My primary Bar Exam–related regret of 2005 involves the Jade Pagoda on Broadway. I love the Jade Pagoda. I love the façade and signage; I love the strange diorama in the foyer featuring, mysteriously, Star Wars figurines; I love the ladies' room, with its own distinct piped-in soundtrack, its graffiti, its one perennially out-of-order stall; I love how the dining room, resplendent with Chinese ornamentation behind its tantalizing screen, always seems to be closed; and, most of all, I love the bar. The bar is dark and welcoming, the crowd is an egalitarian mix of neighborhood types of all stripes, the drinks are strong, and the jukebox rules. (Someone I know brings blind dates to the Jade and judges them mercilessly based on what songs they choose.)
Some people call the Jade Pagoda the Abe Vigoda. The Jade Pagoda has a back deck that is a tiny, secret summertime treasure. If you ever have the pleasure of meeting the proprietress of the Jade Pagoda, you are fortunate, as she is genial and wonderful in the extreme.
In the era of Bert, the acid-tongued, national treasure of a bartender, I witnessed a complete jackass receive the dressing-down of the century after saying "How about you stop standing around with your shirt tucked into your pants and get me a drink?" Bert was not to be messed with, particularly regarding sartorial matters. On another evening, a lengthy discussion with the nicest, gayest mailman in the world entailed such sincere encouragement to embark upon a career with the postal service (and concomitant advice about drug testing) that an entire new vocational vista briefly opened up before my eyes. Then there was that late-night bet fatefully combining $50, French kissing, and the hottest person in the bar.
The keepers of the Jade Pagoda's bar also keep a diary in a spiral-bound notebook, which I once had the privilege of reading over a couple of drinks. This chronicle of the Jade is cheek-hurtingly funny, and not just the historical entries from the inimitable Bert—all the bartenders appear to be geniuses of prose, situated at the intersection of tragedy, comedy, and liquor.
I do not in any way, shape, or form regret eating a fried-egg sandwich at the Jade Pagoda this past May—it was delicious, and that night I had an epic, bizarre dream encompassing a trip to an Asian country that exists only in my mind, a feast of odd dim sum–like stuff, a riot, a party, and a torrential downpour. I do regret that in the column relating this culinary adventure (which detailed some difficulties with the health department—the likes of which beset restaurants of every caliber all over town), my abiding respect for the beloved Jade may have been obscured.
Among other things, I also regret my abject ignorance of Belgian public statuary (as revealed vis-à-vis Brouwer's Cafe); I regret eating that deep-fried mushroom at that North Bend gas station; and I sort of regret incensing a reader by using the term "bartendress."