(above photo by Tina Fineberg, Associated Press)
Mr Hoy made my first NYC martini (Beefeater up with olives-very dry) in 1984 after my first job interview (20th Century Fox). We told each other lies about our years in the Army. Me leaning towards him on my bar stool lighting another Marlboro. Mr Hoy leaning into his corner where the bar turned. I didn't get the job and didn't see Mr Hoy again for years.
In 1990, my job was to entertain - mostly Brits - mostly in Chicago - sometimes in NYC- always with O.P.M. (Other People's Money). I returned to the Blue Bar and Mr Hoy. I told Hoy, "You made my first martini in NY and we told each other lies about the army." "Yes, I think I remember you." I said, "You're full of shit, Mr Hoy." And he laughed.
I went back to see Mr Hoy with increasing frequency. Late afternoons it was dead and we could talk. Other times, usually late at night, things could get strange. One night a man and his wife asked me to join them in their room. Another night I realized I was buying drinks for a hooker.
Mr Hoy was celebrated in 2006 as the oldest working bartender in NYC. He was 90. He claimed to still remember me whenever I stopped in. Now I was a New Yorker. And if I was ever a pain in Mr Hoy's fourth point of contact - and I'm sure I was - he never showed it. I took my seat at the bar, saw his smile and felt a warmth overcome me before the first sip of gin.
I stopped by recently. The lobby was packed but the bar empty. I sat on a stool, ordered a Beefeater martini and watched the Yankees with the bartenders. I asked a bartender how Mr Hoy was doing in his recent retirement. "Oh, Mr Hoy passed away a couple of months ago." "Shit." I said. "Yeah." he said. I stared at my martini. Lost in the memories of my ass on this very bar stool with Mr Hoy across from me.
I saw the familiar julep strainer on the bar in front of me and while the bartenders watched the game, I reached over, picked the strainer up, put it in my pocket and placed a twenty dollar bill where it had been. I asked for my bill, charged it (I wanted a record ) and put a tip on it as well. "Thanks." I said and climbed off the stool.
The bartender looked at the twenty on the bar, picked up the check folder and gave it a glance and looked at me surprised. "Thanks." he said. "No. Thank you." I said and left. I don't know how old my strainer is. I don't know how many martinis were made with it. I don't know a lot of things about it. I only know where it came from and what it did.
I took a walk and knew in my liver Mr Hoy was with me. Strolling Time's Square, an area I usually detest.
But something was different that night.
Everything was bright for my token. For some strange reason I felt I had to photograph it. Unless I lost it or a bartender chased me down and demanded it back.
A small wake in the city for a man I barely knew but whom I always felt connected to.
I think of all the connections Mr Hoy made with a spoon full of holes. "Yes, I'll always remember you."