Last call in New Haven

Couldn’t sleep last night.

It was a bad pain night.

One of those nights where I’m constantly turning over and around in bed like a chicken on a spit trying to find a comfortable spot.  None of them are ever good for more than five minutes or so.  I don’t know how Sy sleeps through it but thankfully he usually does.

I was flipping through my phone and learned through social media that the Anchor had closed its doors, probably forever, before 9 p.m.

Fucking Yale, was my first thought.

I’m not saying that the owners of the establishment don’t bear a large part of responsibility in the demise of a watering hole that’s been there since the 1940’s.  But I do hold Yale responsible for taking advantage of a bad situation and forcing the issue, just like they’ve done with so many other small and local shops, bars and restaurants in New Haven.

So many places gone.  Whitlock’s, Rhyme’s, Richter’s, the Old Heidelberg, Yale Co-Op (I thought they were weenies but at least they were local ones), Rudy’s (the name may live on in a new location but we all know it’s not the same), Cutler’s, and so many others.

Just gone.

It’s not about nostalgia.

It’s about class warfare.

These places have not been replaced with other establishments that serve the general population of New Haven.  The buildings have been sanitized into kitschy versions of collegiate gothic.  Local business have been replaced with chain stores that can be found at any high-end mall crawling across the planet like the scourge they are.

It’s the mallification of our city for the benefit of the 1%.

Sy and I have griped more than once that we miss when New Haven was shifty.

The kids laugh at us and call us old.

Maybe we should make up bumper stickers or something.

I managed to drift off sometime after 4 a.m. and had to wake up at 7:30 a.m. to start the day.  I was dreaming about Marcus.  He and I met at the Anchor for one last drink before they shut off the lights and kicked us all out.

I woke up crying.

Life is change.  I realize that but it doesn’t mean I have to be happy about it.  There is also a big difference between the end of an era and being forced out of your city because someone else wants what you have and can afford to pay more.

The Old Barge Cafe is being disassembled and (hopefully) put in a museum somewhere.  I wasn’t even old enough to drink when I was going there but they would still serve me.  I was usually the only female in the joint but it didn’t mean that I wasn’t welcome.  I always was curious about the very odd and obviously old building.

Rudy’s got kicked out so the restaurant that shared the building could expand and put in a buffet.  The plans fell through, probably as a result of the recession, and a perfectly good dive bar lost its home of 76 years for nothing.

It was never my favorite bar in New Haven but that doesn’t mean I didn’t spend plenty of time there.  It’s where I had my first Irish Car Bomb, with Marcus actually.  He was nice enough to make sure I realized the trick of putting your finger across the glass so you don’t smash your teeth out with the shot glass that got dropped in right before one knocks back the pint.

The Anchor was more my style.  It was in the same location for eons.  Painted tin ceiling and blue vinyl booths.  A jukebox with a very eclectic mix and the entire city walking by the windows.  I like things with a bit of age on them.  It makes life more interesting.  Gives the illusion of permanence.

There was always a strange mix of people at all hours of the day and night.  Union members from the theater across the street.  Lawyers and other city notables still in their suits and ties.  Students dropping in for a quick one and thankfully leaving just as rapidly.  You could sit and have a conversation with someone you just met or sidle up to the bar and drink yourself stupid.

I wrote a poem at that bar on a beer stained cocktail napkin.  It came to me all in a rush, like poems always do, and I had to get it down before I sobered up and lost it.  The person I wrote it about is as dead as the bar it was written on.  Once I dig it out of the nightmare that is my desk I’ll be shopping that poem around for publication.  I’m hoping it’ll be my first published creative piece.

There is a comfort to be found in places, whether they be bars, restaurants or other businesses, that are there for the long haul.  They were there before you and, hopefully, will continue on after you’re gone.

Cassie didn’t understand why I was upset this morning that the Anchor had closed.  To her it’s just a bar and now that I don’t go to them all that often, what’s the big deal?  Maybe it’s because she’s still too young to drink or maybe it’s a generational thing.  What places will she miss at some point in the future?  I don’t see anyone getting upset when Urban Outfitters goes under or if the new Barbour store doesn’t make it because no one can afford to shop there.  Will those sorts of places really become part of people’s lives like the Yankee Doodle or Educated Burgher were?

It was at the Anchor that I handed Sy a manilla envelope full of his writing that had been published in his college newspaper and poems he had written for me back in the day.  I held on to his history and gave it back years later with a small red bow on it because I knew he loved the color.  Is that where round three began?

It was there I got obscenely drunk with my friends A and F and pondered what had become of my life and where the Hell I was going with it.  I remember stumbling across the Green, the three of us arm in arm, feeling like it was still possible for it all to turn out alright.  That the person I had been wasn’t dead and buried and that I might still have the chance to become the person I always wanted to be.

My sister JQ had her 29th and 30th birthday parties there.  The latter event was the only time we managed to get all of her siblings (whole, halfs, and step) all together in the same room at the same time to celebrate the birth of a person we all love very much.  I remember, as the responsible person at the table, that I was in charge of collecting money as people came and went for the bar tab.  I had a wad of bills stuffed in my bra because standing to put it in my pocket was not a viable option with that many shots and pints in my system.  For some reason, her brothers just found that freakin’ hilarious.

It was to the Anchor that Sy and I went for an after dinner drink when a snowstorm postponed the Pixies show we were supposed to go to out-of-town but we didn’t want to waste an evening without kids.  We had dinner around the corner and walked through the snow for a drink before heading back to a quiet house.

The city is so hushed on stormy nights.

The bar was pretty dead but it was wonderful to be out and about and acting like the adults we’re supposed to be.

That’s how I’ll remember the Anchor.

Calm and quiet, with only the buzz of a few people.

The snow falling outside the window.

Us two huddled over the table,

having a real conversation,

warmed by the drinks in our hands.


Photo courtesy of Mike Franzman.  A wonderful photographer of life in New Haven.
Photo courtesy of Mike Franzman. A wonderful photographer of life in New Haven.



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