Benjamin Shih is the owner of Royal Oak (more commonly known by the locals as Royal REDACTED). Benjamin's number is in my cellphone. Except instead of Shih, I have him listed as Benjamin Fucking Asshole. Immature, yes, but since Benjamin Shih opened the REDACTED bar across the street from my building, he has unapologetically made my neighbors and I completely miserable.
In the beginning, we had high hopes for the place—they opened the same day as the blackout and they gave the people coming up out of the subway grate free glasses of water. It's a pretty place and my neighbors and I thought it might be nice to have a bar so close. Ha. We were so naive back then. Within weeks the place had turned into a douche-magnet—attracting morons from near and far. Almost every night the sidewalk out front is clogged with REDACTED-up jackasses braying at the moon. Sleep is out of the question unless you've got earplugs and air conditioning.
It used to be that the people who moved to Williamsburg—and the East Village before that—were the types who were shunned in high school. They were picked last in gym class, probably suffered an astigmatism and would much rather read a good book than attend a sporting event. They didn't fit in in their home towns, so they gravitated here. Sure, they got on my nerves with their art projects and insistence on calling their apartments their "space" (eg, "you have to come see what I did with my space."). Pretentious, no doubt, but these days, when I sit next to an earnest couple discussing their shared passion for Derrida and Galouis ciggies, I feel not derision, but nostalgia.
The latter-day hipster may look like the old-school hipster, but scratch the surface of their kicks and you'll discover the difference. These new kids were popular in high school—witness their fondness for Dodgeball. I mean, dodgeball!?!? Dodgeball day was the stuff nightmares were made of when I was a kid. My heart still quickens when I hear the phrase because I recall my days as a target all too vividly.
These new kids don't read books so much as collect them as conversation pieces. The women tend to work in PR and the dudes work in tech. They all have perfect teeth to go with their skinny jeans and have the arrogance and sense of entitlement that comes from knowing that no matter how badly they fuck up, they will never go hungry because mommy and daddy have them covered. They don't live in "spaces," they live in over-priced, parentally subsidized, condos with a park vu.
For some reason these people also like to "woo" once they have a drink or ten. I've never had an urge to throw my fists to the heavens and scream "woo" when I'm drunk, but maybe that's because I'm of hearty Irish stock and we can (mostly) handle our booze. Nor do I hang out with people who "woo." Never have. Perhaps that's something you only pick up at a Seven Sisters school. These are the Royal Oak crowd.
I've tried talking to Benjamin about maybe replacing the mop-topped manorexic doorman with a bouncer with some actual muscle tone to quiet the howling clump of Woo-ers out front. He patiently explained to me that we—he and I—need to work together to repeal the smoking ban. I less patiently explained to him that I didn't give a fuck about the smoking ban, I just wanted him to shut his clientele up. . . that in the interest of being a good neighbor he should attempt to control his crowd. Other bars put up signs or hire people to keep their crowds in line. He absolutely refused to do anything, declaring it out of his jurisdiction.
Anyway, this is a long-winded way of talking about New York Magazine's inexplicable rim-job of Benjamin Shih this week. Mr. Frat-tastic is opening a new restaurant with a Patriot Express business loan he obtained through his stint as a National Guardsman. One of my fave bits is about how his girlfriend broke up with him after he enlisted. Sure, maybe. Then again, maybe she just got sick of dating the guy who owns the local REDACTED bar.
UPDATE: I came home to a shrill letter from a criminal attorney last night (weird choice for a civil matter), threatening to sue me on Shih's behalf if I didn't take this post down. Why he's complaining 2.5 years after I wrote this piece, I have no idea. I have edited this post to address their concerns, though I don't know why they're bothering at this late date. Maybe they need the attention because it's pretty quiet over there lately (thank christ).