Fraunces Tavern is at Pearl and Broad down on Wall Street. I loved this place back in the '80s. The history first attracted me. Washington resigned his commission and said goodbye to his general staff here. The fireplace was always welcome on a cold night. Along with the giant bowl of soft Port Wine Cheese and a plate full of Ritz crackers at the end of the bar.
It was my favorite place to meet a date for drinks before heading uptown for dinner. Artifacts, mostly reproductions, were crammed into the place. The food wasn't that great then but the place had real soul. And dust.
I met management one night thanks to a date of mine. She was an FBI agent and while going to the bathroom her .38 fell out of her waist holster and into the toilet. Lucky for her this happened before. She fished the Smith & Wesson, I think it was the hammerless model ... I'm not sure, out of the toilet and since there were no paper towels, she unloaded it and with the cylinder open, placed the gun under the hand dryer. I think the dryer was manufactured by World Dryer, a future client of mine...I'm not sure.
At about this time I was in the harbor on a boat in one of the worse ice storms the city had seen in years. I was running an hour late....maybe an hour and a half...I'm not sure.
While Jean was drying her side arm another lady walked in. And while I'm not sure of this...I'm almost positive this woman had never been exposed to firearms. Certainly not one being held under a hand dryer in the bathroom of Fraunces Tavern. Which would explain why she screamed so loudly as she ran out.
My date, being the ever prepared agent, was ready for management when they stormed the ladies room by holding her credentials out at arms length in one hand and the .38 in the other - - still under the dryer. Management, some pretty big fellas...I do remember that, laughed and stood by the door until Mr Smith and Mr Wesson were dry.
Upon exiting the ladies, my date and management stood by the fireplace and laughed. This is where I came in ...seeing four big men standing around my date and laughing...I thought, "What in the hell...?" Which is when my date saw me and said loudly, "Where in the fuck have you been?" This caused some more laughs as well as one of my favorite phrases from management, "Drinks are on us."
Today, I come here to remember. Dates with FBI agents. George Washington saying a tearful goodbye to his Army. The fireplace. All good. But that was then.
It's pretty horrible now. Someone took all the reproductions and dust. It seems empty and cold. All the charm lost somewhere between then and now. I like to have lunch here alone and ponder what 23 years can do to a place...and to me.