Wednesday, September 23, 2015
Nice work if you can get it
I have friends in France that do seasonal work. In the winter they are in the Alps; in the summer they are on the Côte d'Azur; in between they travel. I always sort of envied their lifestyle. It seemed so simple and pleasant. I wondered why more people, myself included, didn't live like this.
There is a wonderfully shambolic biergarten in Carroll Gardens (Brooklyn) called the Gowanus Yacht Club. This to me is the perfect business model. Get some German-style picnic benches, some patio umbrellas and a couple strings of Christmas lights. Grill burgers and hotdogs, serve keg beer and crank the Stones and Van Morrison on a ghetto-blaster from April to September. Then take it easy for six months.
I've found my Gowanus Yacht Club in Arashiyama, the beautiful, mountainous district on the outskirts of Kyoto not far from where I live. It's called Kotogase Chaya. Unlike the Carroll Gardens bar/café, this is actually on the water, on the south bank of the Hozu River. There is a long, corrugated metal awning strung up with colorful paper lanterns. This covers half a dozen tatami mat platforms with chabudai (short-legged tables) and zabuton (cushions). They serve bottled beer, grilled squid, noodles and dumplings. There isn't a ghetto-blaster playing classic rock, but the small waterfall that runs right through the café is a soft and most agreeable substitute.
I was there over the holiday weekend ("Silver Week"). I drank a beer and watched the people in rented rowboats paddle up and down the river. I imagine soon this charming, slightly ramshackle café will close for the winter. Maybe, like my friends in France do, they will head to the mountains for the ski season.