Bloodsong of Love at Ars Nova

Tumbleweeds rarely cross Midtown West, and shoot-outs are now infrequent. But don’t tell young composer Joe Iconis, who deems Tenth Avenue a fine location for whiskey swilling and gunslinging. In Bloodsong of Love, directed by John Simpkins, Iconis presents a “Rock ‘n’ Roll Spaghetti Western” on Ars Nova’s teensy stage. The plot concerns the Musician (Eric William Morris), whose true love, Santa Violetta (MK Lawson), is kidnapped by a kazoo-wielding villain, Lo Cocodrillo (Jeremy Morse).

Iconis has created 10 songs, plus numerous reprises, that offer enjoyable pastiches of folks like Ennio Morricone, Johnny Cash, and Dolly Parton, ably performed by a five-member band. Less happily, he has also supplied the book and lyrics, and while several lines are inspired, most sound feeble. For example, Lo Cocodrillo insists that “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight/It’s the size of the dick on the dog in fight.” This is not only crass, but in my limited experience of fighting dogs, quite wrong. The plucky cast, however, seem to enjoy every dreadful metaphor. They also enjoy dousing each other with gallons of stage blood. Be warned, front row: This spaghetti western comes with extra red sauce.


Marianne Faithfull

Her voice, like Tina Turner’s, is long gone but it doesn’t matter—they both know how to use what’s left of it, which is more than Dylan can say. Now a grand dame, she can easily entertain with her own back catalog and some wry banter, but tonight she’s covering the American Songbook, which might include her recent covers of Randy Newman, Merle Haggard, and Dolly Parton but hopefully also her wonderful pre-war covers from Strange Weather, too.

Wed., Jan. 13, 8:30 p.m., 2010


Miss California Partied Down with a Trannie!

Here’s a Broadway diary courtesy of someone who never leaves at intermission—and, boy, is my ass tired.

First off, I saw the strong revival of Joe Turner’s Come and Gone with an audience full of young students, whom you might think would be texting and talking back to the stage, since they couldn’t possibly have the erudite theatergoing skills that I’ve long perfected. But they were completely rapt and respectful—they adored it! I now want to see everything with students instead of Ohio housewives with appliquéd blouses and boxes of crullers.

Another resuscitated melodrama, O’Neill’s Desire Under the Elms, has lots of boulder lifting, baby killing, and sweaty sex on the rocks. It’s The Flintstones meets The Young and the Restless. There are some heavy-handed touches (long stares, strenuous chewing), and the climactic horror doesn’t seem that special because everyone’s already been screaming from the get-go. But at least this is not a play we see a lot, and the production has a primal gustiness that will probably horrify just the right Ohio housewives. (PS: I used to say “Iowa housewives” until they proved to be far more liberated than anyone else here. Soon I’ll be dropping “New Hampshire” and “Maine” references, too. I might even drop “housewives.”)

Pretty much the same set of barren rocks is used for Waiting for Godot, though, unlike Elms, this show springs for a barren tree, too. The bedraggled stars—Nathan Lane and Bill Irwin—hit their stride in Act Two, with a heartbreaking display of brilliant chemistry and timing. But the night I went, a couple in the second row weirdly started making out in full view, without even going under an elm. So all that nihilism and despair made them hot? They’d probably be fornicating over at Exit the King.

I haven’t seen The Philanthropist yet, but catty queens say that revival’s ads should quote from the Times review: “Beats just about anything on Broadway this season.” That, of course, is an edit from the full sentence: “For sheer dullness, this putative comedy beats just about anything on Broadway this season.”

The 9 to 5 folks did an interesting edit of their own, and they actually put it into the Times. Their “ABCs” listing boldly stated “10 Outer Critics Circle nominations,” until a few days later, when it was amended to the more accurate “three nominations.” (Maybe there should be a new Dolly Parton song: “Changing three to 10/What a way to make a livin’ . . .”)

