I’m not one of those crazy sci-fi people who attends Star Trek conferences. I’m not. That said, there are certain, let’s call them scientific concepts that I find completely irresistible. Time travel tops that list.
The first time I visited England, I headed immediately down to Cornwall passing directly through Arthurian legend territory. I saw old walls and towers and medieval kinds of things—and a disconcerting number of golf courses. Sure, there were characters along the way. England has a reputation to uphold. What I didn’t see was King Arthur, Merlin, the Lady of the Lake. Believe me, I looked. I hadn’t realized how much I had associated travel to foreign lands with time travel. I was disappointed.
I spent the next few decades trying to develop time travel hacks. Finally, finally I realized it isn’t necessarily the travel aspect. It’s the place. Some places are steeped in history. That leaves a mark. If you let yourself, you can be fully immersed in another time—even if you’re surrounded by people from the present. I’ve developed a nose for these kinds of places. I can sniff out a history sharing place at 50 paces. It turns out that my nose does double duty here in New York City.
I was out running errands on an unforgivably hot day when I looked up and found myself in Gramercy. The name alone conjures up artists like Isadora Duncan, the free-styling dance icon and architects like Stanford White, the designer of the famous Washington Square Arch. This is a posh part of town. But it’s located right next to Union Square, where the first Labor Day celebrations were held in 1882.
On the border between Gramercy and Union Square lies Old Town. Old Town, a combination bar, café and dining establishment, came into existence in 1892. Both laborers and the posh need refreshment. The bedraggled neon sign let’s the hot and weary wanderer know that there is magic within: old time and old town magic. And super cold air conditioning.
The bar, the booths, even the light fixtures appear original. Don’t you know, there’s an old-timey dining room upstairs. The men could hang out in the bar for a bit before joining the ladies and their families upstairs—and the women could have a nip and a night off from cooking. Old Town still makes one of the best burgers in town—normal sized and unpretentious. Did I mention the onion rings?
I’ll meet you at Old Town for a quick one. Tucked away at 45 East 18th Street. You really shouldn’t miss it.