At the Hole-in-the-Wall, one of most dangerous dive bars in 19th-century New York, the bouncer, a female Irish gangster named Gallus Mag, kept on the bar a pickle jar full of ears she claimed to have bitten off in barroom brawls. Today you’ll find actual pickles and olives in the city’s many upscale cocktail spots, but at least the bars and clubs still keep late hours—open until 4 a.m.—that make them seem debauched. In this thirsty city, bars are everywhere—Cheers-like comfort zones for all tastes and environments. Music is key to the night scene in New York, which nurtured the rise of Tin Pan Alley, jazz, folk (and anti-folk), hip hop, punk, ska, new wave and rock. And don’t forget the subway buskers, singing their hearts out for a dollar or two. Aboveground, and above the fray, are landmark institutions like Lincoln Center, the Metropolitan Opera, the Public Theater and the Brooklyn Academy of Music, where seminal productions from some of the world’s most famous composers, performers and musicians are the norm.
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