To the guy who will never live down the time that he paid for his food in the Arby’s drive-through line, and then left before stopping at the second window to pick it up.
The guy who had a coupon for a “12-in sausage” for $7.99, so he brought his two kids to Dominic’s where he expected a pizza shop. Instead, he followed the directions, arrived at a hot-dog stand in front of the neighborhood Lowes Hardware Store, and STILL tried to order a pizza.
The go-to person for all my mental breakdowns, the one who supports my crazy life decisions and never says “I told you so” when I admit that his budget spreadsheet might have been a good idea in the first place.
The guy with a great taste in hats.
Most importantly, someone who guides me toward all the right choices and who is always there for a needed pep-talk when I make the wrong ones.
You will never know how much you are loved! Enjoy being 53!!! Keep up the good work.
(Also to the old guy that didn’t realize you can screenshot snap chats…haha gottcha!)
My parents gave me The Tender Bar as a gift on some occasion I can’t recall- maybe it was Christmas, or my Birthday- but regardless, those details don’t really matter. I know it was at least several years ago-maybe even five or six- when they handed it to me, stuffed in a bundle of tissue paper and waiting for me in one of the recycled gift bags from our attic on Glenshade Drive.
They had both read it-which was odd to me, because they never read the same things. Except for this one.
“I think you’ll really enjoy it, Lauren,” They both told me.
I was in college, and they’d call me and ask, “Did you read that Tender Bar book yet? You’ll like it, I’m telling you.”
“Yea, yea…I’ll get to it.” Perhaps I was just too busy being 19, writing papers, drinking, working at the campus call-center, and spending too much time at late night drive-through detours at Taco Bell. (I still can’t believe they got rid of the 89 cent special on the beefy five-layer burrito.)
At some point I started reading the first few pages of the ‘Bar Book,’ put it down, and decided I’d get to it later.
Later never came until this past year, when I moved to New York and realized that the only way I’d get through the morning subway commute was to distract myself with words- so I started reading. I read things that I never made time for before- “The Alchemist”, Teresa Caputo’s “There is More to Life Than This,” Joseph Campbell’s “The Power of Myth,” Juno Diaz’s “This is How You Lose Her”….and when I went back to my bookshelf for one more, I saw the ‘Tender Bar book’ waiting there- quiet and patient.
I started reading it on the train- while I was sitting, standing, wedged in the corner by the door during the morning rush hour traffic, and everywhere in-between. Somewhere between page 15 and 48 and 300- I couldn’t put it down. I left early for work in the mornings so I’d have a seat on the train and could read comfortably. This morning, I woke up at nine o’clock and read the final pages in my sweatpants in my Upper East Side apartment, with a cup of green tea and the disappointment that finishing meant I’d have to find a replacement.
“The Tender Bar” is a story about a boy growing up in Manhasset, New York and how the local bar, along with the men in it, shaped him, built him, and ultimately- saved him. I don’t think it would have meant as much to me 6 years earlier, so for that, I’m glad I never made time for it before. Moehringer writes about family struggles, abandonment, love, and the overwhelming disillusionment we must all come to terms with while chasing after dreams and in search of ourselves when we are young and reckless, vulnerable, completely lost, and crazy enough to try.
Moehringer finishes the last page with a sense of contentment and the notion that as crazy as the ride is, it’s the little moments, and the people we spend them with, that make all the broken ones a little less significant.
“Got a Surprise for you,” Jimbo said. He pulled out his Allman Brothers tape and slammed in another. Sinatra’s voice burst from the speakers. Jimbo laughed and I slugged him on the shoulder.
A few miles farther the jeep sputtered. Jimbo looked at the gauges. “Shit,” he said, throwing the wheel to the right and bouncing onto the shoulder. He jumped out and popped the hood. Smoke billowed from the engine.
“We may be here awhile,” he said, peering at the sun lowering on the horizon.
