They Were Here Before Your Grandparents Were Born

Every so often, I’m reminded of just why I liked New York and why I find myself missing it every so often.

Tell the truth, I get a kick out of commuting. In New York, it’s especially fun. Your train gets delayed–watch everyone whip out their phones to let people know they’ll be late. The stupendously long line for a taxi at Penn Station. Sidewalk maneuvering. Pre-walking in the subway. I miss it–but I am comfortable with the way things are right now.

The streets and sidewalks just pulse with life, all hours of the day every day. Some people might see the dense city as suffocating, but I look it as a constant reminder of being alive and living.

At night, the inhabitants pack into the bars and restaurants to hang out, socialize, nourish, and imbibe. Me, I spent many a night in one particular place, McSorley’s Old Ale House, a popular little spot on East 7th Street that’s been around since the 1840s. McSorley’s Old Ale House only serves one kind of ale, and that’s McSorley’s. McSorley’s comes in two varieties: dark and light. A round is composed of two mugs that can either be both dark or both light, or one of each. Waiter service is available at the tables, where you will be served by a right proper Irishman who will take good care of you. No matter how big your party is, he will bring all the beer that is due you in a round: it’s amazing how many mugs these guys can carry in one hand.

My friends and I went pretty regularly, usually on Thursdays around 5, which is the best time to go if you want to beat the crowds. At 5pm you will be served by a friendly man by the name of Tommy, who is one of the best waiters you’ll find at this establishment. In the grand tradition of Matty U!, we always left generous tips (so now you know where all my money went).

But graduation came, and we all went our separate ways out of the city, so our at-least-weekly McSorley’s runs came to an end. On graduation day, Gene, Joe, and I went to the saloon to drink our last round–as students, anyway.

On a recent visit to NYC, Gene and I dropped by McSorley’s to grab some lunch and some beer before heading back to his place. It was shortly past 11, so they were barely open. Besides the two of us and another couple that had just wandered in, the place was empty. What’s more, the sun was streaming in through the windows…strange. We ordered a couple of burgers apiece and a round of dark. Halfway into eating, who should I spot but Tommy, dressed quite suavely and heading towards the back. I acknowledge him with a nod. I expect him to just say “Hello, how are you fellows today?” but he stops and, having recognized us, turns around, extends his hand to me and Gene, saying “Good to see you fellows!” A few minutes later, he’s walking towards our table from the bar with four mugs of dark, sets them down with a flourish, saying “Here you are fellows, always good to see you,” and shakes our hands again.

When we get up to settle accounts, our tab is $7 less than what it should have been. Good ol’ Tommy bought us a round! It’s little things like that that make me feel all good inside. It’s little things like that that make me miss New York.