January 01, 1980 News & Features » Cover Story


Throwing the Switch 

click to enlarge newyorkdeli100x.jpg

New York Deli, in the second Saturday of its new life, hums with the current of a thrown circuit. It seems to have sent a charge all along Carytown, connecting the terminals of those places with a foot in the pub scene. Deli seems to have become the keystone of some cultural arch here, supporting nothing less than a new scene.

It's Carytown at night. Blue Mountain Café becomes a bar. Galaxy Diner becomes a bar. Thai Curry House, whirling with DJs upstairs, becomes a bar. Can Can succumbs to its nocturnal destiny, becoming fully a bar. All of them align like magnetized iron when a current is passed through them. The current being people, you understand. People moving along the street, ducking into this place or that — the first awkward shuffles on this newborn bar crawl — leading magnetically into the new New York Deli.

And it's a glory: hammered tin tiles shining cold down from the ceiling, wood dark and warm from the bar and floor, glowing bottles along the wall. Twin rooms, loud and full of people.

Sure, baby, blow smoke in my face. Crowd me, sweat on me, introduce me to your strange friends. Drag me behind the curtain of the photo booth back near the bathrooms. Let's capture these moments in a glossy strip of glossy eyes and big smiles, time leaping from moment to vertical moment. We allow new loves such license.

People are telling me, friends of mine, yelling sheepishly over the DJ (and the sheepish yell is really something to hear) that they were here yesterday, and the day before, and last weekend, and here they are again. More than the Magic Hat or vodka tonics or Camel Lights that decorate excited hands, just being here is becoming an addiction. The people are becoming addicted to the promise of the scene, intoxicated with the new-bar smell.

And such people! Tattooed forearms are propped on the gleaming bar alongside plaid shirtsleeves rolled to the elbow, resting near small hands with bright red nails, the friction of skin wrinkled, bronzed, bare, inked. There's a flow of energy in here too, a circuit from the door along the bar and back up, thumping to the Golden Age of hip-hop.

And such surreal moments! Two men duck through the door over the course of the night, each probably 7 feet tall, rail thin, sharing drinks with much smaller animals. What do giraffes drink anyway? Mojitos made with the muddled leaves of the highest branches?

And such energy! Everyone seems taller, brighter, faster. There's static in eye contact, a vibration in every hug and handshake. And maybe it'll settle down in its third week, maybe the current will subside, but for now, people raise glasses and laugh at the center of a magnet. S

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