This post was going to be about the Liberty Belle Extravaganza that was held last night on the rooftop of the Empire Hotel in the Upper Westside. Specifically, I was going to write some screed about enforcing dress codes, lax hotel security staff, and inflated drink prices. But from my own experience, I know how hard these public events are to throw, and I'm feeling generous in my old age.
To recap, last night more than 600 folks piled onto the swanky rooftop bar of the Empire Hotel on West 63rd Street to enjoy live music, burlesque, dancing and a rooftop view of the Macy's Fireworks display on the Hudson River. Organized under the combined forces of New York party organizers Dances of Vice, The Champagne Riot, The Salon, and Wit's
End, in a prime location on a major holiday, the Liberty Belle I knew was going to be PACKED. The write-up in TimeOutNY magazine of course was no help.
When I arrived a little after 7pm, the line was already snaking around the block, just to get into the Hotel. I didn't have to wait much more than 30 minutes, although some of my friends reported waiting on line from 45 minutes to an hour.
At 8pm, the bar was comfortably dense, but not packed yet. You can see from the video above that folks had a decent amount of room to dance (at least by New York standards.)
By 9pm though, the place was totally jammed with folks. And it was a wide assortment of people. Despite being warned about the no jeans / no sneakers policy, there were guys in tee-shirts and shorts, wifebeaters and jeans and various other non-swanky attire. Others were totally decked out in various forms of vintage and patriotic attire. But it was quite the mixed bag.
Around 9:10, folks started crowded toward the western side of the bar, trying to catch a good view of the fireworks. There was lots of unpleasant jostling and pushing, disputes over saved spots, but nothing too confrontational. However in one of the few prime seats right near the western edge of the roof, a group of about six folks were determined to ruin the experience for everyone. One "gentleman" purposely sat on the edge of the roof (oh so tempting!), looking THE OTHER WAY during the entire fireworks display, chatting with his friends, ruining the view for dozens of people. He was "saving spots" for several people who were elsewhere in the bar, while the fireworks had already started.
Another guy in the group spoke loudly and sarcastically about the "sparkles" and the "pretty lights" while puffing on a cigarette and fondling the backside of the girl beside him. His full-voice, sarcastic renditions of patriotic songs were a particular treat for the audience.
I feel myself getting annoyed again just writing this.
Others around me tried various tactics to get them to stop being such jerks. Cries of "down in front" and "sit down please" were met with blank, hostile stares. Folks trying to move into the prime spots by the edge were told that those were being saved for people who were no where to be seen.
I was not myself spoiling for a fight with these unpleasant people. At the time, I was determined to see what I could of the fireworks, and not let the jerks ruin my night. I decided to focus on the actual fireworks, and put the hooligans into the background. I slowed my breathing, stood my ground, and focused forward. And soon, I was absorbed into the simple wonder of watching a magnificent fireworks display. It was 20 minutes of vibrant explosions that crescendoed and shifted across the spectrum. My favorite moment, as always, is when the giant golden fireworks cast long trails as they descend, like giant willow trees in the sky. I'm smiling again, as I think of it.
And when it was all over, we applauded, and then turned to head back to the festivities elsewhere in the bar. And I didn't have to be anywhere near the unpleasant group the rest of the evening.
Sadly, dealing with unpleasant people in New York bars and other public areas is just a part of urban life. We all develop our own defense / offense mechanisms. Some of us take the fight directly to the perpetrators. Others look for authorities to deal with it. Most just ignore or walk away from the situation. A few actively seek to find some peaceful resolution to get the folks to be less jerky to others.
Because the nature of the situation was so transitory, I decided to let go as much anger as I could and allow the universe to provide these folks with whatever justice awaits them. I must admit I have trouble getting into the mind of someone whose seems to get
pleasure from ruining the experience of others. Why is it fun to purposely block other people's view of something they want desperately to see? It must be a sad little
Meanwhile I was going to "get my revenge" by having a fantastic time with my friends. We danced all night, tooks hundreds of pictures and videos of each other, and then reclined on the coaches with our expensive drinks as the crowds thinned. Finally, I dragged myself home at 1AM, happy and satisfied.