He sounded worried. For once I wasn’t. While Sinatra’s voice echoed off the sheer slopes of the rock, I was perfectly content to sit on the roof of this unavailing star and savor the sun. I didn’t care how much time we had until it disappeared behind the mountains. For one beautiful moment- and who could ask for anything more of life?- I needed and wanted for nothing.
“Where to?” he said in a brisk and subtle manner, his tone like that of someone who speaks only when it’s necessary- like someone who has mouthed that same phrase at least 100 times in the past hour.
“The Bronx,” I replied, “By Riverdale.” I handed him a blue post-it note with the address scribbled in black ink, messy and barely legible.
I saw the mental struggle as he peered through the cracked window from the driver’s seat.
“uhh, ehh…yea. Ok, fine.”
He helped me with my suitcase full of collegiate marketing memorabilia and blank inquiry cards, a table cloth and two pop-up posters. He fiddled with the GPS, asking me to clarify one of the illegible letters.
“Yea, it’s two B’s and two T’s….Tibbett Avenue. Yea, in the Bronx.”
I got in the backseat and stared straight ahead at the mini-tv propped up on the back of the passenger’s seat. Seth Meyers appeared several times on the screen with his charming one-liners, and by the third 15-second reel, the taxi driver made a sound.
“Ohhh. Damn.” He tapped the steering wheel. “I forgot to start the meter,” he said, glancing back at me with a forced smile, perhaps hoping to convince the both of us it didn’t really matter. But we both knew the difference 7 dollars makes in a place like this. “You have cash, though, right?”
“…umm…” I pretend to fumble through my wallet. “No, sorry I don’t. Just my business credit card from the school I work for.”
“You can add more tip to cover it?” he asked, as more of a hopeful statement. His request was fair, and in any normal circumstance I would have gladly obliged. How am I going to break this to him, I thought.
“Well, yea…um…you see, I definitely would, butt….with my company card I can only tip a max of 20%. They are really strict with that. I’m sorry…” As I said it, I thought about the story I heard when I first started working. Some employee tipped 25% instead of 20 and they had to pay back the difference. He brought the three dollars to the office in pennies. And while this driver deserved his money, I decided I didn’t deserve to lose my hard earned 7 dollars for his mistake. This is how New York changes you, I thought.
He nodded, begrudgingly. We were both quiet, pretending to pay attention to our surroundings, when I looked down at my GPS.
“I think we should probably go across the park and up the west highway…it looks like there is a lot of traffic on the-“
He turned back and waved his hand, smiled again to hide his disappointment in the 7 dollars he would not be receiving today and replied, “I think I’ll just follow the GPS.”
“Sure, that’s fine.” I felt too awkward to argue.
We followed the signs straight ahead on the east side toward interstate 87 and the Deegan Expressway, and the closer we got, the more the red on my map stretched out across the screen. The estimated travel time went from 37 to 18 to 40 to 38 minutes and before we knew it, we had been inching forward for almost an hour.
“I got to go back to Queens, you see,” he said after a half hour of silence.
“Yea, that’s why I stopped ‘cause I saw your suitcase and thought maybe you were headed to LaGuardia.”
“Oh, yea,” I said, “nope, I wish.” I pictured some tropical vacation spot on the beach somewhere, anywhere – “No, Just the Bronx.”
We both were sitting there, hot and tired and wishing we were headed anywhere but where we were- also in the opposite direction. However, at this point, wedged between 500 cars in front and behind us, there was nowhere to go but straight ahead.
He turned on the radio and the announcer warned travelers about the accident on the Deegan Expressway and the heavy traffic all along the FDR. Yea, no shit, I thought to myself.
After what should have been a 20 minute ride, he dropped me off an hour and fifteen minutes later, 40 minutes after the start of the college fair I RSVP’d to a month ago.
I wasn’t the only one. And in the end, it was mostly 6th-8th graders, so it didn’t really matter. They had no idea what to ask, and I had no idea what to tell them. I stared straight at all of them and asked in my college-fair-happy-voice if they had questions, and if they knew what they wanted to study. Some had answers. Some didn’t, and some smiled meekly, took pamphlets and walked away to the next table.
