Friday, July 16, 2010

Guest post: The day the music died

Here's a little something different for today...a guest post...

By Larry Koestler

I grew up in Stuyvesant Town and lived there for 27 of my 29 years, and so as you might imagine, I am (or was) rather well-versed in the nightlife offerings of Avenues A, B and C.

However, age, relationships and maturity have significantly curtailed late-night group outings, and so I haven’t gone out here with any regularity in some time. Which is why I was incredibly sad to discover that The Musical Box (formerly at 219 Avenue B between 13th and 14th Streets) has closed, and has apparently been that way since the end of April.

My friends and I discovered Musical Box in 2003. Like most people, we weren’t even sure what it was from the outside, given the lack of signage and mysterious curtains completely shrouding the interior.

Thankfully, we went on in anyway, and it was pretty much love at first sight. The first thing one noticed upon entering the Box was the generously sized and dimly lit front bar room, with a reasonable-if-not-great beer selection, and fair prices.

But the real reason the Box became my go-to bar over the last seven years was actually not the alcohol selection, but the layout, design aesthetic, overall relaxed mood and almost zen-like vibe of the bar. In addition to the lengthy front bar area, Musical Box boasted an even more generously sized second room in the back, filled with more hideous-but-comfortable old couches than the eye could see. With the exception of certain times on Friday and Saturday nights seating was seldom a problem; a trait few bars can claim.

Of all of the bars I’ve ever been to, The Musical Box was my absolute favorite. I celebrated several birthdays, Halloweens and countless other occasions at the bar over the years; loved to go during the week when there wasn’t a soul to be found; and even during the weekend when it was slightly more crowded with clueless fools who only showed up because they heard it was the latest hot spot.

Any time a friend wanted to meet up for a drink, Musical Box was almost always our default destination. And most important for me, I took my future wife to The Musical Box on our very first date, and we even ended up featuring a photo of the now-destroyed mural on the brick wall of the patio on our Save-the-Date — I can’t imagine there are many other people who went on a first date at Musical Box and ended up marrying that person.

Unfortunately, the unloyal crowds — who helped annoyingly clog the lines for the two unisex bathrooms — that started swarming the place after word got out around 2005-2006 would most likely end up being its death knell.

While I haven’t read anything definitive as to why Musical Box actually closed — although the conspiracy theorist in me thinks it may have something to do with the ugly new condo building that’s been under construction directly next door for the past few years — there was a noticeable decline in attendance during the past few years. Though nothing makes me happier than a completely empty bar that my friends and I have all to ourselves, it’s also rather hard for a drinking establishment to continue to exist when it doesn’t receive enough patrons.

And so while I knew this day would eventually come, it doesn’t make it hurt any less. So here’s to you Musical Box: Thank you for providing a relaxing drinking venue in a city full of frenetic, overcrowded and painfully loud bars; countless memories; and for playing a pivotal role in my personal life. You’ll be missed, and most likely never replaced.

Larry Koestler is the former author of This Is What We Do Now, a humor blog about twentysomething life in New York City, and currently blogs about the Yankees at Yankeeist. He can be contacted at larry at koestlermedia dot com.

Chico photo via Flickr.


Anonymous said...

I actually took my current wife of 8 yrs there on our first date! I loved the Musical Box. I lived right above Mona's across the street and this was such a hidden treasure.

It was the best kept secret for playing pool on Sunday nights and the music was always a good Brit rock set.

Let it be said that they always had the cleanest and freshest bathrooms in any bar in the EV. I would actually leave Mona's to use the bathroom at the Musical Box.

It will be missed...

Anonymous said...

I spent too many nights there to count beginning in 1999, and actually met my now wife there at a mutual friend's birthday party in 2000. I haven't been back in a couple of years since our move to the west side, but I'll certainly miss knowing it's around. From Brandon, the owner, to Clarance, the ex-LA Raider who bounced and kept the bathroom lines orderly, most of the people who worked there were terrific.

On crowded nights, I'd run across to Mona's to use their bathroom. I think I even have a framed Bob Marley picture that I took off the wall when I was younger and craftier.

Sorry to see you go, Musical Box!!!