Ramblings: RIP Motor City Bar


Sometimes people ask me why I spend so much time in bars. To be honest, I don’t even really think about it that way – I’ve always spent a lot of time in bars, in all of the different countries I have lived in. It’s all about hanging out with my friends in a social setting. Where I come from and where I grew up, going to the pub or the bar was not about how many alcoholic beverages you could throw down your throat in the least amount of time. It was more about meeting your friends, getting a drink and catching up, chatting, being social. Drinking coffee and then moving on to wine or beer early in the evening. A bar was a place to meet up and talk, read, be together. After moving to the States I felt that bar culture here was a little different and that often a bar seemed to be just a place to get wasted and meet someone to hook up with. Luckily for me this initial feeling was dissipated when I found several bars that I could consider my homes away from home.

I have my moments getting very drunk in bars, and hooking up with not-so-random people and all the rest, but first and foremost it’s always been a social spot for me to meet up with my friends. I’ve met many of my closest friends in bars too, and there is nothing wrong with that, it’s not as if we only hang out in bars either. We met in a bar, met up several times aterwards, and then exchanged numbers, had brunch, dinner, went to a show, got to know each other and then became close. That’s how you make friends, or that’s how I make friends in any setting. Just because it’s a bar doesn’t mean that the friendships that start there are less worthy than the ones that may have started at work, or at the gym, or at a restaurant. 

Anyway, this is not supposed to be a post about bars in general but about one special bar that has been part of most of my life in NYC, a bar that I have spent so many nights in over the past 8 years and a bar that will always have a very special place in my heart, as it does in the place of many other people. This bar, Motor City, closed its doors for the last time last Sunday, after 18 years of existence on Ludlow Street. The one bar where on any night of the week (or any time of the night for that matter), you would find like-minded people and a DJ playing music that you would like. Even on Friday and Saturday nights, amidst all of the bars playing radio-friendly mush for the drunken weekend crowd, Motor City would still be rock n roll and a haven from everywhere else. 

So many memories, more than I could ever put into words, as one memory just divulges tens of others. So many friendships made and broken and reformed again, so many people passing through and moving on to other lives elsewhere, but often leaving there own mark on the establishment, and leaving with a piece of Motor City in them, never to forget the bar where they did more than just drink in. Because you always did more than just drink at Motor City. You danced and talked and wrote on the bathroom walls, you changed the world with words, discussed things for hours, jumped up on the bar and danced (well I used to for a while), heard songs you had never heard before and watched your friends scream and shout when they tried to beat each other at Miss Pacman. Injuries may have been sustained (a broken cheekbone in my case) and many a hangover suffered after a night at Motor City. Some memories that you probably would prefer to erase, but many more that you will cherish for life.

In my opinion there is nothing better than going into a bar by yourself, knowing that you would never be alone. Nevermind knowing if one of your friends may be there or not, just by the fact that you knew the barstaff and that they would always be there to chat and have a laugh with you, whether you were drinking alcohol or not. And I have to say that Motor City would not have been Motor City without the bartenders and the owners. Wonderful people who had been there for years and probably would have continued to work there if it hadn’t been forced to close down. People who always made me feel welcome and at home, even when I was at my drunkest, or when I was at my most sober. People who never made me feel judged or uncomfortable, and who I will miss not seeing in the setting of the bar, as this bar really was an integral part of my life. Even if, over the past few years, I had spent less time there than I used to do, mainly because I was working most nights on Orchard Street, but also because I was trying avoid running in to some people I didn’t want to be around anymore, the bar still felt like home whenever I stopped in. 

I stopped by the closing party, which was held a week before the actual closing, on a Sunday night after I finished work. The bar was so packed that it was nearly impossible to get a drink. I had a shot and left, as I couldn’t speak to anyone or really hang out there. Then I went back a week later, on the actual night that it was closing and it felt EXACTLY as it always had – a place where you went to have a lot of fun, listen to the music you loved and hang out with people like yourself. Or different, but that didn’t matter! My last memory of Motor City will be sharing a bottle of Powers and a few cans on PBR in front of the bar. Fitting memory for a place that never failed to remain the same, even when the entire street started to change. 