The showa sort of Legally Blonde for the older set—is not exactly Mary Stuart, and Dolly’s score is rather small-chested for Broadway, but the three leads are hugely appealing, and the whole thing has a feel-good quality that, for once, doesn’t make you feel bad.

On the flipside, Next to Normal has beautiful moments, solid performances, and lots of truth. Alas, I ultimately thought it was absolute torture. If you hate someone, send them to see it.

Things got queasy when I caught Ethan Coen‘s trio of one-acts, Offices, and the set stalled twice, prompting one of the actors to quip, “I’m sensing a trend.” They should probably do what 9 to 5 thought up when there were tech problems out of town—send Dolly Parton onstage!

Meanwhile, a theater piece has now officially spawned a second movie, with no technical drawbacks at all. At the Tribeca Film Festival, Crayton Robey‘s Making the Boys turned out to be a sweeping examination of Mart Crowley‘s The Boys in the Band—the landmark play-turned-film of gay zinging and pathos—in which I’m a talking head, along with every other surviving gay in the arts. At the premiere, there was all new banter to savor. I heard Carson Kressley lend his bottle of water to Robey and quip, “Don’t worry, I don’t have swine flu . . . yet.” But he apparently does have other stuff going on. On the panel after the screening, the ex–Queer Eye star told the crowd, “I’m on new ADD meds, and I just feel like riding a bike!” Me, too! Without a helmet!

I rode back to the festival for Barry Levinson‘s documentary PoliWood, which left one of its featured celebs, Oscar winner Ellen Burstyn, a little punchy. “I was making a different film than he was,” admitted Burstyn about her director. “I thought we were making a film about Barack Obama and the political process. So it was a total surprise to see we were making a film about the effect television has on us!” But she liked it. In fact, she feels it beats just about anything this season.

The political process and the effects of TV were discussed at the IFC Media Project panel at the Paley Center, which started with moderator Gideon Yago thanking us “for braving swine flu to be here.” (Judging by all the gags, one suspects people aren’t taking this epidemic as hysterically as Joe Biden is.) The chosen media types started gabbing about the “sea change” in political coverage, and I was reminded that Tina Brown is a very slick and savvy speaker who effortlessly tosses off words like “rancor” and phrases like “feverish, partisan investigative journalism.” Asked whether TV is a reductive medium, Brown said that when she had her own MSNBC show, some on-air conversations she was especially proud of didn’t exactly get big ratings. “TV doesn’t do well with nuance or explanation,” said Brown. “It’s a very hot medium. If there isn’t conflict, it has to be manufactured.” That must be why I’m getting booked a lot lately.

The accolades came down like toppling boulders at the Film Society of Lincoln Center tribute to Tom Hanks, with Steven Spielberg gushing, “He is us, and we are he. He’s the legend next door.” But it wasn’t too hard to find glimmers of a darker, more textured side to the wildly successful everyman. One director admiringly said Tom thinks rehearsals are an egregious waste of time. (And who’s going to argue—his co-star, the volleyball?) Sally Field chirped, “Tom is kind of ADD. You have to be very interesting when you talk to him because if a butterfly flies by, he’s like, ‘Look at that!’ ” (I’m sensing a trend.) And Charlize Theron sincerely testified, “He was so nice—he called me to let me know he cut me out of that movie.” Well, he only cut part of her out of that movie—That Thing You Do—and when Hanks got up to speak, he referenced her other early opus, 2 Days in the Valley, and deadpanned, “It sounds like a lesbian fight film.” No, dear, that was Monster.

And finally, while Carrie Prejean—the Miss California traditionalist who favors “opposite” marriage—might not be a monster, she does have some pigheaded ideas to go with her falsies. But at least she once paused to take photos with trannie extraordinaire Amanda Lepore, as uncovered the other day by Us Weekly. I called the trannie—meaning Amanda, not Carrie—to ask what party that was shot at, and she cooed, “I don’t remember meeting her. You know how many pictures I take!” Fortunately, Amanda had an opinion of the beauty queen’s gay-baiting stance anyway. “That was stupid,” said the club diva, who just launched a perfume to go with her doll, Swatch, CD, and vagina. “She could never make a career in TV. Gays monopolize everything! She’s a dummy!

