We do a lot of things to try and combat our homesickness here in New York. Chiefly, we find places that make us feel a little less out of sorts, and a little more like we belong. As previously discussed, for me, that’s usually a bar. I’m one of those people who is good at conversations with strangers, especially if the atmosphere is good and the booze is free-flowing. And I recently waxed poetic about how wonderful it is to be a nerd in New York City. So it only makes sense that one of my homes away from home would combine the two.
What do you get when you cross great people and good booze with massive amounts of Nerdom? The result is The Way Station, more colloquially known as “the Doctor Who bar.” The Way Station takes your neighborhood bar and infuses it with a healthy dose of cult movies, live music, steampunk decor, science fiction and fantasy-themed cocktails, and Disney and show tune sing-a-longs.
I found The Way Station through Andrew, (Zelda’s college friend and now one of my best friends in the city — our bestiedom is Zelda’s most successful friendship matchmaking venture to date). I was a Doctor Who fanatic, looking to watch the premiere somewhere other than the unreliable stream on my computer, and Andrew, a fellow fan, offered a solution. The Way Station was showing the episodes on the big screen on Sunday afternoons, all while supplying booze. “Great,” I thought, “I can drink and watch Doctor Who, at the very same time!” Little did I know that watching Doctor Who at The Way Station isn’t just a viewing party: It’s an immersive experience.
I arrived at the bar to find Andrew already decked out in his Fourth Doctor replica scarf. Tons of other people were sporting cosplays of their favorite characters, and there was an actual TARDIS plopped down right in front of the bar (alright not an actual TARDIS, obviously, but a pretty damn good replica). I soon found out that not only was said Tardis the bathroom, but it was actually bigger on the inside! I had somehow stumbled upon nerd mecca, and I knew I was already in too deep.
After several weeks of watching Doctor Who, Andrew managed to drag me to Nerdeoke (It’s karaoke, for nerds!). Nerdeoke is basically just regular karaoke, but with a higher percentage of They Might Be Giants, Disney, show tunes, and repeated sing-a-longs to the Firefly theme song. To this day, it’s the only place I’ve ever felt comfortable enough to karaoke solo, and I’d like to consider myself a pseudo-regular of that stage.
But reaching that level of comfort took a while. For a few months, I continued to feel like I wasn’t nerdy enough for The Way Station. I didn’t write wizard rock or have amazing cosplay skills; I hadn’t even watched Buffy until I was a senior in college. But I was soon corrected. Unlike the actual nerd community sometimes, at The Way Station I didn’t have to prove my nerd worth. If you’re excited about hanging out in a Doctor Who-themed bar, you’re obviously a big enough nerd. Enthusiasm is the only cover charge in this joint.
Soon, I was going for more than just karaoke and Doctor Who. I rolled by for cabarets and sometimes just an after-work drink, because I knew no one would judge me for sitting at the end of the bar reading a book with my beer. When we shot the pilot of the web series I’m working on (Andrew’s brainchild), every shoot day ended with a drink at our preferred spot.
I think there’s something about The Way Station that just exudes acceptance. It’s the thing I love most about it. You can be yourself there, whoever “yourself” is: a songwriter who wants a place to preview her new stuff, a cosplayer who needs an excuse that’s not a Con to wear his latest creation, a writer who needs inspiration, or me — a museum worker who wants to belt out off-key renditions of Cher and anything by Jason Robert Brown while holding a gin-based drink in one hand.
I don’t get there as often as I’d like these days; the trip from Bushwick to Prospect Heights is daunting If I’m not already at work at the museum. Nevertheless, I make the trip when I can, and while I’m not quite a regular, enough people recognize me when I walk in to make me feel at home. The Way Station’s given me a lot: countless new friends, a trusted bar close to my workplace, the confidence to sing on stage without fear, the list goes on.
And last week, The Way Station made me particularly proud to be a frequenter of their fine establishment when they announced a promotion I am calling Feminist Ladies Night. To highlight the pay gap between men and women, on July 7th or 7/7 (yesterday for you lovely folks reading this, tomorrow for me as I write), women only pay 77% of the list price for their drinks. In the United States today, women make 77 cents for every dollar that men make. What better way to combat this, the fine folks at The Way Station thought, than with cheap booze! It’s not going to fix the problem, but it will sure as hell call attention to it. I’ve never been happier to be a patron of a bar than when I heard the announcement. My only hope is that it becomes a permanent thing.
So if you want good drinks, absolute nerdiness, the occasional celebrity sighting, and a healthy dose of feminist rhetoric, follow my lead and head to The Way Station. Full-price or politically discounted, it’s absolutely worth it, just waiting to welcome you with open arms (and a mic).