At five, I walked out of the school and miraculously found green taxi letting a family out on 231st street, and waved him down.
“Can you take me to Manhattan, Upper East Side?”
I crossed my fingers, he let me in, helped me with my bag, nodded and smiled.
“I take the West Highway and then across the park?”
“Yes,” I said, crossing my fingers for a 30 minute venture home. “That will be fine. By the way…did you start the meter?”
He looked at me and in broken English replied “what? The meter?”
“Yea, did you start it?”
“…yes.” He gave me a puzzled look, a forced and crooked smile, and started driving.
The thing about the bold moves, they are terrifying- could end in nothing but tears and broken bones. And that’s exactly what makes them so damn exciting.
Grey’s Anatomy, Season 10, Episode 22
The Tender Bar – J.R. Moehringer
“Every book is a miracle. Every book represents a moment when someone sat quietly- and that quiet is part of the miracle, make no mistake – and tried to tell the rest of us a story.”
“You must do everything that frightens you, JR. Everything. I’m not talking about risking your life, but everything else. Think about fear, decide right now how you are going to handle fear, because fear is going to be the great issue of your life, I promise you. Fear will be the fuel of all your success, and the root cause of all your failures, and the underlying dilemma in every story you tell yourself about yourself. And the only chance you’ll have against fear? Follow it. Steer by it. Don’t think of fear as the villain. Think of fear as your guide, your pathfinder—your Natty Bumppo.”
Today I spent a lovely Mother’s Day Brunch with my friend Kelsey and her mother at a café in the Upper West Side. It was called French Roast, and I had an chicken, apple and brie sandwich on a baguette- it was even tastier than it sounds. mmmmm.
As I began to walk back from the café I realized how effortless it felt to navigate back home, how familiar this city has become, but also how much I have yet to explore.
I took my time walking to the East Side, and noticed a bookstore on the corner of 81st. I walked in and the musty smell of old books and memories and stories and bittersweet nostalgia, hit me straight in the face. I picked up the first couple of books that caught my attention, opened them and read the inscriptions written in ink on the inside front covers. They were mostly illegible, but the words weren’t as important as the fact that they meant something to someone at some point in time. I wanted to know where they were sold in the first place, and how they ended up in a second hand bookstore in New York City on the corner of 81st and Broadway.
I stopped at the French section and attempted to read the first page of each book I opened. I made out some of the words, and stumbled over others, and was reminded that although it’s been 7 years since my last French class, I love the language and culture just as much as I did back then. If I had had cash on me, I would have bought at least one to see how far I could get. Instead, I closed the last cover, pushed it back on the shelf and continued walking home.
I walked back through to the other side of the park, and continued to take my time. I listened to the music under the bridge, passed tents selling jewelry and paintings and handbags. I passed children making drawings with sidewalk chalk and families having picnics on the lawn. Just another Sunday in the park – in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. I might be broke, but it’s times like this when I realize how lucky I am to have Manhattan as my back yard.
To my Mom- It’s been a bumpy road at times, but I hope you know how much I love you. Thanks for always saying goodnight even though you know it drives me crazy, for dealing with me through adolescence, teaching me how to knit, and supporting me through all my crazy ideas and adventures. I wouldn’t be the same without you.
To everyone else who has been like a second mother to me throughout my life- my Step-Mom Kathy, Denise, and Fabienne, I love and appreciate you all more than you know! ❤
Hope everyone out there has had a great day 🙂
“I love unmade beds. I love when people are drunk and crying and cannot be anything but honest in that moment. I love the look in people’s eyes when they realize they’re in love. I love the way people look when they first wake up and they’ve forgotten their surroundings. I love the gasp people take when their favorite character dies. I love when people close their eyes and drift to somewhere in the clouds. I fall in love with people and their honest moments all the time. I fall in love with their breakdowns and their smeared makeup and their daydreams. Honesty is just too beautiful to ever put into words.”
i could listen to this over and over and over.