Notes From The Carlyle – May

Well, it was a somber day when I walked into Bemelmans and was told that Tommy the bartender had quietly retired. To be honest, I was rather shocked.

I knew the powers that be were trying to convince him it was time but as he told me more than once, “After 53 years I’m just not ready.” Despite seeing their side of it, I knew exactly what he meant. It was home to him and he couldn’t bring himself to leave it quite yet;

maybe in another 50 plus years.

I sat numbly in a corner taking this news in. The new bartender, though perfectly nice, was still a stranger. I missed Tommy’s Irish banter and admitted failings such as asking me if I paid yet.

“Wouldn’t want to charge ya twice,” he’d say with a wink.

I also knew the type of clientele the Carlyle gets wasn’t always as tolerant as me. That’s not to say he didn’t annoy me once in a while but he was kind of like a relative that you couldn’t ever stay too mad at.

So he made mistakes, who doesn’t?

Did I ever mention how cute Tommy is? He has that twinkle in his eye many Irishmen have, especially one of the old guard. I can only equate it to a determined happiness that came from years of honing the skill.

His wife Elizabeth after being sick in a nursing home for a long time passed away a few years ago. Tommy, every day after work, would visit her till the day she died. He would tell me about it, how hard it was for him to see her that way while wiping tears away with his bar towel.

I also recall the day he announced he had a lady friend, as he called her. “You know I had the love of my life,” he said as though I’d disapprove, “she’s just nice company because  even someone like me gets lonely sometimes.”

It was sweet and honest and that’s what Bemelman’s will lack without him because the younger set doesn’t come with that kind of heart. It’s more like ship shape service with an impersonal smile. (fuck that)

As I resentfully reminisced, I thought how from now on it would feel as if I was in any other hotel bar where they kind of know your face but not your name, and even though Tommy would forget mine once in a while it always came back to him mid drink when he’d rush over and say, “IT’S SUSANNAH, RIGHT?”

I think what upsets me the most is now when I ask for potato chips I’ll never again hear the history of the potato.

Sadly, all things end in one way or another so Tommy, I bid you a fond farewell and will always remember…

the sweet, funny guy…

with the twinkle in his eye…

that would sometimes give me gin instead of vodka.

Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-rah, hush now don’t you cry…

Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-rah, that’s an Irish lullaby.

Take good care pal.


City Room: After 53 Years of Mixing Drinks, a Beer for the Road


About Susannah Bianchi

I'm just a girl who likes to write slightly on slant. I've had a career in fashion, dabbled in film and to be honest, I don't like talking about myself. Now my posts are another matter so I will let them speak for themselves. My eBooks, A New York Diary, Model Behavior: Friends For Life and Notes From A Working Cat can be found on Thanks.
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18 Responses to Notes From The Carlyle – May

  1. hal says:

    So sweet, what a nice tribute to an old friend !


    • So wish you had accompanied me there before he left. You would have gotten such a charge out of him. There an old timer or two left at The King Cole Bar. We can always go there. They just don’t have chips, a must for the Thingirl. We can always bring our own. Lol


  2. Rob says:

    Tommy is one of a dying breed the world over, alas. There are pubs closing all over Britain because they’ve become such soulless places (well, that and the taxation). Did you ever go to Eire? The bars there are something to see!


  3. Katherine Boyle says:

    Who’s a naughty boy, then, Rob? I’m telling the Missus.


  4. stevesw says:

    “with the twinkle in his eye” because you made his work day meaningful.


    • Awww, that’s sweet Steve. When you go to a place all the time you do get attached to people without even knowing it. If you had told I’d be this sad over his retirement I never would have believed it. It’s an end of an era.


  5. Vasca says:

    Know the feeling Susannah…last year a ‘very proper’ gentleman named George (retired from Her Majesty’s Service and moved to the U.S.) died and I truly mourned.

    He and I were chums…he loved the diversion of being a ‘sacker’ at my grocer’s and such a love. He always spent time chatting each week…compared wine preferences and exchanged personal news…he and his missus took a cruise each year and he loved filling me in on the details. Their pictures were such happy ones. He would’ve also made a great bartender…just the sweetest Brit ever! Even looked sort of like Tommy!

    One week he caught a cold, his heart collapsed and he was gone before we could even say g’bye…people like George and Tommy are precious jewels…sparkle and shine..touching lives!

    It’s a blessing to know one!


    • Sorry to hear about your friend. At least I know Tommy is still on the planet and does have a daughter and grandchildren and we mustn’t forget his lady friend. It’s just another reminder how we should never take anyone or anything for that matter for granted, but I don’t need to tell you that. You’re pretty tapped in to love and appreciation.


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