Random Person I Want to Meet: Becky McCarthy
Today I am going to launch a new recurring column, “Random Person I Want to Meet,” with the goal of highlighting interesting people I see mentioned in the news, on the web, in magazines, or anywhere else. These (generally) won’t be people whom you’ve heard of, and the things they’ve said or done that prompt my featuring them might not seem at first blush to be all that interesting or novel. They should, however, provide enough of a glimpse into his or her personality that makes them, well, a random person I want to meet. Today’s person is Becky McCarthy, bartender at Jackie’s 5th Amendment in Park Slope.
If you live in Brooklyn there’s a chance you’re aware of a ridiculous petition by some residents of “East Williamsburg” to secede from “regular Williamsburg.” You may even be aware of the petition to said petitioners to “take a look at yourselves” and stop the secession madness. Far lesser known, but catching some press in the past month, is a petition filed with the White House by Fifth Avenue dive bar Jackie’s 5th Amendment to secede from Park Slope. Why the move to secede? As the petition states:
Due to the changing nature of the neighborhood and the fact that we are beginning to take offense when potential customers come into the bar, look around them with disdain, and leave, immediately, we the people of Jackie’s 5th Amendment at 404 5th Avenue request the permission of the United States Government to peacefully secede from Park Slope and become our own neighborhood, to be tentatively known as “Brooklyn”.
Jackie’s is a relic from Park Slope’s grungier (some would say dangerous) days, some claiming it’s been around in some form or another since just after the time of Prohibition, a true dive bar that doesn’t serve martinis (“we don’t carry vermouth”) and features a $10 ice-filled bucket of six “ponies,” or 7-ounce domestic beers. Long-time bartender “Linda” told one reporter that she forbids strollers and once kicked a woman out of Jackie’s after she complained that the jukebox was “hurting her baby’s ears.” It’s been described as a “dark and dingy bar [that] provides an enclave for the neighborhood’s misfits and increasingly diminishing blue-collared crowd” and “full of old folks, most of whom appear to be several decades deep into full-fledged alcoholism.” One patron said, “There’s no food served at Jackie’s and, frankly, I’m not sure you’d want to eat it if it were.” Sounds like a charming place.
While there’s an excellent chance that I won’t ever visit Jackie’s (nor am I sure they would want me), I must admit that it’s a cute story, it’s gotten the bar some nice publicity, and they even have 52 signatures to their petition, far short of the 25,000 needed by December 16, 2012 in order to successfully secede, but more than the 34 received by the residents of East Williamsburg. What really has my attention though isn’t so much the attempt at secession – which is hilarious on so many levels – but person behind the joke, the 23 year-old bartender at Jackie’s who came up with the idea.
According to The L Magazine, Becky McCarthy started tending bar at Jackie’s about a year ago after being “hired” by a regular bar patron as a joke. After all, what 22-year-old wouldn’t start tending bar for free in a local dive just on a regular’s request? She was then hired for real, where despite her youth she seems to have developed a small amount of angst, if not hostility, towards the stereotypical younger Park Slope yuppie.  After making some jokes about Jackie’s case for secession, McCarthy admits that she started the petition as a publicity stunt. “It’s pretty clearly a joke, but now it’s got all these people yelling about how we’re just a bar and we can’t secede. Obviously we’re not actually seceding. It’s a joke. Everyone just calm down.” There’s something about those last four words that have me wondering, just what is McCarthy thinking? Is she actually fully capable of pulling off this clever stunt, but so lacking in awareness that she believes that there is genuine anger about Jackie’s proposed secession? Ort better yet, is there is genuine anger about Jackie’s proposed secession, and does McCarthy now have to deal with this on a regular basis? What a strange life she has brought upon herself.
McCarthy then shows a little more of her humor in describing the pros and cons of seceding. Pro: “There are bars everywhere in Park Slope. I guess we’ll be the only one in the neighborhood if we secede.” I suppose it’s hard to argue with that. Con: “[I’d] apologize to the President, probably. And make it clear that I never had any intention of seceding from the actual United States. You know, preserve the Union and all that.” The best word in that quote? “Probably.”
So what do we make of this 23-year old female bartender, who may be a PR genius, may be delusional, has a wicked sense of humor and a curious desire to tend bar in a place described as “hell’s waiting room”? I have no idea, but I know this: Becky McCarthy, you are a Random Person I Want to Meet.
 I should add “theoretically.” I honestly have absolutely no intention of ever meeting anyone featured here.
 Sarcasm? I’ll let you, the reader, be the judge. Beauty (even for a dive bar) is in the eye of the beholder, right?
 Or at least I think that’s how she feels. See if you can decipher this quote from McCarthy: “The ideal patron is just a decent human being. By which I mean anyone who can talk to the regulars without treating them like they’re some sort of weird novelty act. I don’t actually have a problem with Park Slope; we do have regulars in their 20’s and 30’s from the neighborhood and they’re great […] But people seem pretty defensive about ‘The Bar’, as a whole, hating ‘Them’, as a whole, which is pretty dumb. Without a doubt, some of our regulars are assholes, probably some of you reading this are too, but you’ve got to know a person to know they’re an asshole.”