Whether you're spending the holidays alone or are simply tired of commercials depicting the fabulously well-to-do surprising each other with red-bowed luxury sedans, there are plenty of reasons to enjoy a Blue Christmas. Forget the treacle sentiments of the Elvis song —- a true Blue Christmas is spent at your local dive bar, sharing miseries with the likewise afflicted while staring at colored lights reflected through the amber blur of whiskey. So, with that in mind, if you do find yourself sad, alone, and Manhattan-bound this Christmas, you could do a lot worse than spending it drunk at the Blarney Cove (510 E. 14th St., between Ave. A & B, 212-473-9284.)
Located on a particularly ugly stretch of 14th Street, the Blarney Cove has resisted the encroaching gentrification of the Lower East Side and resolutely remains a neighborhood dive bar. With the exception of a few back tables surrounding a quarter-eating Magic Touch trivia machine, the seating is limited to a dozen or so stools pressed against the long, narrow bar. When the Magic Touch is occupied, there's not much left to do but drink —- all in all an agreeable option, given the bar's low prices. The entrance of a regular patron will occasionally earn an enthusiastic "whoop" from Danny the bartender, but any commotion dies down quickly, and the Blarney Cove remains fairly quiet, except for the occasional jukebox selection. Danny, by the way, is well-known for refusing payment for the bags of chips clipped behind the bars, and on a good night, the third or fourth round of drinks, as well. In truth, I have not checked whether the Blarney Cove is open on Christmas day, but god help the dispossessed of 14th Street if it is closed.
Anyway, Blue Christmas or not, keep the Blarney Cove in mind this holiday season. Everyone in New York surely experiences at least a Blue Shopping Day, and the bar's convenient location makes it a perfect escape and short walk from the commercial bustle and forced holiday cheer of Union Square.