Belmont Lounge with Scout

27 08 2009

From another trail-blazing soul who gave it a shot, here are Scout’s thoughts:

City: New York
Bar: Belmont Lounge (
Book: Manuscript

Disclaimer: I take the blame for the failure of my first read, but hope that from my lessons, you might learn ways NOT to read in bars with boys.

Mistake numero uno: even though I woke up with every intention of staking out a stool and a glass of wine after work (the book goes without saying), I did not dress the part. After a succession of alarm snoozes, suffice it to say I was not looking my finest. By 6 PM, I wanted nothing more than to run home for a touch of mascara and a change of shoes — the thought of drinking/reading by myself was making me feel slightly insecure, and the fact that I rolled out of bed was hardly ego-boosting. Of course, this is a personal preference; I happen to feel more confident when I look put together, not like a freshman scouring the cereal bar before a final exam. (Lesson: if you would dress up for a date, why not dress up for yourself?)

Mistake numero dos: I waited until fifteen minutes before reading time to choose a location. I got the input of coworkers and miscellaneous suggestions from, but settled on a bar that I had never been to, nor heard of, before. (Lesson: get recommendations from friends, or pop your head into random bars for ideas on an off-night). Bar on A was a complete flop. Aside from being empty, it was much too dark to read in. Taking advantage of being in Alphabet City, I walked around with the hopes of finding something more promising; however, the humidity and the time constraints if I wanted to catch a happy hour deal were weighing me down, so I ventured back to Union Square. At first, Belmont Lounge (Irving and 15th St.) looked perfect. The lights were only partially dimmed, so it was fine light for reading. All of the seats were taken save one, next to a guy who was good looking from afar. Perfect, right? But I was duped. Other than the fact that my neighbor quickly switched from beer to hard liquor (suspicious choice, particularly when drinking alone), the lights were significantly dimmed minutes after I’d ordered my drink.

Feeling locked in, not only because of the glass of wine I had already invested in, but my desire to see what would happen, I quietly sat and read — rather, squinted and occasionally scanned the room. Sadly, nothing to report. There was a business meeting between two young entrepreneurs to my right, a girl waiting for a bartending interview, and a group offering happy hour deals until 10 PM for donations to cancer research. The incoming text messages and phone calls were only further distractions, and I could not help but imagine my escape every time the ringtone sounded: okay, I’ll just take one massive gulp and make a run for it! Luckily, I resisted; but the temptation was there.

The music was great, the crowd mediocre (and sparse), and the reading overshadowed by my general “harumph.”

Surprisingly, I am still hopeful. Had I taken this more seriously, like I might a date, for example, I would have been more prepared beforehand. Treat your read like a date with yourself, because that’s exactly what it is. Know where you’re going, be comfortable in what you’re wearing and, most importantly, silence your phone. You wouldn’t answer a call if you were out with a guy, would you? Focus on the task at hand: a great book and a much needed drink.


I appreciate everybody’s willingness to help me work out the kinks! Research beforehand is helpful. As is being in an independent mood, though that can’t always be helped. It takes great courage to give this a try, and the more comfortable we get reading with a drink on our own, I think the better the chances are a conversation will happen and the less we’ll care if it does. Ironic, no?


Reading in Parks

24 08 2009

Okay, so summer is a slow time in the city. I’ve been polling bartenders — are there usually only two people here on a Thursday night or does it pick up? — and they agree that business is down. So I moved my project outside for a bit. Yes, it kind of defeats the purpose, because what’s so eye-catching about a girl reading in the grass? Even if she were to wear a polka-dot bikini, it’s a pretty standard sight for parks in the summer. But there were two interesting results, on two separate occasions.

Interesting 1
When I got up from the bench I was reading on (I’d had enough of hearing an aged and deceptively dignified-looking man make cooing noises at passing girls) a man stopped me to ask about my electronic reader. He had a thick accent, perhaps eastern European, and asked if I my device was a Kindle. I explained that it wasn’t, but was very similar, and he nodded in slight confusion. Another man interrupted to ask him for directions, and I used that opportunity to escape further awkward interaction. I meandered up 5th Avenue, trying to decide where to get a coffee. Five blocks later, I heard a quiet voice from very close behind me — “Can I ask you to coffee?” I turn around. Lo’ and behold! Timid eastern European (who, I’ll add, must have been twenty years older than me) had followed me silently, doggedly, for several blocks. And that not even to catch my eye, but to sneak up on me from behind. Perhaps a surprise ambush had proven successful for him in the past, as the look in his eyes when I said “no, thank you” was one of wounded dejection. Fortunately he faded into the background as I continued on my way

Interesting 2
I remembered to bring sunbathing supplies to my office to take advantage of the half day. Unfortunately, I didn’t remember a blanket to lay on, and had to contend with the itchy grass that always makes me think something is crawling on me. There was much huffing and puffing as I tried to get as much of my body onto a tshirt I’d spread on the ground, while still exposing maximum pale skin to the sunlight. It was hot, and only took a half hour for me to be thoroughly disgusting and uncomfortable. I sat up, debating leaving, and a gentleman who apparently wasn’t deterred by my look of disgruntlement asked what I was reading. He was about 10 feet away, rubbing tanning oil on his already very tan back. He was attractive, in the way 40-something ex-surfers-who-still-work-out-and-see-a-lot-of-sun are attractive. He had the long, floppy California hair, and the California smoker voice. We chatted for twenty minutes, then did that uncomfortable adjustment dance where we didn’t want to seem like we were cutting off the conversation, but were kind of done talking. He offered to share his paper with me, I thanked him but returned to my book, facing the opposite direction. When I finally gave up on the heat and folded up to leave, we did a casual salute and went our merry ways. I think our age difference became apparent during the conversation (as happens when one, me, talks about how cheap beer is at Habana Outpost), and that was enough to prevent any attempts at exchanging information. I didn’t even catch his name.

We’ll return to the bars when September hits, and hope to have more to report then.