Monday, May 03, 2010

The Last Last Night at Freddy’s Bar, May 1, 2010

The ugly beast known as eminent domain has consumed our land once again — Freddy's Bar stood in the way of a private project, the Net's Arena. New York Times announced that Freddy's bar closing at April's end on a Friday. I heard the bar brimmed with strangers, news media, and reporters reaching to catch the last brass ring on this amusement park ride. Bartender Mike S., described it as douche-bag central.

It's a good thing we didn't tell them about our last night on Saturday, May 01. I was there for a reunion with good friends and old acquaintances. The night was booked with 27 bands, all who had regular performances here.

Anne Ricci brought her fellow divas and devos of "Opera on Tap". I loaned her my Halfing hooded scarf as costume. OOT's former co-founder Jessica Miller came down to show off her latest project, her first child.

It's not over until the fat lady sings, they say. And sing she did — OOT sang an aria and a requiem that moved the entire house to cheers and then tears.

Under a canopy of LCD stars gathered writers, lawyers, politicians, painters, technologists, musicians, doctors. I guess every profession needs a drink after work.

By around 11:00 pm Freddy's became even more crowded, I had to step out for air.

Some people brought their kids. DDDB activist Dan Goldstein stopped by with his daughter Sihta.

Some brought their dogs, and some left their kids at home. Abe sneaked out for one last drink with us.

Freddy's — the home of Knit PH, Opera Night, Old-time Country & Bluegrass Jam, Underground jazz, German Language Studies Night, Humans Against Music (HAM), Stand-up Comedy Night — the birth place of creativity for bands like "Les Sans Culottes," Sarah Brown's "Cringe: Diary Readings," numerous documentary films... etc. the list can go on.

People flew in just for this night to bid farewell. Tim Carrey came down from Boston with his band trusty Sidekick. The Kimmet brothers flew in from London. Scott Turner flew in from Oregon. Roger Paz drove in from Detroit. Through the week Freddy's had sorrowful calls from all over the U.S. from people who had been following them on the news on and the web. One never know who's watching.

All the art, curios, knick knacks, and memorabilia was packed away — including, literally, the men's bathroom walls. Over the course of years the barnacles of writing, stickers, and graffiti had become their own art form. We drew silhouettes of each other to cover the naked walls in the back room.

You never realize now many people you know until you sit in a packed room and recognize each face. By around 2:30 am the place was flooded with strangers again — "disaster tourist" we call them.

Some people cursed the ground where this arena will stand. Some sat in awe of a spectacle that seemed to be somewhere between a funeral and a wedding. Most of us just hugged and toasted. Stephanie and I left at around 3:20.

Corporate welfare is the villain in this story. As I always say, our boys in Albany have been in bed with private interests way too long. Is this war on eminent domain abuse over, swept under a carpet of political corruption? Was the struggle and fight worth it all? According to the papers, our fight lit a fire in the minds of most New Yorkers.