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Monday, March 27, 2006
Actually the first bar I went to, both ever as a customer and later as a regular, was the West End, right across the street from Columbia. That, of course, was back in the day when the students actually went to the bars to discuss the issues of the day both in and out of the classroom. The beer and the burgers made the atmosphere more congenial, but the intellectual level was still high as professors, students, community folks, Columbia employees, roving radicals, drifters, hookers, and undercover agents all mingled, argued, socialized, and relaxed with one another. Socialist or socialite, there was something there for you.
I graduated from the West End shortly after I graduated from Columbia, moving mainly to the long-departed Clifford’s on West 72nd Street and the nearby McGowan’s, which later became the Bear Bar and then Yogi’s. I would still on occasion drop on by the West End, mainly out of nostalgic sentimentality, but it usually left me empty. It had become more of a yuppie hangout with fancier food than the old steam table fare. When the Internet began to boom, I had much less reason to use Columbia’s libraries, which are open to alumni, and thus didn’t even venture to that area that much at all. But I never ruled out a return, at least for old time’s sake.
Now I have a reason to stay at the New York redneck bars and away from this Ivy League-infested spot. According to reports both in the New York Daily News and the Columbia Spectator, there was a major brawl involving some 200 people early Saturday morning at the West End which spilled onto the street for several blocks along Broadway. It is unclear how many of those involved were actually Columbia students, but all reports agree that this mob brawl erupted at the West End, and somehow involved fraternity members.
Whoever was involved, I’ll stick with the places that play Johnny Cash, Merle, Gretchen, and Hank Sr. and Jr.
It does appear that my old alma mater is up to the same old tricks as it also tried pulling back in the day. Its latest expansion plans include using eminent domain to toss people out of their homes.
Now THAT is something over which these college kids ought to take to the street.