“Now she’s trying to have churches help her,” Amanda went on. “That doesn’t sound promising. But at least she has big tits. She can marry a high roller and have miserable kids that hate her.” All thanks to opposite marriage!


Gay Recap: Dolly Parton Confuses, Ed Koch Evades

Sometimes such dizzying things happen in the media that I am too stunned to type them in and share them with you kids. Thank Goddess for Rex Wockner, the gay blogger who does a column called “Quote, Unquote,” reminding us of that month’s queer-related utterances from notables and blabbermouths.

It was one of the better months for celeb sexuality, as the latest “Quote, Unquote” deliciously informs us. First of all, ex Gotham mayor Ed Koch told The New York Times:


“I do not want to add to the acceptability of asking every candidate, ‘Are you straight or gay or lesbian?’ and make it a legitimate question, so I don’t submit to that question. I don’t care if people think I’m gay because I don’t answer it. I’m flattered that at 84 people are interested in my sex life — and, it’s quite limited.”

Ed, check out something called Viagra–and something else called Manhunt. And tell me when anyone has ever been asked if they’re straight!

More interestingly, backwoods Barbie Dolly Parton told Larry King:

“I am not gay. I have been accused of that. But I have been happily married for 42 years to the same man. And he’s not the least bit, you know, threatened by the fact that I may be gay.”

Dolly, darling, I adore you, but “accused”? It’s not a crime! And then you say “I am not gay…I may be gay.” That made me so dizzy I just spit out my cup of ambition.


Lee Ann Womack’s Country-Siren Schizophrenia

Of all the divas Nashville has coughed up recently, Lee Ann Womack has to be the saddest—which easily makes her the most fascinating, particularly since her biggest hit was the ultra-uplift, seize-the-day, let’s-all-cry-and-twirl-on-the-beach anthem “I Hope You Dance.” So in 2005, when she snuck off to a dirty motel room for a liaison with trad country in There’s More Where That Came From, it seemed like a genius move. However,Call Me Crazy arrives and hedges the bet: Downy pop blooms next to
pedal-steel-driven barroom weepers. The title is apt—this one’s got a
pronounced multiple-personality disorder.

Consequently, the shivers of recognition when Womack sings “I bet you’re in a bar” in the glorious ache of “Last Call” give way to amnesia as you try to recall many of the songs after it. Furthermore, so many bromides float to the top of “I Found It in You” that it would make Hallmark gag. But as much as that song could be a PowerPoint presentation in Music Row Pandering 101, “The Bees” is weird by the standards of any genre, much less the tight-ass message-control freaks that run country music. An industrial hum and deep bass-drum slaps frame a song about child abuse and the redemptive power of being a drone . . . OK, that’s just a guess. Whatever it is, it’s plenty cool. Womack tries to do her best Dolly Parton impression on the flat “King of Broken Hearts,” then retreats to uplift with the string-filled closer “Story of My Life.” Even so, there’s a palpable melancholy in Womack’s delivery, a resignation that makes you believe—all right, hope—that there’s a little more where that came from, and a little less of everything else.


Dolly Parton’s Boobs and Pharrell Williams’ Balls

Let me take you chronologically through my week so I can eschew boring segues and simply relate things in the order they happened—exactly as I experienced them!

On Monday, I saw [title of show], that Rice Krispie treat of a musical about two guys writing a musical about two guys writing a musical.

The Russian-doll-like result is achingly clever and actually quite beautiful, and though it now runs eight times longer than before because suddenly there are crowds of people screaming with laughter over each line to show you they got it, that’s OK because you find yourself joining them. (Cute sidebar: The show’s Jeff Bowen and director/choreographer Michael Berresse are in a relationship, which must make it even more fun to work on something whose name I won’t say again because I hate doing brackets inside parens.)

