If you asked me to have a drink anytime in the 2010s I probably said Temple Bar. Lafayette and Bleecker. Green lizard signage. Right below that permanent and towering Calvin Klein billboard as much a part of Soho’s architecture as any building.
Wayne Koestenbaum and I took photos on a disposable camera in the bathrooms there. Morgan Parker and I met for countless drinks. Took countless selfies. Sometimes I did blow with the occasional stranger who wasn’t over 50—which was rare, as most of the clientele was older.
And that’s something I loved about Temple. It was old New York. Mahogany. Thick velvet curtains. The kind of place where you never knew what time it was because those curtains blocked out everything. They saved your life.
Daylight. Street light. Weather. Moods. Memory.
Fucked up inside Temple
On one of the hottest July 4ths on record I was stuck in the city and hating my life. My chapbook American Boys had just come out. People on the internet were hurling insults at me for being concerned with “beauty” (though I think they were just mad that I was hot and could write).
So I got really drunk at Temple and the bartender finally asked me what I did.
I’m a poet, I told him. Do you know this poem, he said. Then recited the first stanza of Auden’s “Musée des Beaux Arts” from memory.
About suffering they were never wrong, the old masters.
Fucked up outside Temple
And Temple was a bar where you could suffer beautifully. My childhood didn’t exist there. I forgot that I didn’t have health insurance. The internet wasn’t real. And New York wasn’t just a city for the very young or very rich (though I admit, I was very young then).
It was a drink. Or a dress. Or a feeling you got when you came in and saw a gorgeous woman alone. Staring straight at the bottles lined up behind the bar. Clearly having understood something about suffering yet looking immaculate. Because what else was there to do?
Crying is boring. And feeling sorry for yourself is ugly.