[I Don’t] Love [You Anymore] Letters from New York:

It was one of those perfect late spring, early summer nights. It wasn’t too hot, not too cold, not sunny, not too overcast, it wasn’t humid, and it hasn’t started to smell like hot garbage yet. It just existed, much like a penny on the sidewalk or when you pee every time you poop. It’s there, you might acknowledge it with a head nod or celebrate it with a triumphant fist pump, or you may not even notice it and just carry on with your day, taking complete advantage of something that for all you know may never come again. This was the perfect day to continue my quest in trying to convince my friend Kate to not move to Boston, but instead to stay in New York City. For loyal readers, you may remember that my first failed attempt led us to two dairy hot spots in Manhattan and Brooklyn, Big Gay Ice Cream and Milk Bar. If you haven’t read it, go back and read it, I may reference it a lot. I don’t know, mine is a very stream of consciousness style of writing. Our lactose heavy adventure ended with Kate not wanting to stay in the city and a group text about loose diarrhea. I had to come up with something REALLY good to convince Kate to stay this time. It was a beautiful night as I had already mentioned, a pee while you poop night, so I knew now was my chance. Kate works for a very popular beer distributor, for the sake of discretion let’s just call them Pamlowsugh Shrub, so she can get free beer at work pretty much whenever she wants. So I knew what I had to do. I assembled a posse and told Kate that we would be meeting at a beer hall in Queens that was really inconvenient for all parties involved, followed by a second beer hall in Brooklyn.

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Behind these storied walls and not-so-storied Citi bikes, lies the largest beer garden in New York City, the Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden. A smarter woman would’ve taken pictures of the space behind the wall. I am not that woman

At promptly 15 minutes later than planned, roughly half of the posse gathered outside Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden in Astoria. Kate was nowhere to be seen. So myself, Claire from our dairy diarrhea afternoon, and two of my friends who Kate doesn’t know, Andrew and Erica, made our way into the outdoor garden space to enjoy the beverage that, again, Kate can have at any time for free. It is incredibly hard to come by any space in New York City, which is why the outdoor space at Bohemian is pretty amazing. If you live in New York City, look at the size of your apartment really quick. Take a few seconds to feel bad about yourself, then shake it off. Now multiply the size of your apartment by a number that’s much higher than you would expect. That’s how big this outdoor beer garden is. I hope that paints a very clear picture for, because I can see it perfectly in my mind. It helps that I’ve been there. The four of us staked out a spot in what appeared to be an already pretty busy place. We got a space that seemed big enough for the stragglers in our party, until Andrew decided we needed to move to what was definitely a smaller space. This is all because, I later found out, Andrew needed to watch the Yankees game. Eyes on the prize, Andrew, we’re here to persuade a person you’ve never met not to move away, not to watch your favorite baseball team that you’ve been following since you were in diapers. Those of us that were still focused on the task at hand, ordering copious amounts of beer and eastern European sausage-cased meats, took to ordering pitchers of Blue Point, a true staple of any Czech and Slovak owned beer garden. Yes, this establishment has it’s roots in Czech culture, it’s even still owned and and managed by the Bohemian Citizens’ Benevolent Society of Astoria. What’s that, you may ask? Well, let me copy and paste from their website that it’s purpose is to “encourage, support and maintain Schools, Dramatics, Lectures and Libraries for Czech and Slovak children and children of Czech and Slovak parentage: to maintain a social home for people of Czech and Slovak ancestry, in which the Czech and Slovak cultures may be taught and blended with American traditions and culture.” Throughout the night at Bohemian, it became abundantly clear that they were doing just that.

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Wow, what artful composition of this photo of a bratwurst on bread. I truly have the eye of an artist.

Almost a full pitcher in, it became evident that two of our party was not going to make it to this beer garden and Kate was never going to make it at the time I suggested. Apparently when someone says they’re “free at 8pm near Union Square” that doesn’t translate to “I can be in Astoria at 8pm.” So we ordered more pitchers, some brats, and let the Czech and Slovak culture wash over us while we waited for Kate to grace us with her presence. When she finally arrived we squished together to make room for her while she pored over the list of beers, trying to figure out which may have been brewed by Pamlowsugh Shrub. The answer is probably all of them. They make a lot of beer. Have you figured out what the company is she works for? To quote Brittany Murphy, “I’ll never tell.” In our little corner of the garden, we exchanged stories of how we all connected (hint: it me!), Andrew continued to watch his Yankees game over our shoulders, and Kate ate the remnants of my brat. All in all, a truly Czech and Slovak outing, and our Long Island based beer coupled with eastern European brats definitely stayed true to their mission of blending their cultures with American cultures. Sure, I had led her astray in the past, but surely this experience is one that can only be had in New York City. It was then that someone ordered a pitcher of Sam Adams, a beer that you can not only get in pretty much every part of the United States, but is also based out of Boston. We didn’t need to remind her about Boston, this was a celebration of New York City, dammit! And of Czech and Slovak culture! And the intersection of the two! And how my friends from different parts of my life were intersecting! All of it, here together, in an inconvenient part of Queens! GET THIS BOSTON BEER OFF OF MY TINY SECTION OF THIS COMMUNAL TABLE!

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While Kate reaches for the Sam Adams, Claire has head on straight and moves it just out of reach. Andrew, however, has his own priorities, and they appear to be dipping a pickle in ketchup.

