Steven (unzeugmatic) wrote,

My Latest Visit to Marie's Crisis Cafe

The Subject of this journal entry is not a metaphor, but a reference to an actual singalong piano bar in Greenwich Village, one of the last remaining in the US as far as I can determine.

I returned yesterday from a small trip to the New York City area, during which I had many adventures with friends, family, and strangers. I was lucky to get out of New Jersey by plane on Sunday afternoon, as the rain was torrential and the wind was stormsurge strong. My poor parents had to drive into the wind through the blinding rain on the way back from dropping me off at the airport. I noted that a few flights were cancelled, mostly because of the cancellation of incoming planes rathers than conditions at Newark at the time, but after I got home to a supremely warm and sunny Minnesota I saw on the news just how many flights had been unable to leave from the NYC airports that day.

As I say, there were many adventures. On Thursday I spent a lazy day in New York City followed by dinner with a few friends (including bearfuz and theoctothorpe) and then a few more drinks at a bar on 9th Avenue with theoctothorpe who had to make an early evening of it and get back home to Connecticut. In Minneapolis, 9:30 pm would be the end of the evening and time to head home, but this was New York City so I headed to Sheridan Square (home of Marie's Crisis). I've been dropping by Marie's Crisis off and on for my whole adult life. The selection of songs has changed notably since the late 70s, when American Songbook Standards and Big Broadway reigned. Now about 3/4 of what gets played is of relatively recent vintage. These folks know the lyrics to the songs from Rent, after all, and of course Wicked (I do not, for either). The otherwise delightful piano player last Thursday didn't even know (or have the fake book for) Guys and Dolls. I didn't even bother to ask for Alexander's Ragtime Band. Alas, I have become a fossil, but I still have a good time. Mostly.

Marie's Crisis can seem a little sad on occasion, in an aging-lonely-queen sort of way. But not last week, where I stayed for over four hours and got to talk with lots of folks -- there were few enough people there that this was easy to do.

There was the young woman who had moved up from Atlanta to make her way on Broadway, although Broadway has not yet gotten with the plan. She was with a much older gentleman, apparently her date, who had said to her at one point over dinner that he liked show tunes so she brought him by. He treated me to several drinks, since I knew the words to the older songs he wanted to hear. At one point I did the jitterbug with this woman, who freelances on occasion as a bar/bat mitzvah dancer. I didn't know what that was, but two days later at the bat mitzvah of my cousin's daughter (the event for which I had come east) I found out. But that's another story and another journal entry.

I spent a good part of the evening sitting with a woman a few years older than me who was visiting New York City from LA for a few days with her daughter, who performs in musicals on a regular basis at the community theater back home and who knew all the songs. For this trip they had brought along her younger son, an autistic young man of 22 who was seeing New York City for the first time. He was quite taken with the subway, and he was very excited about having seen a Broadway show that afternoon. His sister would regularly go outside for a smoke, and when the piano player would play something from a show she had been in he would excitedly run outside and drag her back in. Apparently she brings him along to rehearsals at her theater, and she even takes him out to bars with her friends -- where the bartenders pour him non-alcoholic drinks that look like regular drinks so he can join in. I found this out because the bartender at Marie's Crisis went along with this ruse as well. It was really very sweet. The sister was very very insistent about writing down her phone number for me, with the note "when you move to LA!" below it. I find this flattering, but mostly I find it fun to spend an evening on the town with people as if I knew them when I do not.

I also got to talking with a different young woman, a business consultant with a degree in Arts Management from a school in Cincinnati. Her friends from Cincinnati were in town so she brought them by. It turns out this woman trained in Opera, which was cool, and she sang Summertime and sometimes at the end of singalong numbers she would easily go to a final note of a high A or B flat, which impressed the piano player. We talked for a while and then she reached into her purse and gave me her business card, saying, as she handed it to me, something like, "You're fun and interesting." I think the turning point for her was when I found out that she had worked for some opera companies, and I asked for her take on the situation with Ruth Ann Swenson at the Met (there had been a article just that morning in the New York Times). Her friends were stylish pretty women in their late-twenties (just a guess) who became my good pals for the evening as well.

There were other folks around the piano who were full of fun and life. A hair colorist guy of about 40 years came and joined me and one of the Cincinnati girls at the piano at one point -- I found out his profession when one of the women there told us that she had had her hair bleached for the first time just that day and she didn't know whether she liked it.

I stayed until the bar closed, so I got to hear the piano player and bar manager note that it had been a fun crowd that night. So I'm not making this up.

I'd say an evening where two different people press their business cards (or the equivalent) on me in case I want to contact them is a socially successful evening. The last time I went to Marie's Crisis by myself I collected only one of these cards. It's always straight women who give me their cards, it seems.
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