Later that night, I caught The Doorman, the satirical film about the making of a documentary about a doorman—eek, that’s almost a segue—and though they got the hair and the loony attitudes right, the film is all over the clipboard and ends up spending way more time than you’d ever want to spend with anyone who used to work at Crobar.

The next morning, I was on the list for Backwoods Barbie Dolly Parton‘s promo event for the upcoming Broadway version of 9 to 5, so I poured myself a cup of ambition and got my heinie in place. Writer Patricia Resnick was there, saying the film’s feminist themes are still potent because “the press thought it was OK to talk about Hillary‘s cleavage and never mentioned McCain‘s package once.” (“I’m grateful for that,” murmured someone on the creative team.) Of course, with Dolly involved, they’re practically begging for people to talk about a woman’s cleavage—but I noticed a couple of chorus boys whose packages are pretty noteworthy as well, ahem.

“I feel like Minnie Pearl!” 1,000-watt Dolly crowed to the assembled media, looking like a Precious Moments sexpot. “I’m just so glad to be here!” The top-heavy country legend chirped that, when asked to write the score, she went home and “prayed about it” and acted out all the parts until she came up with 20 new songs. Her devoutness eventually landed her in Jimmy Nederlander Sr.’s office, where she told him, “I don’t really know what I’m doing, but I set out to kiss ass, so bend over!” And suddenly one of Broadway’s esteemed personages became a power top.

Before rimming us goodbye, Dolly revealed that in the movie’s title song, that rhythmic sound you hear is her “strumming my falsies”—i.e., her fake nails. Gosh, I’d always assumed those big swollen things were real!

They strummed actual instruments that night at the Paper magazine/Converse bash at Santos’ Partyhouse, with N.E.R.D rousing the crowd as lead singer Pharrell Williams urged, “Get offa that Times Square–L.A. bullshit, put your fucking cameras up, and try to have a good motherfucking time!” I did as ordered—you don’t argue with language like that—but I was interrupted by a guy cornering me to natter on about how I’m a “monster” and a “beast.” I was all set to wring the freak’s neck with his dreads, but it turned out I’m just not down with the homey’s lingo; he was actually kissing my ass, Dolly style! Fine—lay it on me, kids! I’m Heath Ledger’s Joker! Madonna! Christie Brinkley‘s ex-husband! Anthrax! I’m Applebee’s!

Another day, another press presentation, this time for A Sale of Two Titties—no, wait, that was the Dolly Parton show; I mean A Tale of Two Cities, the musical version of the Dickens novel starring the Beauty and the Beast guy who was charged with sexual assault on a 15-year-old. (That was shocking: a Broadway musical actor going after a girl!) At the event, the director—maybe for equal time—pointed out a “beautiful little boy” in the cast, to whom various males then sang the plaintive ballad “Little One.”

But anyway, isn’t a big, dramatic, historical musical (complete with a belting Madame Defarge) a little out of fashion these days? “I hope it’s not,” writer Jill Santoriello told me after the presentation. “I think a good story is always in fashion.” But shouldn’t they maybe throw in some, say, Nirvana or Dusty Springfield songs to keep things nostalgically au courant? “I didn’t know from jukebox shows when I wrote the show,” admitted Santoriello. “I wrote it back during Ronald Reagan’s first term. It took so long to get produced because, as a suburban New Jersey girl, I had no idea how to get a musical out of my living room.” Honey, I have no idea how to get one out of my bathroom! But the Jersey girl did it, and without kissing any Nederlander butt.

Still, come on—another French Revolution musical? “This is the second,” she informed me, “after The Scarlet Pimpernel. Les Miz is not about the French Revolution; it’s about a student uprising 50 years after. But we will have angry French people in our show,” she promised. “You can’t go wrong with angry French people!” C’est vrai. I still love ’em for being against that other war.

