Thursday, November 15, 2007

Where the air is sweet

A local restaurant closed while I was pregnant. This in itself isn't particularly noteworthy; there were probably a dozen local restaurants that closed while I was pregnant. Restaurant closings generally sadden me--I think the vast majority of them represent the failure of someone's dream. This one in particular, though, I'm having a hard time getting over.

The restaurant in question opened in 1972. It was, almost unbelievably, one of the first real, contemporary restaurants in what is now a thriving, restaurant-destination neighborhood in New York City. I was not yet a twinkle in my parents' eyes. They were three years into their thirty-eight-year marriage. Many weekends, they would grab a bite at this new place. Other weekends, they would pile their records, record player, and German shepherd into their VW Bug and take off, perhaps to an antiques auction where they'd pick up a Bob Dylan-esque brass bed, or perhaps just to lounge on big pillows in front of a fireplace.

When they tired of that, I came along. The restaurant being family-friendly, they kept right on going there for dinner, bringing me along in my little Aprica. In time, I grew old enough to play their arcade-style Pac-Man game before dinner and order raspberry cheesecake for dessert, which the waiters brought to me topped with whipped cream in the shape of a unicorn. I was beyond delighted.

In the throes of the '80's diet movement, the place built a salad bar. Somewhere along the way, the salad bar disappeared, along with the Pac-Man. The old-timers at the bar, much like the restaurant itself, and even its wooden dining-room tables, never seemed to go anywhere.

When Ty and I married, we realized that the restaurant had the best-tasting, best-priced steak in the neighborhood. We took full advantage. When I got pregnant, their French onion soup was one of the few foods that I could tolerate during the throes of morning sickness. We'd huddle in a booth, scared and thrilled, and dream of bringing our babies to this magical place that encapsulated the modern history of a neighborhood.

One Sunday, after Mass, we stopped in for their brunch, the best-kept brunch secret in town. $8, including brunch entree, rolls, coffee or tea, and Bloody Mary or mimosa. An unbelievable bargain in a town where going to a movie costs several dollars more than that.

You know what happened next. The dining room was dark. Some official-looking guy explained that the dining room was "closing for renovations." When the construction cleared away several months later, the storefront was hip, beautifully renovated, and completely different. Different looks, different menu, different crowd. Different name.

I know we aren't supposed to cling to ephemeral things in life: restaurants, stores, TV shows, even houses. But I can't help it. I can't help but miss beloved things that go away, and I can't help but crave a small degree of stability in a fluid world.

Wordgirl recently wrote about Sesame Street. This morning, my father remarked that he remembered when I watched it as a child, and how, with his grandsons, he's happy those days are back. I always loved the songs, the stories, and the Muppets when I was young. They provided me with a wonderful foundation. I just never imagined they'd provide me with a rock.


Anonymous TB said...

I know what you mean about craving stability. Especially now that things are moving at warp speed with our little guys. It's hard to get used to and even harder to pay close enough attention so you don't miss anything.

10:32 AM  
Blogger looney said...

I know--Mr. Rogers died when I was pregnant with my son, and I was broken hearted. Sure, his show is still on now, but it isn't the same.

11:07 AM  
Blogger Tink said...

There was this great little hole-in-the-wall seafood place in town. It was called "Sea Market." All the tourists passed it up. But it had the BEST chowder and boiled oysters around. I promised my Dad I'd take him there the last time I saw him. It burned to the ground the day of the night we were going. They never reopened. It broke my heart.

4:23 PM  
Anonymous wordgirl said...

That's the thing about shows like Sesame Street: They make you slow down and see the world the way your kids are seeing it. Man! It's so much eaiser to be patient and all that when your heart rate is slow (in a good way) and you're grooving on Big Bird. There aren't enough good words in our language to describe what that show did for my kids.

9:57 PM  

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