For the past several days, I have been fortunate enough to be holed up in East Harlem, a veritable powerhouse of electricity, internet, and all things 21st century. In fact, we were so (comparatively) unaffected by the storm, that it was hard to truly understand just how bad it was in more apocalyptic parts of the city.
So last night, my friend, Huffington Post editor Rebecca Searles and I decided to explore the world below 39th street to get an idea of what it was like to live in a powerless metropolis. One cab ride down to 34th street later, and we were immediately swallowed up by the dark realms of Lower Manhattan, an appropriate environment given the holiday. And if you have not yet been there at night, it’s hard to fathom just how eerie and unsettling it is.
Down here, the world is lit by the reds and blues of police lights, or the occasional candle keeping a lone security guard company. And the quiet; the quiet is perhaps the most noticeable feature. On most blocks, there are few, if any indications that any living thing is lurking about. As far as you’re concerned, you’re the only person left on earth to fend for himself.
As we walked deeper into the abyss, however, we happened upon a storefront that appeared to have several candles burning within. A closer view revealed a small group of people crowded around a small, bright light in the back of a bar. We shined a light on the chalkboard, which claimed the bar, Professor Thom’s, was open. We couldn’t resist.
When we walked in, we were immediately greeted by manager Devin Vilardi, who seemed to be completely in his element. He immediately informed us of the specials for the night – $3 Miller High Life bottles, and $5 Arnold Palmer drinks. A backpack with a built-in speaker played Devin’s hand crafted Spotify playlist. And a waning supply of ice kept everything cold.
We started talking, during which he revealed why it was that he’d stayed open each of the past several nights.”It’s not about the money,” he said as he looked around a dark, mostly empty bar. “Clearly it’s not about the money. It’s about the novelty of staying open during a hurricane. It’s about community.” Most of the patrons were dressed in their Halloween costumes in spite of the fact that the majority of Manhattan would never see them.
After a community shot of Bushnell shared by the bartenders ourselves, it was nearly 2am, and time to find a place to sleep. On the way out, Devin told us that he hoped we’d be back when the power came back on. “The bar’s actually really nice once you see it,” he quipped. It’s the little things that take extraordinary effort that make this city the greatest place on earth. And Professor Thom’s is the perfect example of a group of people completely dedicated to it. We’ll be back. And often.
219 2nd Ave
(between 13th St & 14th St)
New York, NY 10003