I waged a battle royale with my gender and came out male anyway, feeling a tad underdressed at the opening of the Fresh Fruit Festival’s Strike a Pose show of drag art at Leslie/Lohman gallery. A sporty crowd had come to see the sumptuous array of drag portraits, some of them using visual tricks to cover all the gender bases. (There’s a photo of Epiphany in drag birthing herself as a male baby and one of curator Lady Clover Honey being fed a muffin by herself as a guy. I finally know what these two queens look like without falsies!) “You should be butch or femme,” Clover told me, wearing a pink pop-bead necklace and deafeningly loud print dress. “I don’t like being androgynous—it’s one or the other.” “And right now you’re butch?” I quipped brilliantly. “I like to party as a female gender better,” Clover went on, unfazed. “It feels weird to party with my balls hanging down.” I know! I’m gonna have to tape mine to my ankles!

Ankles—hold on, this is definitely a segue—are getting follow-spot treatment with Cold as Ice, a touring musical starring Oksana Baiul that’s hoping for blades of glory on Broadway. At the [title of show] party on Thursday—it all comes together—a publicist for the frosty tuner told me: “Oksana is a pistol! She gets offers to skate in Japan for $50,000 and says no, but she’ll always work on the show.” And if it gets old as ice, she can always tap her way into the French Revolution or just rollerblade into Xanadu.

Just then, ambulatory legend Betty Buckley—who’s by far the best thing in The Happening—showed a good sense of humor about being called “a hot box of crazy” in [show], though she wasn’t totally sure what that meant. “I guess crazy from head to toe,” I awkwardly tried to explain. “Is that good?” she wondered. “Yeah!” I assured her. And it is! But who am I to talk? I’m ready to do this all over again next week. I’m a beast.


The Gospel According to Dolly Parton

You want to know, so I’ll tell you: Yes, Dolly Parton told jokes about her breasts. Several. The one explaining why Thursday night’s triumphant Radio City Music Hall hootenanny had been delayed a few months—she’d thrown her back out, you see, pulling her husband out of the giant craters she’d formed in their foam mattress by sleeping face-down—was slightly too wordy. The one addressing her political ambitions was more pleasingly succinct. “People ask me, ‘Dolly, why don’t you run for president?’ ” it begins. “And I say, ‘Don’t you think we’ve had enough boobs in the White House?’ “

Cue cheers, guffaws, adoration. If the phone’s ringing at 3 a.m., I would like Dolly Parton to answer it. What she’d say is less important than how she’d say it, the bewildering power of her voice alone, a relentlessly chipper chirp that seems a half-step or so higher than it really ought to be. A voice far more voluptuous and entrancing than her cleavage; for someone who looks like the exact opposite of Olive Oyl, she sure sounds an awful lot like Olive Oyl. Flaunting contradiction is a hobby of hers: She’s a gorgeous vision tonight, wrapped in a sparkly, opulent white dress, singing “Coat of Many Colors,” a timeless ode to love triumphing over abject poverty via handmade clothes, while strumming a sparkly, opulent white autoharp. “I leave no rhinestone unturned,” Dolly notes, one of several shopworn one-liners she’s used to acknowledge both her fortune and the gleefully garish ends she puts that fortune to. “You know I need the money,” she jokes, surveying the well-heeled, rapturous crowd before her. “It costs a lot to make somebody look this cheap.”

