Textbook Cad, that rake of a lad, is one righteous grammarian. See how he sucks his teeth whilst ranting against contractions. Truly, abridged diction makes him peevish. Shouldn’t and couldn’t are anathema to Textbook, with their implications of sloth and phony jive. Instead it is should have and could not and The Chicago Manual of Style. Textbook—a lordly, lusty, cerebral heel—is a dear friend of mine. We like to whine and dine and pretend that saloons can be salons, since cocktails are the currency of most slurry didacticisms.
“Let us nitpick Hegelian internal rational structures at the KAVA LOUNGE (605 Hudson Street, 989-7504),” Textbook suggests. So we slink back to a candlelit table at this mellow cave with chile-pepper red walls and Maori tribal murals. Textbook, an undistinguished skirt chaser, orders a cappuccino martini ($9) and stage-whispers to the beauty queen behind us that kava is a natural relaxant ceremonially drunk throughout Melanesia. To endure her eye rolls, I pick the Kava Cocktail ($9), a coconut-peach-cranberry blend doused with rum and kava extract. The drink menu instructs that kava “tastes like dirty dishwater with a hint of cloves.” My potion hints more at jiggers of milk of magnesia splashed over diet fruit jam. Meanwhile, Textbook’s martini arrives sprinkled with four espresso beans and swallows like an über-boozy, melted coffee smoothie. Outside, I notice that my tongue is numb, but still, I feel post-coitally blissed and sedated. It must have been the kava, since the platonic Textbook is squiring me.
By now it is past 10 and a famished Textbook bossily commands us toward MEHANATA/416 B.C. (416 Broadway, 625-0981), his most beloved Bulgarian joint. Upstairs, the ambience is peculiar: bleak disco artifacts interspersed with a Hawaiian-style thatched roof. Straw reeds are stapled to paper and wrapped around the bar. Perestroika aloha? Led to a banquette near the kitchen, we skip the menu because Textbook knows gastronomy. He chooses two appetizers—Kyopolu ($4), portobello mushrooms stuffed with chopped walnuts, spinach, and Parmesan ($7); and pungent, creamy Kashkaval Pane ($7), which is breaded, fried kashkaval cheese with salty steak fries on the side. Dinner is critical since cocktails here are poured with lethal ratios of three-quarters liquor to one-quarter mix. Textbook’s whiskey Coke ($6) is so stiff I hear him whimper, “I simply can’t finish this.” Seven olives bob around in my vodka martini ($6), a poisonously alcoholic treat. In three sips I chug it, then chant contractions at Textbook till the waitress comes.
So it is time for our final nightcap. The one that induces lobotomies. We walk around the corner to the ORANGE BEAR BAR (47 Murray Street, 566-3705), a happy-hour sanctum for City Hall pols and plebes. Textbook staggers inside, snapping, “Am I in Austin?” and though I am vexed by his snobbery, I know what he means. Orange Bear, with its Texarkana kitsch, minty walls, wobbly strung lights, and pool table, puts to mind last call at Fraternity Ball. Here, we stick to basics. Textbook requests another whiskey Coke ($5), which ends up nice and watery, while I ask for vodka soda ($5), also more seltzer than booze. Then we gawk at the antique Goth chandelier above and sing “¿Donde Está Mi Cerveza?” with the balladeer onstage.