There are things that are gone, which I miss.
In some alternate universe, they are still there.
I can still visit the Sumptuary Restaurant on Third Avenue in the East 20s, and eat delicious roast duck in a beautiful and whimsical dining room. (The Sumptuary Restaurant was fairly inexpensive although elegant, in keeping with its name, which the owners insisted denoted the right of all members of the public to a luxurious enjoyment, within appropriate limits.) Downstairs, they served only potatoes.
The next day, I could visit E-Wok, the great Taiwanese restaurant with the terrible pun for a name, where the waiters will light the burners in the middle of our table and make us something that they called “Stony Wok,” a weird soup with tarot root and quail eggs, and other stuff, which I don’t remember.
It was all there in 1987, when I lived on East 29th Street, but it isn’t there anymore.
In this other universe, I could bring my kids there, who would still be little (or who maybe could be little every once in a while), and they’d read the latest Wonder Kids book, and I’d read my copy of Islands Magazine. (I was a charter subscriber to Islands, a great magazine which now survives only as a kind of tacky online listicle, a pale shadow of its former, elaborate, thoughtful and beautifully illustrated self.) We could go see a movie in Chinatown, at the Music Palace Theater, or at the strange theater right under the train tracks. Remember that place?
In the evening, I could catch a band at CBGBs, if the Village Voice said there was something good to hear, listen to some jazz at the West End on Broadway (the West End, which opened in 1911, provided booze and shelter to Ginsburg and Kerouac – who could have imagined that it would ever close?) or bang on some cans at the extremely odd Landmark Pub in Park Slope.
I guess things change.
Oblivioni is a blog about “Obscure or Overlooked Books, Movies, People, Television, Artwork and Whatever.” Read more here.