amount, then one more. You will find salvation, or salivation, or something.
Manitoba’s belongs to Handsome Dick Manitoba, of the legendary NYC band The Dictators (whose guitarist was a defining member of Manowar, as well), and is located at 99 Avenue B, New York, NY 10009