Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Sound of No Stars Shining

Schadenfreude is an ugly word. It's guttural, it's hard to spell, but mostly it's ugly because it means delighting in someone else's misfortune. And yet.

And yet sometimes, it would seem, it's pretty freakin' funny. Take the experience I had this weekend at a recently reviewed Manhattan eatery. To give you the back-story, Renee and I discovered this restaurant when it first opened over two years ago. Granted "discovered" is a strong word since as soon as it sprung from the hipster miasma of the Lower East Side it was attracting an A-List crowd... and the Bush Twins. But the truth is we have spent many a fun, boozy evening eating and carousing in the place, so it's always held a special place in the clogged arteries of my heart.

Needless to say, when I read via Gawker via Eater (good lawd, PhDs don't do all this sourcing!) that the restaurant owner had written a piece about an upcoming Frank Bruni review for the Times, I was charmed. Though the restaurant is a minted hotspot, his concern for the uber-reviewer's rating was earnest and touching. The facade of the too-cool-for-school kid that pervades the establishment slipped, and he managed to convey a genuine, "gee whiz, I want you to like me, to really really like me!" attitude that you kind of forget exists.

So when the review recently hit, and the restaurant received NO STARS, which means it's POOR to SATISFACTORY, we (yes, it's royal these days) were shocked, offended, and maybe also wondered how much other bad food we'd eaten while blotto over the years. Nonetheless, it seemed important to go back and show support. And that's exactly what I did on Saturday night.

With a very attractive man at my side, I rolled into Freeman's for drinks just before midnight. The seventeen women at the bar (plus the one long haired bearded dude who's head *must have been* cold for he was wearing a jaunty ski hat on this warm night), all turned around to rate us. And after we elbowed Brian Grazer out of the way, we ordered our drinks from the barman who was as precise with his mixology as he was slow in serving the nectar. But no biggie, this merely confirmed my impression that the place was quirky but charming, and happily, a few minutes later we were even able to score seats at the bar since the silky bloused girls needed to get back uptown.

Yet like all hipster enclaves, a little while thereafter a new wave of cool kids entered, and the barman was back to the business of slowly doling out 'tails (each of which he'd taste before serving by dunking a straw in his concoction to check the mix). Attractive-man-at-my-side and I watched all this with satisfaction, especially because this looked like the crowd that was supposed to gather here, and we basked in the "This is New York-ness" of the scene.

Deciding we liked the atmosphere and wanted to stay on for another drink, it took some time to get the attention of the tender bar man. But since he was not in a rush, clearly enjoying the process of getting his peeps knackered, far be it from us to complain. When we finally did command his glance, we asked for a second round.

"Oh," he says, "yeah, sorry, can't."
"Yeah, sorry, can't?" I reply, confused.
"Yeah, I mean when you guys came in here around 12, it was like last call," he says, wiping out the shot glass he'd just mixed with. "And now it's like..." he walks to the back of the bar and opens his cell phone, "12:25. So I really can't." He then puts the cell phone down, and turns his attention back to the folks on our right.
"Dude," one of them says, "this is great."
Slow bartender nods and smiles, "Here, try this," he says and begins mixing another round for the crowd.

I wasn't sure which amused me more: the Carrot Top finesse with which he used the cell phone prop, or the absolute brazenness of the "fuck you, loser, your money's no good here" attitude. It was theater.

So, as I say, though schadenfreude might be an ugly thing, sometimes it is cold comfort on a hot night out on the town.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some possible explanations:

You didn't tip the bartender in accordance with his high standards.

You didn't flirt with him in accordance with his high standards.

The other group included longtime customers/friends of his.

Don't take it personally.

October 10, 2006 10:57 PM  
Blogger Robin said...

Thank you, Houstonian! Alas, I believe it was personal, but I'm not too terribly hurt by it.

In fact, it felt more like instead of getting the martini I'd wanted, I got served the "Classic Manhattan."

October 11, 2006 10:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When do you plan to comment on Aleksay Vayner?

October 16, 2006 11:44 PM  
Blogger Robin said...

What surprises me about that story is the level of outrage. I mean, c'mon, who didn't go to school with a Vayner? (Except at Princeton it would have been spelled "Vainer" and instead of getting excoriated, this guy would have been made president of SAE.)

October 17, 2006 8:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Vayner is not a professional tennis player, invented a charity and appointed himself CEO, invented an investment advisory and appointed himself CEO, cannot serve at 140 miles per hour and cannot really break bricks with his bare hand.

How is less outrageous than the Harvard student plagiarist?

I agree that it's a lot more humorous, though.

October 21, 2006 6:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is the SAE?

October 22, 2006 1:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fun Aleksey "facts":

October 22, 2006 6:13 PM  
Blogger Robin said...

Dammit, I just got punk'd by the Vayner-spaminator!

I was about to respond to Not Anonymous that the only things I knew about the Vayner story I'd learned on Gawker and thus couldn't be sure about their truthiness (as opposed to the NYT's glowing [pre-crash]profile in precocity on Opal's author. I think the difference between the stories is how many people were complicit in the "fake it till you make it" element of the Kaavya thing.)

But then I saw Anonymous's post re: fun facts and I thought, "oh good, I'll educate myself." This is what I learned by following his link.

Fact: 38 of Many.
Kurt Cobain didn't commit suicide, he just finished going down on Aleksey

That's not even a "fun" fact, that's just stupid! Why does no one tell the truth these days?

HOUSTONIAN: SAE was one of the handful of frats on campus.

October 23, 2006 9:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Robin must have Vayner-like powers.

She complains of a lack of mainstream press coverage of the Vayner phenomenon and the very same day both the New York Times and the New Yorker run articles on Vayner.

Of course, Ivygate has generated a month's worth of content gleefully mocking Vayner.

The funniest quote from the New Yorker: Yale has declined to comment on the situation. (“That’s unfortunate,” a spokeswoman said, when she was told that this magazine was running a story about Vayner.)

October 24, 2006 12:49 AM  
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