Dolly has an actually really excellent new album, Backwoods Barbie, that struggles—a little defiantly, a little defensively—to reconcile Dolly’s body with Dolly’s soul. The title track sternly warns us not to write her off as a vapid, ditzy blonde, not to judge the book by its cover, as it were: “I’m a real good book.” Thursday’s show avoids the record’s loopier notions: stunt covers of “Tracks of My Tears” and Fine Young Cannibals’ “She Drives Me Crazy,” a kiss-off song called “Shinola” that manages not to use the word shit (instead, you get jibes like “Your attitude stinks and I hate it”), etc. She has bigger fish to fry. Onstage, she’s a whirlwind of giddy energy, a torrent of Oh boy!‘s and All right!‘s, regaling us with Hee Haw–worthy one-liners (“You know you’re getting old when you go from taking acid to taking antacid”), reminiscing about her “horny Baptist” Tennessee family, pimping her child-literacy program, briefly swiping back at the tabloids who’d apparently reported that her tour is in “shambles,” announcing that she’d prefer to die onstage (not right now, but whenever her time comes), and slinging indelible slices of country-pop cheesecake: “Two Doors Down,” “Thank God I’m a Country Girl,” “Why’d You Come Here Lookin’ Like That,” “Islands in the Stream” (no Kenny, alas), the mighty “Jolene.” Her bustling backing band (often strumming four guitars simultaneously, very Glen Campbell meets Glenn Branca) fights like hell to keep up: During one 45-second stretch, Dolly plays harmonica, fiddle, and banjo. There’s also a bizarre interlude wherein she reads allegedly fan-generated questions off a note card:

Q: “Is it true you’ve had plastic surgery?”
A: “Not this year.”

Even the show’s less riveting moments—her backing band’s dopey five-minute medley of pop-music history (oh, great: “Wipeout”), the beautifully sung but draggy new ballad “Only Dreamin’ “—blow harmlessly by in a jetstream of goodwill, harmless filler while we wait for her to belt out “I Will Always Love You” (with a shout-out to Whitney Houston “for making me a bunch of money”) and to barnstorm through “9 to 5.” Both are proof of Dolly’s consummate power as both entertainer and songwriter, skills equally evident on Backwoods Barbie, particularly the adultery lament “Cologne,” which in its first line (“You ask me not to wear cologne/She’ll know you’ve been with me alone”) vaporizes 98 percent of all other adultery laments. Near show’s end, she apologizes in the event she’s offended anyone, which is unlikely; having electrified the crowd into shouting the chorus to “9 to 5” en masse, she strides triumphantly offstage, changes up her outfit, and strides right back for the encore to unleash Barbie‘s “Jesus and Gravity,” which is not, in fact, another joke about her breasts, but instead describes the only two things she really needs. (The first is more important.)

Generally, this is a terrible idea: following your biggest hit with your little-heard newest. The Radio City masses, dancing in the aisles just a few seconds ago, politely sit down and prepare to indulge her. But it’s tremendously endearing how out of hand “Jesus and Gravity” gets, a triumphant gospel-pop thunderclap that pours on the backing-choir effusions and the soaring high notes and the biblically grandiose choruses until even a roomful of godless city slickers are feeling downright Pentecostal—one more delicious paradox for the road. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, but Dolly wins over absolutely everyone by being both. By the end of the song, everyone’s standing again.



City attitudes getting on your nerves? Feel like you might go postal any minute? Maybe it’s time for a little Southern comfort (and we don’t mean the kind that you knock back with soda—even though that might help!). Tonight, the DanceNow/NYC Festival welcomes the edgy DancemOpolitan series’ latest installment, Southern Comfort, a hysterical showcase featuring downtown’s hottest choreographers/dancers goin’ all hillbilly. Order dirty martinis and enjoy that famed Southern hospitality as boisterous hostesses Monica Barnes and Deborah Lohse introduce works inspired by country-music icons and notables like Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Patsy Cline, the Useless Bastards, Tom Waits, and others. The Dang-It Boys also show off their musical twang.

Fri., March 14, 9:30 p.m.; Sat., March 15, 9:30 p.m., 2008


Dolly Parton’s Backwoods Barbie

Dolly Parton’s people are billing this as the singer/actress’s return to “mainstream country” following a three-album wander in the noncommercial wilds of bluegrass. It’s easy to grasp what “mainstream country” means in this context: big choruses, rock guitars, cover art that depicts the legally blonde 62-year-old sprawled on a bed of hay in a microscopic leopard-print miniskirt. Yet calling this proudly idiosyncratic album a product of the mainstream doesn’t seem quite right—compared to recent stuff by relatively conservative New Nashville superstars like Alan Jackson and Trisha Yearwood, Backwoods Barbie seems more like a willful exercise of artistic license inspired by Parton’s recent founding of her own label. Put another way, were red-state America as delightfully free-spirited as Dolly is here, I’d be a lot less worried about Mike Huckabee’s future in politics.

