Time travel costs money. Who would expect any less, right? But to do it right and proper, you’ve got to go all out: You want to dress the part, eat the part, walk and talk look the part—whether you’re headed to 1920s Paris or Caesar’s Rome. If there’s sparring, you’d better have a shield, if there’s adventure, you’d better have a raccoon hat and some thick leather pants. If there’s cocktails and dancing—and for me, ideally there would be cocktails and dancing—you’d better know how to drink, and you’d better know how to dance.
If I want to time travel, I go to Bemelmans Bar. I bring a wad of cash thick enough for a coat check, two $30 cocktails, and two very generous tips: one for the bartender in the red jacket with the black bow tie; one for the man at the piano, who always smiles and nods at you when he teases out the first few notes of the song you’ve requested.
The first time I went, it was with my brand-new husband in celebration of our wedding. “We’ve got to go to Bemelmans,” he insisted, straightening his wedding-day tie—the one he bought from New Zealand on a rush order, the replica of Bogie’s tie in the final scene of Casablanca. The one which cost more to ship than my dress cost to buy. The perfect time-traveling tie.
We sat side-by-side in one of the deep banquettes, holding hands tightly under the table, using our free hands to eat too many of the snacks replenished by attentive tuxedoed waiters. Chewing salty roasted almonds, feeling like visitors from a future time, we sank into the leather upholstery and looked around us at a scene straight out of 1942. We requested our song, the one we’d just had a friend sing at our ceremony: “That’s All.” The pianist queued it up and played marvelously, nodding at us with a warm smile. Hands squeezed tighter under the table. More roasted almonds. A $35 glass of red wine. A Pisco Sour. Eliot Spitzer, then governor of New York and on top of the world, walked in and sat near us with some friends, laughing and joking and drinking tonic water. We outstayed him. We outstayed almost everyone.
It was a brilliant evening. It cost more than the whole of our wedding and reception combined. We didn’t care. This was time travel.