has the congenial July 4th custom of drumming up a group to go watch the NYC fireworks display, which gatherings I've usually missed in the past. This year, being as how the display was over the Hudson, the obvious viewing location was the Frying Pan
, which is an old rusty boat with a bar in it. The problem
is, that particular venue has been Discovered this season (to the point I heard some Joisey Boyz talking about it on the train), and we learned that they were charging a C-note just to step on board, let alone the food and booze cost.
I took to the intarwubs to find an alternative, and came across the Liberty Belle Spectacular
, at the rooftop bar of the Empire Hotel. Jazz Age party, cocktails, dancing, burlesque, and only $20 to get in; yes, that will do nicely. The more so as the word was that there would be only 25 at-the-door tickets, so it seemed likely that it would not be a goddamn crush.
[We pause while the audience laughs uproariously at my charming naïveté.]
The doors were to open at 7pm, so we (a party of six) rolled up about 7:20; whereupon we were taken aback to see a line of people extending around the corner and down the block. Was this for non-ticket-holders, we inquired? No, it's for everyone, and the line would split further up. ...Well OK then. We got on line, and chatted, and waited, and slowly shuffled forward, and waited some more, and... [Time passes.] Some 40 minutes later, we made it to where the line split, where they checked for printed receipts/confirmation numbers. Those which had same got blue tickets and went left; those who did not, got red tickets and went right. At which point both types of guest were passed through the velvet rope in equal numbers--or indeed with a stronger preference for the non-
advanced ticketed, much to the chagrin of those of us who had planned ahead. Indeed, after the third batch of hoi polloi were permitted up to the exclusion of ticket holders, a lady behind us confronted the gatekeeper to ask, in essence, What The Fuck, Dude. He claimed that he was letting people in equally. We all stared at him with the "you're lying, we know it, and you know it", but it was left at that and in the next batch he did let equal numbers in. (Lord knows what he did subsequently.)
At length we made it up top. The bar is a big space, with a terrace on either end (though of course only the western-facing one was going to be immediately relevant), and a decent amount of lounge seating, though not nearly enough for the mob of people. The band was excellent, playing jazz and swing tunes, and in old-style Navy uniforms, which I thought was a nice touch. As we rolled in, they were having an impromptu fashion show of ladies who had come in period rig, and there were many fine-looking outfits indeed, though the biggest hit was a Rosie the Riveter look-alike. The drinks were $14, which is a bit high, but they were at least good and unusual; in-house creations, not "here's your vodka and cranberry juice in a Dixie cup". If you managed to stab someone and get a seat, you could order food (and bottle service if you're that kind of idiot). Anyways, it being twenty to nine, we got drinks and immediately fought our way onto the terrace to try and get a decent view for the fireworks, which would start around 9:20.
And we stood. And stood. and stood. And were crushed by people. And couldn't see anything but an admittedly gorgeous sunset. There was burlesque and dancing where the bar let onto the terrace, which we could only perceive by the cheering and flashbulb popping. I was particularly woeful because I was wearing shoes that are not for standing in--I can
wear them all night, but not for hours of nothing but standing on concrete--and I was hitting the agony point; and we were crushed in behind a group who had a table and seats (those stupid square hassock things that bar/lounges like), and the party in question weren't even sitting half the time
. Indeed, one of them was having words with Beth because our party was maneuvering in the gap between their table and the next one and I guess he felt we were harshing their mellow or something.
At length, the fireworks started. Upon which we realized a few things:
1) Fordham Law School was in the way.
2) A really tall fingerlike apartment building was in the way.
3) The tasteful palm fronds along the edge of the terrace were in the way.
We could still see a good portion of the show (except elibalin
, who was directly in line of the palms), but it was not the unimpeded front-row view implied on the tin, as it were. At one point "This Land Is Your Land" broke out, and the whole crowd was singing, and that was kinda cool. Later, the band and one of the singers was striking up "God Bless America", which I am regrettably far less fond of, but eh.
As anticipated, the instant the fireworks were over there was a mass exodus, and many of the remaining guests surged indoors to the air conditioning and the entertainment; and thus, after about ten minutes of vulching I managed to land us a table on the patio. Which was good, because I was reaching the end of my little fraying rope... A half hour of sitting, drinking, excellent conversation, and a snack restored comity and joy. We decided to move back inside to check out (and perhaps partake of) the dancing, but upon standing up again I realized that I was quite, quite Done. I really would have liked to have stayed and seen the actual party we were here for
, but a dispassionate assessment made it clear that misery was right around the corner, so I took myself unto the crosstown bus, and thus home.
So, Lessons Were Learned:
* Do not, do not
, believe that any event that looks cool and claims exclusivity will not be mobbed to alt.hell and back. Wear comfortable shoes. Get there early. Stake out turf.
* Investigate the exact barge locations of the fireworks well in advance.
* If you want to take a Night on the Town, and actually be up to all of it, don't start drinking Pimm's cup at noon (unless you're arranging a disco nap in between).
As I explore the nightlife world, I am more and more getting the sense of that classic Yogi Berra line, "No one goes there, it's too crowded". I really don't like forking out the brass for the privilege of being crushed like a sardine in a noisy environment where you can't see or talk to anyone but who's standing directly beside you. Beth reports that, after I left, the party reached the sweet spot of good music, good dancing, and enough space to actually enjoy all of these things, so that's good to know; but, I mean, argh.
 Beth spoke to the organizers upstairs on this head, and was told that yes, they'd had a lot of complaints about it. I notice that this is not the same as "...and we'll do something about it next time we hold an event".
 We had plenty of time to observe a lot of these outfits while on line and then once upstairs; we noticed that, first, many weren't actually Jazz Age at all, but were much more 40s or 50s, which is okay with us, because there's only one body type that looks good in flapper gear; and second, most were more theatrical/passing-the-squint-test than true period outfits. Now, many still looked very, very awesome...but not to the knowing eye. (I'm not the knowing eye, but I was in company with several.)
 And there was still a huge line behind us waiting to get in. I can only imagine what the reaction of the ticket-holders who were still on the street when the fireworks started was.
 I may be unjust to the song, simply because its sentiments and chorus have been appropriated by assclowns.