My first encounter with 1020 was during NSOP 2011. I happened to be on the block for some godforsaken reason (probably making the classic CrackDel round trip, this was NSLOP after all) and I spotted my COÖP leader in that roped-off bit that looks more akin to an animal pen than a VIP section. We shouted hello! He asked how I’d been! I said I loved Columbia! We then tried to convince a friend of his that I was really (!) a sophomore for no particular reason. It worked! For three minutes. Soon my uber-enthusiasm for all things collegiate gave me away, and I was infantile once again. Brouhaha ensued.
Eventually, we parted, and I walked up Amsterdam for good. My friends happened to be Heights regulars, and I became one too. We would never end up making the trek down to 110th again. Bar culture thrives on reputation, so I began to associate chain-smoking, grad students, and chain-smoking future grad students with That Place That Had No Real Name, just like everyone else. I didn’t think too much of it at the time, and besides, I was too busy getting turned away by Anna.
It’s funny how things change. I went to 1020 the other night, actually.
Let’s look at this objectively: I stood in a freezing cold line for 20 minutes (which is slightly less demeaning than doing the same outside a frat, only because the bouncer is older and therefore in a semi-justifiable position of power). After I finally got inside, it took another 10 minutes to shout demands at the bartender, snag something, anything, and aggressively mosh my way through the obnoxiously skinny aisle to the back of the bar. Somehow we managed to find empty chairs, and as I sat down for the first time in at least a few hours, I couldn’t help but feel vaguely … triumphant. Dare I say happy, even?
I’ll be the first to admit that my first problem was probably the fact that I was not yet at a point beyond caring. The second was quite possibly the fact that I’d spent the afternoon reading philosophical nothings for CC.
As I cradled my drink and literally stared back at what I’d waited so long for, I couldn’t help but wonder why I had put up with all of this in the first place. It began with, “Why am I at 1020?” which eventually became, “Why do people go to 1020 at all?” and turned into the even more existential “How do people even get along at this school?”
To answer the first question: One could say that every bar has an associated identity, and I suppose that as mine has changed, so has where I hang out. I’m no longer involved with athletics, and the clubs I’m involved with now seem to prefer glass cups to plastic solos. Both are cool, but things change. It happens.
At the same time, making such drastic changes in my own life has made me realize that social mobility at this school isn’t as common as we would think it to be. People who lived on your John Jay floor eventually became your neighbors in McBain. The teammates you practice with make the most practical roommates. It’s a balance between proximity, chance, and actual socialization, which apparently ended with my Rolling Rock and me in a 1020 chair.
Last November, the New York Times published a piece called “How to Live Without Irony.” The author claims that our generation’s search for individuality and innovation in such a informationally overwhelmed society has manifested itself as “irony.” In a society all too self-aware of its frivolity, what it essentially craves is authenticity. Hence, the “thrift shop” mentality of finding something “unique,” or the newfound “grittiness” of the superhero as furthered by “The Dark Knight.”
So now that I roll with another crowd, why do people go to 1020? And, if anything, why do the lines seem to getting even longer? I talked about it all with a senior today, and she gave me the knowing look of a seasoned professional: “I don’t want to be one of those people, but it’s always been popular, dude. It’s just something you have to know about, and then you’ll realize that references to it are everywhere.”
But another friend argued that 1020 was only just recently “commandeered back” from the grad students who had staked their claim over the past few years, and we’re simply witnessing its return to glory. This, I realized the other night, is the reason why 1020 is becoming more popular on campus. This dive is to the collegiate experience as Urban Outfitters is to clothing, the experiential equivalent to discovering the next “indie” band before it blows up, and the subsequent anger hipsters feel when they hear “their song” on pop radio for the first time. (I’ve heard my fair share of complaints about what 1020 “used” to be like before Bwog made it a tag.)
Admittedly, there’s something glorious about a booth successfully stolen. The drinks are indeed cheap(er). There is a TV projector that (allegedly) switches to porn in the ungodly hours of the morning, as well as Christmas lights strung along the ceiling. That semi-permanent brand-stamp still won’t rub off my hand.
It might be just another place, sure. But I think 1020 represents something larger than just the local campus social scene. It’s because nowadays, the obscure-dive-next-door is what we want, because that is what we define as the most genuine experience.
Maybe I should go to Lion’s Head next.
Anne Steele is a Columbia College sophomore. Weighted Perspectives runs alternate Mondays.
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