Friday, February 11, 2011
Forgotten, then Gone
You talk about how great all the museums are, and then totally fall into the habit of only going to them if someone's visiting from out of town. You have a favorite restaurant you recommend to people, when deep down you realize the last time you actually ate there was years ago and you have no idea if it went downhill.
Last year, for example, after I inherited my dad's car, I swore I would start following up on the sort of outer borough ethnic dining tips touted by Cheap Eats in New York magazine or by the Voice's Robert Sietsema. (I own the book to the right, which I just realized was published almost 15 years ago -- I should probably chuck it.)
They always sound so good, but the subway ride there and back seemed too laborious. Since pledging that extra effort, I have dined at exactly one place -- Pies 'n' Thighs. Not that it wasn't amazing.
If I stop and think about all the resources of New York I am not availing myself of, I could go mad. Perhaps the category of nonpatronage that makes me feel worst is little mom and pop places that always define a neighborhood.
Shopsin's, the amazing, unmarked restaurant run by an eccentric couple [right] that in 2002 would be immortalized by Calvin Trillin. She swore by it -- of course, she lived around the corner with her Yale Drama buddy Holly Hunter -- but she was right. I swore I'd eat there every month.
In the twenty years between that first visit till Shopsin's was forced to relocate a few blocks away, I think I made it there for breakfast a total of three times.
When Googling I learned it had re-relocated to Essex Street several years ago, which I guess exposes how deep my support truly ran.
I was reminded of my enthocentripocrisy a few mornings ago when I found myself back in the West Village early for an appointment and was hungry for breakfast.
I remembered this amazing artifact of a bygone era called Joe Jr. [top] at the southeast corner of 12th street and Sixth Avenue.
Manhattan Inc., which started some great writers' careers like John Seabrook, but would got belly up in 1990 because of the '87 financial downturn.
Peter was exactly the kind of guy I had hoped to meet when I decided to go into journalism: an old-school eccentric who had roomed with a Kennedy in college, admired Preston Sturges, and spoke in long pauses that made you wait for the next pearl of wisdom to emit, every now and then you realized he had completely zoned out and forgotten his own point.
And Peter loved to eat at Joe Jr., which was around the corner from his apartment, before he moved to suburbia. It was old-school, like him. Nobody knew who Joe or Joe Jr. were any more. It was just an unpretentious greasy spoon where you could befriend the waitresses and spar with the cashier and get the same square meal every time. No frills.
I went home and Google taught me there had been a huge community outcry when it closed, after 45 years -- IN JULY 2009.
Man, am I out of touch. And then I Googled Peter, who had fled the editorship of the New York Observer when it was sold in 2009, and found out belatedly that last summer he'd been named editorial director at Fairchild. And that two of his former Observer editors, Jim Windolf and Peter Stevenson, both of whom I know, have been infamously Haiku-Tweeting in his honor as "Cranky Kaplan" and "Wise Kaplan."
All of which adds up to the fact that I had to eat a pretty sad and unmemorable breakfast that day, and that you can lose track of people and places without realizing it until they're gone or renovated. So try to have those breakfasts at your favorite places with your favorite people more often. I'm just sayin'.