Whenever I'm feeling like a filthy degenerate, I like to pay a visit to Port Authority.
Despite Giuliani’s iron-fisted efforts, the blocks surrounding the bus station still brim with inflatable sex dolls, airplane bottles of vodka and dollar slices of cardboard pizza. Scallywags patrol glass-strewn streets, wetting their wizened whistles at Dave’s Tavern and the Holland Bar. Around Port Authority, drinking is serious business. And business is always booming.
The latest addition to this licentious realm is Blue Ruin (538 9th Ave. betw. West 39th & 40th Sts.; no phone). The dark drinking lair is a no-nonsense stack of bricks and shiny tin and a pool table, with the ol’ stars and stripes tacked to a wall. And there’s no knob on the men’s bathroom, turning the toilet into an accidental peepshow. “I did not need to see that,” a tattooed dude mumbled one night, catching me in midstream.
If the confines feel familiar, that’s because Blue Ruin once housed heavy metal hangout Bellevue, where Pantera pounded Pabst and bums tossed trashcans through windows like evil discus athletes. Bellevue was a very specific brand of liverpickling fun. So it was with great sadness that the space was replaced by bright, clean sports bar Why Not? It failed. To succeed, Blue Ruin has once more lowered the bar.
“Is this a knifing saloon?” asks my friend Aaron, my constant accomplice to houses of ill repute. “It’s just a little slice of happy hour heaven,” I reply. To my dwindling brain cells’ enduring detriment, every inebriant is two-for-one ‘til 8 p.m. Aaron and I hunker at the sticky bar. To our left: Several Spanish-speaking guys—a touch taller than the Wizard of Oz’s little people—are guzzling red wine and massaging one another’s shoulders. To our right: a gaunt grandpa who recalls David Carradine. In front: a busty bartender, her low-cut top and tendency to bend over leaving no question that her finest assets are silicone-free.
“Whaddya want, boyzzzz?” she asks, drawing out the z’s like we’re backup dancers in a teenybopper musical act.
The tap selection is tepid (Guinness, Stella and the typical undesirable Americans), but Brooklyn Lager is a lifebuoy in an uninspiring sea of swill. We both grab a $6 Brooklyn. “Attention, everyone, look alive!” the bartender bellows into a megaphone. Sluggish barflies flutter their heavily lidded eyes and straighten their slouches. Someone burps. Someone goes woo-hoo. “That’s better,” she says, pleased as punch.
One of the teensy men—eyeglasses like magnifying lenses—swerves to the bathroom. He stumbles back to the bar, chased by beefy men screaming “puta.” The little man’s companion holds back his mate, squirming in his grasp, as the shouts mount. In drips and drabs, I deduce that he purposely knocked the pool balls askew, breaking guy rule No. 231: Never mess with a man’s balls.
“Looks like you get to watch midget wrestling for free tonight,” David Carradine says, clapping Aaron and I on the backs. He laughs lustily, creepily, like a stranger with sweet candy. But before we roll out the spandex and baby oil, cooler heads prevail. The pool players defuse. Aaron and I resume drinking.The wee men beside us start imbibing at an accelerated pace.They finish full glasses of wine like water.They rub one another’s shoulders with renewed vigor, as if they’re corner men pumping up boxers.
Aaron and I scoot down a few feet, into the comparative safety of creepy David Carradine. Does he know Kung Fu too? The pint-size troublemaker moseys toward the rear, where a rainbow of balls race across green felt. What now? I wonder as he takes a left into the bathroom. Upon exiting the toilet—the pool sharks eyeing him warily—I see that he has transformed into a pinball. On jelly legs he bumps into a wall, before careening toward the bar and crashing into several men wearing Mets caps, sending beer foaming everywhere. They stand. “Lo siento,” he slurs, tossing down dollar bills and lurching toward the door. He hits it. His partner gathers his dry cleaning and staggers behind.They burst outside and lurch down Ninth Avenue, like wild ponies on the lam, just another average eve around Port Authority.
“Now that,” David Carradine says, turning back to his beer, “was the drunkest midget I’ve ever seen.”