We’re going way, WAY back on this one. I started going to NYC in mid-1998, and by early 1999 I’d found one of the most delightfully scummie holes in the wall you could ever imagine, and it was wonderful. I had taken NJTransit into Penn Station as usual (it was a while before I actually spent the night in the city, well, it was a while before I paid to stay the night in the city…), and I had taken the 1 subway up to 50th street (I honestly don’t know why or where I was heading that night), and half way up the stairs, off to the left, was the sound of what could liberally be called a band. But how was that possible? I mean sure, there was plenty of folks on the subway platforms playing guitars, saxaphone, you name it. But this was a full on band, a full on punk band to be more precise. And it appeared to be live. And it appeared to be coming from down the hall on the subway stairway…following it through what appeared to be a doorway…and then I was there: The Siberia Bar!
I had been hanging out at another so-called hole-in-the-wall dive in Tallahassee, The Office Lounge, for a while by this time, and it was a true dive the likes of which probably no longer exist in in 2017. And it could be rough. And it could be loud. And it was certainly dirty. But even The Office hadn’t prepared me for Siberia. I don’t remember how many times I went there, or even when the last time was that I went. I remember at least one night taking the NJTransit into Penn, the 1 up to 50th, and then only going as far up as Siberia, never even stepping foot on ground level in the city that trip. But things change and so do people and for a good while when I was in NJ I didn’t make the trek into NYC nearly as much as I did at the start, or even now, and at some point Sibera kind of went to the back burner. And then one night I decided to mosie over to 50th and 8th and…and it was gone. Nothing left but a hole in the wall. I found out later that they had reopened somewhere else, but I never made it there before that incarnation too had closed. And now all that’s left is a bunch of jumbled memories, some of which probably happened at some other dive, others of which might not have happened at all.
Luckily these guys put together an actual honest to scrod documentary on the joint, which is linked here. And any documentary that starts with a disclaimer making clear nothing in the film is legally binding has to be good. In truth its as rough as the Siberia was, and somehow that’s the way it should be.
Footnote: I ventured back to the 50th Street subway station in May (2017), and found that what had once been this fabulous den of iniquity had at some point turned into a FREAKIN’ DUNKIN DONUTS! But unless I caught it on a bad day, it too appears to have been frozen out.