By some strange set of circumstances, I recently found myself marooned for an hour in Garrison, New York, a small hamlet about an hour or so upstate, on the Hudson River, opposite West Point. It's a cute little place, a Washington Irving kind of 19th-century town. But there's not much there. While waiting for the next train back to Manhattan, I remembered a New York Times story from a few years back about an old Garrison tavern that had closed after many years in business. So I set out to find it.
It wasn't easy. Since it closed in 2008, the building no longer has a sign saying what it was—Guinan's—or any indication whatsoever that is was a bar. Only instinct told me that the abandoned green storefront between the train platform and the river was the place. It looked like the face of a former old bar. Also, on the wood that covered up the door, I discerned the mournful message "R.I.P."
Guinan's was founded in 1959, and was run by Jim Guinan. But when Jim grew old, and his son John was hospitalized with a brain tumor, there was no way to keep the place going. And so Garrison lost its heart. The place is still vacant. Here's a big of the Times piece:
The music is real. The horseshoe above the entrance to the bar is real. The Irish biscuits and jellies and oatmeal are real. The slightly unnerving slope of the barroom floor is real. The police and fire patches behind the bar are real. The shrine to Lou-Lou Yannitelli, 1992-2007, beloved hound dog, is real. The chili made every morning, the way people care about each other, Jim getting too old to run it, John’s cancer. Good and bad, all real.
I also found this. An old metal phone booth, painted an unusual green color, with an unusual green sign. No phone, no door. But little calling cards tucked in its crevices advertising car services. For the former patrons of Guinan's who were too tipsy to drive themselves home.