Uptown

The legend across the top of this web site, Mostly Mexico City, indicates that once in a while I might find myself elsewhere that is worthy of a posting. I am in New York, staying on 126th Street in Harlem with an old school friend, Pip Biancamano. Pip lives around the corner from a legendary bar called the Lenox Lounge, which has been my de facto office while staying there. (You can check out the bar’s web site at www.lenoxlounge.com.)lenoxlounge.jpg

When I got to New York, there was a heat wave. One day it went up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit – about 40 Celsius. Under the circumstances, I wasn’t the only one to whom it occurred to turn the bar into his de facto office.

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One of my “colleagues” was Jimmy, pictured above. He claims to survive on a government pension which he receives due to his alcoholism, yet he spends all of his disability income on booze. He told me the story of his life – the drinking, the fighting, the years in the restaurant business, the Vietnamese prostitute with whom he quaffs champagne.

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Fernando, a bartender at the Lenox Lounge from St. Mary, Jamaica, also has some stories that might have been tall tales. He claims, for example, that he can polish off an entire bottle of tequila while he is on duty. “When I work, I move around so much that I don’t even feel it,” he explained. “It’s only when I sit down that I notice that I’m drunk.”

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This is the window display of the Mona Hair Center, on 125th Street around the corner from the Lenox Lounge. Its sign promises “100 % Human Hair,” although one would be justified in skepticism about whether the fuchsia and rainbow-hued numbers had their origins in anything living and/or breathing. This store suggests a mere hint of the tonsorial possibilities available in Harlem.