It all starts with the voice—that breathy, high-pitched infant-whinny that only time has taught us to not mistake for My Little Pony. Parton doesn’t always crank up that affectation here—her singing in the title track, for example, is plainly gorgeous—but when she does, she really lays it on thick, delivering the first verse of “Better Get to Livin’ ” in an exaggerated stage whisper, as though divulging the secret recipe for the hush puppies at Dollywood. You also get left-field covers (“She Drives Me Crazy” by Fine Young Cannibals), goofy puns (“I’m not the Dalai Lama, but I’ll try to offer up a few words of advice”), and weirdly intricate descriptions of adultery that make cheating sound like far more work than it’s worth (“Cologne”). Consider it proof that the middle of Dolly’s road is hardly straight and narrow.

Dolly Parton plays Radio City Music Hall ( May 1.


Well Regulated

Some famous dude once said, “Familiarity breeds contempt,” but in this fast-changing, trend-chasing
city, burnt-out folks desperately cling to the opposite. Situated on a
placid stretch of Columbia Street that feels like the inverse of the hectic
and trendy Smith Street scene a few blocks over, Lido Bar (200 Columbia
Street, Brooklyn) rests comfortably between the yuppie hangout B61 and the
scummy-chic Moonshine, striking a balance between the two with its low-key

On a recent Tuesday night we wandered through the establishment’s garage-like, retractable door that effectively erases the boundary between bar and sidewalk (though the smoking crowd would disagree). Stepping over the threshold into the ocher-colored room was like breaking the fourth wall on a stage set. We quickly performed the mandatory dive test: Dim lighting? Yup. Pool table? No doubt. Dusty beat-up board games? Bingo.

There was no crowd to speak of—that’s the beauty of dives-—just some dudes in cargo shorts shooting stick in the back and a gentleman sipping merlot at the bar with his pooch in the next seat. Yet, unlike some bars that strain to achieve the same insouciant mood (here’s looking at you, L.E.S.), the pieces all fit. The spot just has that slow, scruffy charm of a stoner pal: “Hey buddy,” it inquires amiably, “How you been?”

In one corner sits Big Buck Hunter for your blood-lust fantasies, while decorations from various holidays gone by dangle from the ceiling. Twin television sets frame the bar like single quotes, and the jukebox is loaded with go-to standards like Oasis and Dolly Parton, as well as homemade mixes with their tiny hand-scrawled track-listings. Nothing new perhaps, but counterculturally speaking, there’s nothing wrong with that.

Things stayed mellow as folks drifted in and out, a starving artist type clearly taking a creative break dropped in to kick back a few while chatting with the barman. Taking a cue from the lazy atmosphere, we settled in. For $5 we selected our personal soundtrack for the evening—T. Rex, Avalanches, The Clash (twice)—and planted ourselves at the bar. There are no surprises (we like it like that) to be had in the generic draft selections: Red Hook IPA, Brooklyn Lager, and Harpoon—although they did come in mug and pint sizes ($4 and $5 respectively). Inspired by the warm weather, I opted for a can of Tecate ($3) doctored up with a bit of salt, a spritz of lime, and a few dashes of Tabasco. It tasted just like Spring Break, minus the sunburn and mysterious bruises.

The evening unspooled at the same leisurely pace. We enjoyed the end of the 2-4-1 Happy Hour, which stretched from 5–8 p.m. The bartender greeted newcomers like regulars and even comped a couple rounds—that’s just what friends do. By the way, it was Mark Twain who said that thing about familiarity and contempt, but he bankrupted himself, so what the hell did he know?