New York Stories: Eleanor Friedberger shares a New York memory

Guest blogger Eleanor Friedberger tells us about a spontaneous excursion in midtown that reminded her why she loves New York City.

Eleanor Friedberger

Eleanor Friedberger Photograph: Roger Kisby

Welcome to "New York Stories," in which some of our favorite New Yorkers tell a story—funny, heartwarming, sad, whatever—about this great city. This week, Eleanor Friedberger recounts a spontaneous and surprisingly fun night in midtown after traveling outside of New York City.

I've been having funny experiences lately because I've been traveling so much. [A few Friday nights ago], I went to see Richard Thompson play at Town Hall. I was meeting a friend before the show and she said, "Let's meet somewhere really quintessentially New York"—not fancy, but divey and cheap. I immediately thought of this place called Jimmy's Corner, which is on 44th Street, so we made plans to meet there.

I was getting out of the subway from Times Square, and normally I would be mortified getting out on a Friday night when it's all crowded with all these people and lights and sounds. For some reason instead of being kind of horrified, I just thought it looked incredible! It was like seeing it for the first time, having been gone for a while. I actually stopped to take some pictures with my phone, which is something I would never do. Normally I would put my head down and go where I was going as fast as possible.

So we go to the bar and that was fun, then we went to the show at Town Hall, and afterward we wanted to go to grab a bite. I just looked down 43rd Street and I was like, "There's Grand Central Station, let's try to go to the Oyster Bar—maybe it's still open." We go in to Grand Central and it's completely chaotic. At this point it's about 11 at night. Again, instead of thinking, let's get out of here, we just kind of embraced it. We go to the Oyster Bar but it's closed, and my friend says, "Have you ever been to the bar that's in Grand Central [Terminal] that's called the Campbell Apartment?" I'd never been so we go up and down these elevators, and it seems like it's totally secret. We go in and it's like being in someone's grand mansion—like the polar opposite of the first bar.

We have drinks and then my friend leaves, and I go back into Grand Central and I'm still so hungry, I haven't eaten anything. I go into the Hudson News shop to buy some potato chips or something, and there's this guy that I haven't seen in a year or so standing there. I just say "Hi, how are you?" He buys me these potato chips and he's got 45 minutes to go before his train, so we go back up to the bar, which he's never been to, and go through the same type of process—which is like a maze—to get there. He's like, "I can't believe I've never been here before." We have another drink and then…

I'm rambling, but this is the kind of thing that I do love about New York—that you open yourself up to these experiences and you have to just stop once in a while and drink it all in. I feel like it's a city full of fun coincidences. Mainly, it's that leaving and then coming back is a very special experience.

Eleanor Friedberger is playing two shows on Oct 18 for CMJ: Judson Memorial Church (12pm, free) and Bowery Ballroom (7:30pm, sold out). Her latest album, Personal Record, is out now on Merge.

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Editor: Marley Lynch (@marleyasinbob)

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