21 and Done

In February, 1989, I hopped on what was then the Eastern shuttle from Boston to LaGuardia to meet my mother and Hedy and Hayes Williams for a weekend in New York.

Hayes and I were 17 years old.

My mother, Hedy, and Hayes had left Savannah at 0’dark thirty

We all met at the old Windsor Hotel, now condos, on 58th St.

In that pre-cell phoned age, we agreed to all meet in the Lobby at 3 p.m.

Miraculously, there were no delayed flights, no lost luggage, no bad traffic across the 59th Street Bridge

Snow was scheduled for that evening – just a light dusting

That was a cold Friday afternoon in the City

I don’t remember what we did that afternoon, but I do know we had reservations for early supper in the Bar Room at 21

The 21 Club

21 West 52nd St

The speakeasy

Now shuttered

Gone

Another victim of Covid

That venerable spot where The Rev held court in the Men’s Room in cufflinks given him by President Reagan

Before we left the hotel, Hedy asked Hayes where his tie and blazer were

“Back in Beaufort, Mom”

“Well, good luck getting into 21! Hamlin brought his coat and tie!”

Hayes replied, “Well, good for him.”

“You might as well just eat at a hot dog cart,” replied his mother

My mother tried to calm them both, “I’m sure they have coats and ties to borrow”

So, we walked over around 5:30 p.m.

Greeting us were the jockeys all lined up on the stairs and the porch

We stepped through the brass doors. I took my mother’s coat and gave it to the lady in the cloak room.

The maitre d’ smiled and said to Hayes, “Sir, we have a dress code of coats and ties for gentlemen. We will be happy to lend you both.”

The lady in the cloak room handed Hayes an ill-fitting blazer and a clip on faux regimental tie.

“Well, I look like an idiot,” Hayes said

“You’re own damned fault,” Hedy replied

We were taken to the cozy dark Bar Room with toys hanging from the ceiling and the banquettes with their red and white tablecloths

John McEnroe’s smashed tennis racket had a place of honor

Chairs pulled out for the ladies and menus presented

Shrimp cocktail

Lobster bisque

Caesar salad

Dover sole

Chicken hash

The Burger

Steak tartare

All the old standards

Our waiter asked where we were from and what we were doing in the City

“Oh, he’s up at school near Boston, so we all decided to meet for a long weekend”

“Well, you picked a fine one. Snow tonight. What may I get for you to drink?”

Our mothers each ordered glasses of wine

Having been served in NYC restaurants earlier that fall, I turned to the waiter and ordered what was then the height of fashion, “Heineken please”

Hayes ordered the same

We were 17

Our mothers’ eyes widened

The waiter didn’t miss a beat, “I’ll have those out in a minute”

We chatted, we talked, we ordered

After our first beers, Hayes and I ordered a second.

His mother, Hedy, raised an eyebrow

Sometime after the steak tartare, we each ordered a second, and, then, a third.

“May I have another?” Hayes asked our waiter as he pointed at his almost empty bottle

“Yes, Sir,” said our waiter

As he walked away, we heard Hayes groan

“Owwwwwwwwwww,” he glared across the plates as his mother. “What was that for?”

“Well, you didn’t have to order a forth beer, did you!”

Little did our mothers know that three was not a magic number, but just a start for us on any given night.

When the news came that the 21 Club had shuttered, I sent Hayes a message

“21 Club in NYC closing. Great stuff back in the day. Fun times. Fun Times.”

His reply “I am glad not to get kicked in the shins anymore for drinking more than three beers”

Place was a legend

So were we

One thought on “21 and Done

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