Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Jimmy's Corner

One of the last vestiges of the real, old New York remaining in Times Square is Jimmy's Corner. Don't worry, it's not vanishing, as far as I know.

A snug dive on 44th, dedicated to the sweet science of boxing, it's "exactly the kind of place where a stranger might walk up to you and ask you to step outside--the kind of place where almost anything could happen," writes Brendan Patrick Hughes in Mr. Beller's Neighborhood.

When you step inside, the misery of tourist-clogged New Times Square, with its bland gruel of flashing TV screens and family-friendly fare, all falls away. It just disappears. The door closes behind you and everything else ceases to exist. You are suddenly in New York again.

The regulars are talking and it's a pleasure just to sit and listen:

"When my wife had another girl, I resented it at first. I wanted a boy! Then I saw she had 10 fingers and 10 toes, and I just thanked God for another healthy baby. Did you know, my aunt told me this, back in the day, people were so ignorant, when she had her fifth girl, her husband beat her up. Because he wanted a boy and she didn't deliver! People were ignorant back then."

"You know what they say? They say it takes a real man to make a girl than it does to make a boy."

"Is that right?"

Jimmy's wife, Swannie, is the only woman at the bar. She's fixing the drinks. A photo of her hangs on the wall, in an article naming the bar an essential part of New York. Today she's talking about the city's habit of tearing up the streets.

"They're always fixing the streets," she says, "but the streets don't get any better."

The regulars agree. They talk about pensions, they talk about retirement. One man says he's tired of breaking rocks. He's too old for breaking rocks. And, by the way, did you hear, now the city's eliminating entire bus routes.

"I hear they're eliminating a lot of things," says Swannie.

And isn't that the truth? Times Square betrayed McHale's and dumped the Rum House--it's only a matter of time before Jimmy's is threatened with a knock-out, too. When that day comes, let's hope they put up a mean fight.


Wilfrid said...

I have been visiting Jimmy's for twenty years. Best bar in the city. Jimmy Glenn is a beloved figure, still working as a corner man for young boxers (he was Mike Tyson's cut man when Tyson wasn't a joke). He turned seventy recently, but his sons help run the bar these days. I hope it has another thirty years in it. Should see me out.

ShatteredMonocle said...

Please please pleas don't let your J-Reaper powers affect this place. This is absolutely one of the best bars in NYC.

Jason said...

Thanks for this. Jimmy's was my regular spot when I lived in hell's kitchen. Jimmy was around a lot and would tell awesome stories. Probably the best jukebox in the city. I what's great is being able to see pictures of some of the old bartenders I remember back in the day immortalized on the bar itself.

Marty Wombacher said...

Jimmy's is a great old-school bar and Jimmy Glenn is a class act and one of the best barmen in New York City. Great post!

Grade "A" Fancy said...

Ah, I have fine memories of Jimmy's at nothing-o'clock in the morning with an out-of-town friend after we closed a few other bars. Jimmy's really delivers.

LR said...

wonderful photograph.

lr said...

the wonderful photo is the last one down. this is the kind of place i might go to. i dont drink, smoke or especially like times square, but this is special. its the beautiful light & peaceful feeling of the last photo which is captivating. (& perfect composition). i did spend one night on 8th avenue & 44th street @the cafe royal. we watched people walk by. it was the late 90s & yes it still felt like a neighborhood. its nice to see something that hasnt vanished. (yet).

Anonymous said...

I love this post! - BN

MikeB26 said...

Before he became a friend of Bill W's, my best friend and I used to go into Jimmy Glenn's (I didn't know it was called Jimmy's Corner until just now). We're both fight fans, and Jimmy would walk through the place shaking everybody's hand. Every time we'd be left in one of those "Oh wow" moments where Thomas and I couldn't even figure out what to say to each other.

What I remember just as much about the place was the those watered down drinks. They weren't even scotch with a bit of water in them. More like glasses of water with eye drops of scotch for coloring.

One night we knocked back about 15 "straight scotches" a piece. Then, for some reason, I switched to ginger ale. (Exactly why, I don't know. I was barely tipsy.)

Lo and behold, THE GINGER ALE was watered down too!

We never held it against Jimmy though. The drinks were cheap as hell, the atmosphere was great, and the hilarity of passing tap water off as everything down to soda pop was worth the price of admission.

And even more than that, Thomas and I always felt welcome at Jimmy Glenn's. A great place. Harkens back to the day when Times Square was full of New Yorkers looking for nothing more than a friend, new or old, to pass some time with.

Mike said...

Sorry, but the drinks are not watered down. I've been a regular customer at Jimmy's for almost 25 years, and I've tended bar there for almost 10 years. Every bottle is opened at the bar (in front of customers) and every shot is a measured pour (1 oz.) But ice tends to melt . . .

Anonymous said...

I got charged for tap water, unbelievable!

Ed said...