It is said that Wall Street runs on adrenaline and alcohol.
Every evening for decades, an army of suits and skirts has descended on noisy pubs serving beer and shots to elegant places featuring the finest wines, looking to continue or burn off the high of another frantic trading day. Many continue to discuss work, looking for some inside track on the next day, but most just want to wind down, gossip, or simply delay their commute home.
In the Fifties, The Caboose was a landmark, conveniently located just a hundred steps from the Exchange. The interior was typical, narrow and deep, with a thirty foot mahogany bar down one side and wood-paneled walls sporting pictures of old steam-engine trains down the other.
The character and clientele of any successful bar is the reflection of the head bartender, and this was especially true of The Caboose. Dennis Donahue was a legend, known around the area as The Pope of Pine Street. Some also called him St. Dennis for the way he forgave the sinners and soothed the angels, and for pouring liberally.
And his patrons drank liberally. Stopping in for one drink before the train home often became an evening of loud talk about work, sports, sex, or all three. Some stayed until closing time, but anyone who complained that the last drink Dennis served the night before had done them in got this reply: “Don’t go blaming me! When you’re run over by a twenty car freight train, it’s not the caboose that kills you.”
Dennis was Black-Irish; dark hair, blue eyes and a tall, lean body. He had been born and bred in New York’s Hell's Kitchen, where the requirements for survival were the ability to think fast and use your fists. Dennis was a master of both, although he preferred to live by his wits. He started out in the business at the age of ten, sweeping out a local bar on Sunday mornings. The first thing Dennis did when he bought the Caboose, after years of working at other places, was remove the black-and-white television set and the juke box. "This is a drinking establishment. I don't want beer sippers in here distracted by baseball games or listening to goddamn music." The next thing he did was remove all the measuring devices on the bottles. "That's like asking Picasso to use paint-by-number canvases," Fast Freddy noted. His practiced hand and eye could gauge the proper strength for a regular's first drink. Some needed a stiff jolt to loosen up while others needed to be brought down from their day more carefully.
More on Monday on the habitués of this establishment.