You know that Tom Waits song “Christmas Cards from A Hooker in Minneapolis”? Well, if I could rewrite that song, it would be called “Christmas Cards from a Server in the East Village in ’01,” and it would be about my first Christmas Eve in New York City. I was living in Bushwick, Brooklyn, about 15 years before it would become the 7th coolest neighborhood in the world. This was after someone broke into my car and removed the steering column, but before my roommate got knifed by a mugger outside our door and we celebrated that he wasn’t killed with a bottle of champagne. There weren’t a lot of businesses around the neighborhood looking to hire a 19-year-old from Pennsylvania, so I had gotten a job just a short ride away on the L train in the East Village. It was at a cafe that was written into the play Rent back in the 90s because Jonathan Larson used to hang out there. The staff was all artists—writers like myself, painters, puppeteers, musicians. We all abused the “one free drink after a shift” policy with the fervor of broke alcoholics, and I woke up in Canarsie more than one morning at 3 am. The manager had a past as a rock and roll groupie, and claimed to have banged Lou Reed several times in the 70s. She was eventually overthrown and replaced by one of the bartenders in a coup not unlike the dive bar version of MacBeth.
But she was still there that Christmas Eve. And, as the person on the staff with the least experience and the least seniority, I was scheduled to be there, too. The place was empty and our one customer left me a note instead of a tip that said I’d ruined his Christmas by telling him I couldn’t refund a drink he’d already drank all of. We drank way too much egg nog while my former-groupie manager talked about the past and I, I’m sure, tried not to sound like I was nineteen.
Sometimes, even though I’m fourteen years older, live in the decidedly unhip borough of Queens, and have a job where I don’t have to work on Christmas, I still think fondly of being nineteen and drinking egg nog with an old rock groupie with dyed red hair in a dive that’s long since closed up it’s door, like almost all the places I loved in the East Village have. And here, to that memory, I present you with a holiday drink that brings me back to that time (written with my partner, another early aughts East Village alum, Mya Byrne).
East Village Night Shift Egg Nog, c. 2001
- Drink the rest of the bourbon out of the bottle left over from after your shift. Shudder.
- Wake up.
- Go to the Food Bazaar on Myrtle Avenue.
- Purchase Tuscan brand egg nog.
- Buy a hip flask of Bacardi for the nog and a slightly cheaper and smaller bottle of bourbon than you would normally buy because you bought rum for the nog.
- Go home.
- Open rum, add to egg nog. Sip.
- Remember that you hate egg nog.
- Open bourbon. Drink neat or on the rocks. Leave rum on shelf for six months til you forget to buy bourbon.
- Go to work.