But we didn’t and we kept drinking it. Sometimes, you have to treat a pitcher of Sam Adams like a penny on a sidewalk and acknowledge it but then move on. We will not fist pump for this, but maybe if we don’t dwell on it, neither will Kate. Claire and I have a vested interest in keeping Kate here, so we did our best to distract her. “Here, finish my brat.” “Hey, tell me about your therapy.” “Whoa, what’s that over there? No really, what is that over there, there’s three DJ’s setting up.” And that last one wasn’t so much a distraction as it was an actual fact, as we watched three DJ’s set up on a stage by a small dance floor. Each DJ had a different colored booth and shirt. We all tried to guess what was about to occur and how did it relate to Czech and Slovak culture. Will this somehow turn into a lecture for Czech and Slovak children? Would each DJ simultaneously play a song over each other, creating a new sound profile the likes of which had never been heard before? Would this become a silent dance party where you would get a pair of headphones that you could match up to the DJ of your choice? It was obviously the last one.

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DJ Sandwich on the ones and twos #teamblue

It was a slow start for our DJs, as at first the dance floor was just made up of children beating each other with inflatable bats. The kids weren’t even wearing headphones. One DJ was casually eating a bodega sandwich, while another was very clearly feeling the beat he was laying down. Based off of their energy, I felt very in line with DJ sandwich. Slowly, millenials in headphones started filtering onto the dance floor. We could see which DJ they were listening to based on the colored lights on the side of their headphones, and we could also see when they got tired of whatever they were listening to and were able to switch to another color. But because the color of the station they were listening to was on their headphones outside of their field of vision, we weren’t sure if they new what color station they were supporting. Did the guy in the red headphones know that he was the odd man out dancing in a sea of blue headphones, or did he just think it odd that everyone else was doing hardcore EDM moves while he was listening to some chill reggae? Did the older man who wasn’t wearing any headphones at all, but was still dancing to silence among the crowd of ravers understand what a silent rave is? These are the questions that will haunt me forever. There was one question we could get the answer for: is this free? We found where they were handing out the headphones and asked how much it was, and after an attempt at selling us on the three different stations (reggae, 90’s and “EMD”), when we heard it was $15 we knew it was gonna be a hard pass. Also, EMD is not a thing. I suddenly understood why that man was dancing with no headphones. With a crash landing back to the reality of overpriced shit in New York City, we knew it was time to move on to our next beer hall. Andrew and Erica decided they had had enough, I guess maybe the Yankees game was over. Also Erica was running a race in the morning and the fact that she came out at all was a small feat. So, Kate, Claire and I squeezed into the back of a cab (because again, this place was not convenient for any of us!) and made our way to the next beer hall in Brooklyn. I had to figure out a way to salvage the night and convince Kate that New York was worth staying in, despite the overpriced silent rave and the drinks that were priced at all (have I mentioned that Kate can get beer for free?).

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Did I do a good job?

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No, she will not stay.

On the way there, we discussed all things magical about living in New York City, or at least that’s how I interpreted our conversation about sitting next to people on first dates. Never have I sat next to more people on first dates than I have in New York City. I was trying to mull over my next move to try to get Kate to stay, maybe there could be some way to stage sitting next to a first date and eavesdropping on all of their dumb ice breakers. I was getting worried that making her pay for something she could easily get for free, and then forcing her to take a cab to repeat it again at another place wasn’t the best move. I may have to manufacture a perfectly New York moment, like sitting next to a new couple while eating a hot dog at a baseball game. But wait, we basically just did that. “Everything’s fine then,” I thought, and we carried on with our plan and arrived at Radegast Hall and Biergarten in Williamsburg.

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Maybe we didn’t get any Czech beer at Bohemian, but we stayed true to the German heritage of Radegast and got ourselves a proper German Hofbrau, so back off haters.

Where Bohemian is an alarming large outdoor Czech and Slovak beer garden, Radegast is an indoor, still pretty large, German beer hall. Did you pick up on the key differences there? Because while normally those would be the things I would latch on to that would set these two establishments apart, this night the major differences were that they had a live DJ playing all your favorite Latin hits, followed by 90’s hits, followed by Whitney Houston. When it comes to living up to it’s reputation of being a melting pot, New York City really delivered in the form of these two beer gardens. No longer did we have to imagine what everyone was listening to, we could hear it LOUD AND PROUD. And while there wasn’t a space for dancing at Radegast, people were making one. Knowing that the last two of our party would soon be arriving, I ordered us a couple pitchers of Hofbrau, which, fun fact, was the first beer I ever drank in the original Hofbrauhaus in Munich, Germany. Wow, how fascinating and worldly I am! I unfortunately had gotten ahead of myself. At this point, Kate just wanted to dance, Claire and I had pretty much had all the beer we wanted to drink, and I had forgotten that one of our friends joining us at Radegast didn’t like beer. The bulk of the pitchers I ordered fell on my boyfriends shoulders, and I’m happy to report he took on that responsibility and we (he) finished those beers. And when our non-beer drinking friend arrived we roasted that son of a bitch. And then we all danced in celebration around my boyfriend, who judging from his reaction may also want to move to Boston.

But was the night of beers in both silence and cacophony enough to brainwash Kate into staying? It was not. It was like she peed when she pooped, she thought to herself, I do this all the time, I yearn for something more, and decided she wanted to pee while she pooped in Boston. I’ll keep trying.

Until next time,

I Love You, New York? Do you love me?

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