Marie’s Crisisby Sara Christoph
59 Grove Street | West Village
To the last evening of freedom—the toast heard with every clinking glass. On the night of Thursday, January 19, Marie’s Crisis, a stronghold of New York life for more than a century, bubbled over with Weimarian revelry. At the heavily worn bar, portly men scrolled through profiles on Growlr, while the world as we knew it—a hard-won space free of oppressive norms and punitive difference—seemed to balance, for a last instant, on the head of a pin.
In both rich history and dusty décor, Marie’s Crisis keeps the revolutionary spirit close. Thomas Paine is said to have died in a house that once stood on this spot; through the decades and crises that followed, the West Village bar became a reservoir of inclusive strength. Today that history is reincarnated in verse, as a piano bar of professionals. As voices that were once on Broadway—or could be still—gather to belt out Barbara Streisand and golden-era Disney, the less vocally-inclined sip Jameson on the perimeter, silently congratulating themselves for spending less on their whiskey than on their morning green juice. Resident pianists, whose t-shirts and headbands belie their rigorous talent, are known to silence crowds in order to scold those singing off-key. It is enrapturing; the New York City of gritty, timeless dreams.
Yet on the night of the nineteenth, time felt to be in short supply. The impassioned notes of Les Misérables filled the basement with bittersweet fervor. Do you hear the people sing? / Singing a song of angry men? / It is the music of a people / Who will not be slaves again. An anti-Trump flag waved synchronously in the crowd, reflected in the WPA-style mirror hung behind the bar. Engraved with an illustration of soldiers vigorously raising bayonets, the mirror was made during another decade of great tumult, when the world would soon face—and defeat—a demagogue of unprecedented scope.
Sara Christoph is a former Managing Director of the Brooklyn Rail.