Vanguard

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“You ready to close out already? You can’t go yet. Stay for a glass of wine on me” insisted Jim, our bartender. “Oh. I can’t…are you sure? Thanks. This is the second time this week I’ve been stood up” confessed the 30 something woman sitting next to me, dressed in her sleek black turtleneck, black jeans, and thigh-high boots. Jim had already proved himself a worthy wine pusher by bringing over several bottles of French reds for me to try before committing to a full glass. I liked this guy even more now that he I could see the empathy he wore on his sleeve.

Vanguard, on 2nd Avenue and 30th Street in Manhattan, is a great date spot and a terrible place to get stood up. Something about having to walk downstairs to enter the bar feels exclusive. Like a best kept secret. The dark browns and reds that highlighted this sunken space provided a warm glimmer against the flickering candlelight. An old black and white film played silently above the bar, highlighted by the marble countertop surrounding Bartender Jim. Framed vintage advertisements and French subway maps adorned almost every inch of these walls. The few booths and tabletops that are here sit mostly empty. The draw of the marble bar is irresistible. Some come here solo, looking for a warm space to pull out a journal and start writing. Others come here with friends after work to vent over one too many glasses of Cabernet Franc. And some, like the older couple across the bar, came here to make this spot a wine-tasting, slow-dancing, spot for romance. All of us with the perfect view of the other characters that occupied this space tonight, make it impossible to ignore the girl who was left here alone. I felt bad for her. We all loved Jim’s act of compassion, and now we were all aware of her punctured heart.

Silently inserting myself into her situation, I decided that what this woman deserved was a man who knew what he wanted and was confident in his decision. Like the gentlemen who had no interest in tasting anything. He knew exactly the glass of wine he wanted to order. A young man that looked like he was pulled directly out the New York improv scene: black hipster glasses, maroon zip-up hoodie, and New Balance sneakers. Sure, he looked like a kid, but the assuredness and maturity of his ordering style left me with a temporary fantasy that he could be a great fallback for our lonely homegirl.

I snapped out of this intrusive daydream and ordered an earthy red, the Camembert and Apricot Preserve flatbread, and a glass of sparkling water. The latter of which I attempted to use to get rid of whatever the yellow stain was that just showed up on my new, white coat. The water helped some, but good ol’ Bartender Jim came through with a helpful follow up, “Did you spill red wine on your coat?” “Oh no. Just some stain I noticed on the way here.” “Oh. Cause I have some of this spray stuff that helps take out red wine stains.” A few pumps and scrubs later, stain be gone. Bartender and superhero. I’ll definitely be back.

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