Monday, March 06, 2006


On Monday, March 1, The Raven, my favorite bar — the ostensible “Cheers” for Nosedive Productions — caught fire.

We were scheduled to have a production meeting there on Monday at 7 p.m. Pete and Patrick got there a few minutes before I did. When they sat down with their drinks (at around 6:25), one of the managers, Paul, went down to the basement and saw flames spreading to the wood beams on the ceiling above. He quickly evacuated the place and I showed up around 6:30, 6:35, finding the patrons (including Pete and Patrick) out on the sidewalk across the street looking at billowing smoke pouring out of The Raven’s entrance.

Fortunately, no one got hurt, since the building was evacuated immediately. Harold, the co-owner, wrote about the fire on the bar’s Web site.

Harold writes on the site:

“The bar that has become a part of the community, much loved by its regulars and it's employees and owners, that little corner bar is no more (for the time being anyway). Raven had become part of people’s lives. At least four married couples I know of have met there. And if they didn't meet there some had their wedding receptions there. Raven has played host to Open Mics, political meetings, fundraisers, and some of the coolest DJs in NYC. While every night offered something different, regulars could always rely on Raven being there when they needed them.”

This really hit home, since this is precisely how I’d describe the place. I would also agree with Harold when he writes that Raven was “unpretentious, comfortable, old school East Village.”

The Raven — on the corner of East 12th Street and Avenue A in Manhattan — has been my bar of choice for nearly seven years now (I started going there in September of 1999). Many of you who either know me or who have read this site knows the importance of this bar to me (I mention it often not only in Jamespeak, but in program notes for the plays. In the “House of Nosedive” section of this site, you’ll find a bunch of candid photos of the Nosedive gang goofing off in the place).

[While editing this, Pete suggested that I mention that he got the last pint…possibly ever…poured there.]

I discovered the bar shortly after I moved to the city in August of 1999. During my first couple weeks as a New Yorker, my friend and oft-Nosedive collaborator Ben VandenBoom and I were more or less squatting in an apartment on East 6th between A and B. By September of ’99, Ben found an apartment to sublet on Avenue A between 12th and 13th, and I found a place on East 14th. Ben was gracious enough to take most of my stuff (mainly clothing) with him to his sublet, and I agreed to come by in the evening one day (this may have been Sept. 1 but I’m not 100% sure) to pick it up.

Well, I showed up to his apartment a bit early (i.e., 5:30 p.m. He was supposed to get back home by around 7).

So, I saw this bar right next door — The Raven — and figured it was as good a place as any to sit back, have a couple happy hour pints, and watch some Simpsons playing on the televisions overhead. It had a very relaxed atmosphere; the place was littered with some Goths mainly keeping to themselves and leaving me alone to sit on a couch, drink my beer, watch The Simpsons and wait for my friend Ben to get home.

From that point on, whenever I would stop by for a happy hour drink (by myself or with friends) I was fascinated with how different the clientele was each night. The first time I had shown up, the bar was filled with Goths. The next time, it was bikers. A time after that, soccer dads with their eight- and nine-year-olds. After that, young yuppies (i.e., 22-year-olds in suits and ties). It seemed as though every time I went to the bar, it had a different “scene.” And each scene seemed to fit right at home in the place.

Suffice it to say the bar had become Nosedive Productions’ “kick-it spot” for several years.

Like Harold, it's not easy to describe my feelings right now, since it's just barely sinking in. Reading his essay was quite painful, as was looking at the photos of the burned down bar. This was one of the first bars I discovered on my own when I moved to the city.

It was one of the places where Nosedive had its first few production meetings and discussed the ins and outs of how to put on plays in New York.

It was where we continued to have our production meetings more than six years later.

It was where I was thinking of celebrating my birthday this weekend (and where I celebrated it last year).

It was where I could feel comfortable bringing a group of friends to on a Saturday night where, not only would we be guaranteed a place to sit but be guaranteed to feel comfortable (the “bad vibes” and hostility level was consistently low at the Raven).

It was where I spent my first New Year’s Eve in New York.

It was where Pete introduced me to Patrick.

It was where Stephanie Williams — Nosedive’s Company Manager — met one of her closest friends.

It was where Steph’s husband, Scot — Nosedive’s Resident Jesus — got started playing music.

I really could go on and on and on about how important the place was (is) to me, tell various stories of what went on there, but that really could take all damn week. Plus, Harold says it best. To me, it feels like the end of an era. Or like losing a friend.

According to Harold, if the city lets the owners rebuild the bar, they will. I certainly hope they will. In the meantime, several managers of the bar have opened up a new place in my neighborhood, called Boulevard Tavern. I guess that’s where Nosedive will be heading for Saturday night (as on Saturday, I turn the very unimpressive 29).

Doing his drinking at home,

James “Very Sad” Comtois

March 3, 2006


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