How many memorable birthdays have we all celebrated there? How many of us DJ’d there at least one night? How many times did you bump into, and hang out with people who play in bands that you adore? How many debaucherous after parties were held there? How many times did you end up there because there was nowhere else to go where you would feel at home? How many times did you walk through the doors and breathe a sigh of relief because the atmosphere never changed and you knew you could be yourself without feeling judged? And how many places in the city (especially on the Lower East Side) can you still go to and feel the same way? How many times in my life have I ever bought a new dress specifically for a Christmas party in a bar? (only ever for the MC Christmas party!).

RIP Motor City – you will always have a huge place in my heart. And thanks to everyone who worked there and who I met there who made the place into what it was.


4am Reflections

I woke up in the middle of the night last night and couldn’t get back to sleep. These are the moments that I wish I still smoked… Sitting by the window, cigarette in one hand, notepad and pen in the other, savouring that time of the night where everything is quiet and peaceful, and writing lyrics or poems for a few minutes before going back to sleep again. So instead of smoking I tossed and turned in my bed, realizing that it was not all peaceful out there, that there had always been a fine line of 4am happiness and 4am despair, and that if you were in the outside world at that time of night then not all was really well… 4am reflection can be amazingly insightful, it’s just a pity I didn’t have a pen and paper right next to me to jot down all the thoughts that whizzed through my head.

Some of us go through adolescence a little more traumatized than others, often with some type of tragedy that happened early on in our lives that we can’t get rid of. Somebody close abandoned us, be it by unexpected and/or violent death, or just because they disappeared. You are searching for the answers to everything and no one can give them to you. Adults still seem to be the people who are supposed to be perfect, and you feel like a failure because you will never reach that perfection, or what appears to be perfection. So you stumble on, start finding yourself, make music, write, paint, create. Go to college, drop out of college, go back to college, work in different jobs and experiment with drugs and alcohol, still trying to find out the hows and whys of everything.

Then you hit your 20’s and start realizing that you are an adult too, and that you still don’t have the answers to anything. And your childhood trauma starts to become a weight you carry on your shoulders everywhere, a badge that gives you the right of way to fuck up whatever you can, because, in the end, you are the one who is messed up, and you are the one who has the right to hurt yourself if you want to. Hey, something traumatic happened to me when I was a kid, and I want to forget it, so I have every right in the world to obliterate myself with a bottle of Stoli and whatever else wants to come my way. Because, you know, in the end, it all hurts too much, this real life where people die and never come back, and where you have to carry this with me day in and day out. And you continue to function. You have a close group of friends who are all about as traumatized and messed up as you, and you all help each other out in all of the different ways you can. You go to work, you party, you sleep an hour or so, and you go back to work, forgetting that you had once had all of these ideas and plans on what you wanted to do in life.

And then comes the day that you realize that none of this really means anything anymore. One moment you are dancing on a bar, thinking you are having the time of your life, and the next you are crying into your drink wondering how that profound feeling of sadness crept over you while you had your back turned, the one you had been running so hard away from to avoid. It’s just time to let go… Nothing is ever going to fix the things that happened to you growing up, and maybe they will never really heal, but nothing is going to change them. Hiding from your own thoughts, while nurturing this badge of trauma is just not a viable option anymore. All I can say is tell those you love how much you love them, and start living your life the way you had always dreamed you would live it. It just makes so much more sense than settling for unhappiness and hurt for the rest of your life.

I wrote song lyrics about this once, a few years ago, not long after I stopped drinking. I named it “Ludlow St”. When I read it now it very accurately describes all of the above, in a song form. Maybe one day someone can put music to it and sing it. If I ever let anyone read it that is.