Monday, January 03, 2011

A Whale of a Day!

I ended up not going to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden on Sunday, but that was OK because instead... I WENT TO THE WHALER BAR!

Yes, it's true! And I have photos to prove it.

I actually did go to a park - Central Park and I went to Le Pain Quotidien too, but that will have to be in a separate posting. I did get some nice photos of that too.

But back to the Whaler Bar. My friends and I knew we were in the right place when we saw this posted in the hotel lobby - and we were in luck - it was Jolly Hour!

I don't know if the Whaler Bar ever looked the way Alain portrayed it on a postcard - he made it look like an actual ship with portholes. Here is the postcard:

It certainly doesn't look that way now. Of course when we arrived, in spite of it being Jolly Hour the only other customers were a family of German tourists with zwei kinder banging unmercifully on the piano in the corner of the room. As you can see in this photo below. Tourist on the left, children barely visible behind the piano on the right.

I strongly suspect that the only continuity with the original New York Whaler Bar is the mural, seen in the photo below (with German tourist and children coats in the lower right.)

But you can't appreciate the mural from that distance. You have to get right up to it. I posted close-ups, below.

The mural seems to be of a whale hunt that happens right in the town's harbor, with every 19th-century water craft joining in on the hunt.

On the left hand side are two whales, a light house, two small whaling vessels and a big multi-mast ship, and a two-sail sailboat way in the back.

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Moving rightward on the mural is the third whale, who is so certain that no whales are in danger that he's laughing in the whale hunters' faces - these guys are straight out of the Willie the Whaler school.

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Here is a close-up of the laughing whale.

This center section of the mural shows some landlubbers in the background, watching the proceedings.

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The next section has the most going on. A whole bunch of landlubbers - and I love the men's Victorian-era outfits; a horse-cart; dolphins and a steam boat.

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One of the landlubbers is up on the widow's walk with a telescope.

The right-most section of the mural shows the most damage, especially right below and above the ship. There are dock-workers on the far right and the artist's signature at the bottom. Bruce something - I couldn't read the last name up close in person either.

click to view a larger version of this image

In spite of the damage, this mural is in decent shape for being probably 70 years old - since it's not in a museum I expect there's only been minimal maintenance. But it's really neat in person - go and see it yourself, it's free. It's in the Madison Towers hotel at 38th and Madison, just down the street from Grand Central Station.

And to make the day complete, Anonymous posted two seadog lingo factoids in the comments:

In Irish sailor's music, "Fiddler's Green" is the name of what is essentially an alternative afterlife, meant specifically for sailors, which contains, instead of the contemplative ecstasies of Heaven, the more prurient pleasures of sea-faring folk.

Ah hah! Just as I suspected. Surely Fiddler's Green is a house of ill-repute, seeing as it's named after an afterlife of ill-repute.


The base term, "grog" refers to rum which has been weakened by cutting with water, after the edict of one Admiral Grogram which insisted upon it. His less-than-affectionate nickname was "Old Grog".

Thanks so much, Anonymous!