Finally, by 10 p.m., you manage to land yourself a taxi. The driver is a gerbil! The runt can barely grip the wheel or hit the brake with his heel. The beast is all over the road, honking and shouting and laughing maniacally. “This is my kind of guy,” you say, amusedly. Fifteen minutes and a fist-full of dollars later, you’re at the new lounge, Analogue, your destination. The joint is just north of Washington Square Park in the heart of The Village in New York. You escape the city, the monotony of the workday, when you enter this place. Jack Kerouac’s gallery of faces sits on display at the bar. A bearded bartender in black shakes a drink. Two well-dressed women eye him intensely as he pours the libation into a pair of martini glasses. Far down at the very end of the bar sits the co-owner of the place, Jesse Wilson, a citizen of the Colville Nation. A plate of bacon-wrapped dates just came out of the kitchen, and Jesse scans the plate for perfection; then a tall, dirty-blond server whisks away the delight to a table of businessmen in the back. … Or maybe they’re law students. This is, after all, NYU territory, which means any one of these skulls could be a learned professor crowning the day with a scotch or whiskey, served neat – or a heavy-headed 20-something who’s had enough of the mad bar scene down the street. Yes. This is a place for jazz lovers, thinkers, calm drinkers and epicureans with appetites for cheese and wine and good conversation. It’s dimly lit in here; a soft light emits from lamp candelabrums suspended from the forest-green walls. Below the lamps, booths … and on the soft seats sit groups of men in suits and women in heels with cocktail smiles.
The aroma of perfume and booze and bacon grips your palate, and it’s accompanied by laughter coming from somewhere in the place, but you can’t make out where. It’s gotten busy. The doorman checks IDs as a gent, who just waltzed in with his date, removes her heavy winter coat. She gives him a coquettish glance over her naked shoulder, and then: sparks. The fool’s smitten, and you’re buzzed.
“When did that happen?” you wonder. Earlier, sitting with Jesse, he suggests one of Analogue’s signature drinks: The Scottish Summer. You take a sip; a balanced hint of sweet and sour prompts you to take a serious quaff of the next go. “Sweet Jesus!” you say. “This is good shit!” And it is. Jesse just smiles and chuckles in his chest, because he already knows it is. The man’s pleasant and humble, and he’ll sit with you for a while, at least until your drink is done. … Right. Next, you try those bacon-wrapped dates from earlier. Crispy, soft on the inside, and, like the drink, balanced. “Fucking fantastic,” you say. “This goes perfectly with that,” as you point to the sweaty Scottish Summer near the dish. And then, in that instant, you notice that everything, the lighting, the music, the food and faces, all seem balanced in here – like a harmonious song mixed well, so that the drums don’t outweigh the bass and the guitar doesn’t overpower the vocals; one to the compliment the other, as it should be, invariably.
It’s midnight now. Saturday stumbles into Sunday, and, in here, you experience no rowdiness or hubris or bad bar banter from wiggy bastards who’ve been served one too many. “This is beautifully controlled chaos,” you mutter – and it is. Jared Gordon, Jessie’s business partner, marches to and fro through the crowd directing servers and other staff, eyeing the motions and actions of everyone, maintaining equilibrium. You order another Scottish Summer then ask Jesse about the jazz. He says they offer live jazz performances every Sunday; and, on any day of the week, if you’ve got the cash to spend, there’s even a private room in the back, hidden behind a wall festooned with records, record players and queer decorative storied pieces. The back room boasts a full bar for private functions, Jesse says. … But you’re here for the life in the front.
There is rumor across the boroughs that this lounge is the new venue for Native skulls. Here, Native thinkers, drinkers, diners and nightlife revelers come to find one another, which is true as you recognize the face and frame booming through the door. You lock eyes. But that’ll have to wait. No snagging now… No tipi creeping. Right. We have no time for that nonsense. Jesse, the handsome 30-something, has, in fact, agreed to sit for a tick and to answer a few questions: Before he owned Analogue, Jesse used to work as a financial planner for NBC at Rockefeller Center, but then he wanted a challenge, he said. “I always dreamt about (owning my own lounge),” he says merrily, adding that he earnestly wanted the venue to reflect “old school New York.” And it does. You can imagine (were this 1920) a “Lady Day” or a Louis Armstrong sauntering through the door, cigarette in mouth, eyes glistening, fans gasping, gapers gaping and all that fine flapper New York jazz. Just then, running fashionably late, on the heels of “Day” and Armstrong, Truman Capote zips through the door. Indeed. Old New York is very much alive in here – if you can ignore the woman on her iPhone and the man behind you reeling about how “Facebook, Twitter and all that shit” has become increasingly banal. Another truth to ring your ears. And you know goddamn well your ears need some ringin’, especially these days.
Lo, this is a place for a night face, for eager eyes and open hearts. The hours run late here, and New York bleeds through the door in droves and leaves in equally large hoards. You begin to notice that there are certainly a large number of Natives meandering about now, or is that your imagination? Bells! Is that bells? Grand Entry? Who’s comin’ down the way? Who’s turn is it now to bop down the center, be on the spot? Maybe the white folks see all the Natives, too, which wouldn’t make them entirely uncomfortable. You can go to any pow wow and witness how comfortable white heads can be in the company of Indians of the old prairie. They love that kind of scene, and they’d love this one, as well. It’s calm, cool and cultured – a joint to meet and greet and eat and drink and snag and sing along to the low hums of “Autumn in New York.” Outside, the snow blankets the city streets, and it’s time to call it a night. No more “Scottish Summers.” No more bacon-wrapped dates, until then, again, when you return. This is, after all, Indian country, and Jesse has a bought a corner of it back. Off to a cab, then. Where’s that runt behind the wheel? He’s a mad driver. My kind of guy. Nowhere in sight. Damn. The clock has struck 2 a.m. Time to write this piece and saunter back in a week. You are, after all, a patriot and you support local. OK. That’s it. Time to fight the stupid brutes in the subway that never made it through the door today. This is a controlled chaos, where the doorman does his job and where Jesse, the Native, sits, sips, shoots the shit, periodically purchases drinks, but always calls the shots. Alas! Here’s to Indian-owned businesses and to mad NYC cab runts who leave you half-alive on the doorstep of this city.