Wednesday, March 27, 2013

My city was gone

I miss you, Savoy.

So yesterday we were talking about matchbook collections. About matches as time capsules, touchstones. How they were not only great souvenirs but very handy for lighting cigarettes and temperamental stoves. When my collection of matchbooks was recently dislodged by a closet avalanche, my first reactions was, damn, did I really move a sack of matches across the country? But then I started sifting through them, and, wow, how does a THING give you such a rush of nostalgia? I dumped them out on the dining room table and was all like, hey, Lindsay, remember this place? And remember when we went here? And wait, is this one still open? When did this one close again?

On my visit to NYC two weeks ago, I purposely took a three-subway-stop stroll down Broadway, through a neighborhood where I'd worked two different jobs on the same block between Bleecker and Houston (did I really just mentally pronounce Houston "HEWsten" like the Texan city as opposed to HOWsten like the NYC street? I'll never tell...). Back in high school, I used to hang out on the same short stretch of downtown. My friend Rob's dad used to work at a print shop in Noho (can you imagine? a print shop in Noho?) and sometimes we'd go in with him so we could shop for weird clothes at Antique Boutique and Unique, then over to Bubba's near Washington Square for a Ruben lunch. Is Bubba's still there? I'm not sure if I was visualizing the addresses accurately, but it looked to me like Antique Boutique and Unique are now American Apparel stores.

Godawful food, great sign. Replaced by a Chipotle.

My New York has more layers than a particularly fine wedding cake. If you've lived there for any length of time, I expect yours does too.

I've quoted from this Nora Ephron essay in the past, because, well, she hit many, many nails on many, many heads during her illustrious career but none of her bons mot touch me quite as personally as this one, about what it's like to voluntarily exile yourself from NYC and then come back a mere visitor.

Things change in New York; things change all the time. You don't mind this when you live here; when you live here, it's part of the caffeinated romance to this city that never sleeps. But when you move away, you experience change as a betrayal. You walk up Third Avenue planning to buy a brownie at a bakery you've always been loyal to, and the bakery's gone. Your dry cleaner move to Florida; your dentist retires; the lady who made the pies on West Fourth Street vanishes; the maitre d' at P.J. Clarke's quits, and you realize you're going to have to start from scratch tipping your way into the heart of the cold, chic young woman now at the door. You've turned your back for only a moment, and suddenly everything's different. You were an insider, a native, a subway traveler, a purveyor of inside tips into the good stuff, and now you're just another frequent flyer, stuck in a taxi on Grand Central Parkway as you wing in and out of La Guardia.

Every time I go back, I think about how I used to be able to glide through the city without thinking, without looking, how I probably could've negotiated the subway blindfolded. Eight years after my departure, I definitely have to keep my eyes open—and often glued to my GPS. Did I really live in New York before cell phones? Before Metrocards and Starbucks and 9/11?

NYC will keep changing but I'll still have my matchbooks, artifacts from another age, proof that the city I lived in once really existed, even if it's now full of ghosts and shadows and unfamiliar subway lines.

I come from the ’90s. Rialto was my hang.

Didn't the waiters wear rollerskates?

Many an expense-account lunch was consumed here.

The Tall Ships: lost on 9/11.


  1. What a blast from the past. Gonzalez y Gonzalez food was really the worst. I've just blogged about returning to NYC for the first time with CHILDREN rather than on my own. It promises to be a whole new world.

  2. i know, right? but who could forget that giant neon sombrero. i posted to your blog-that's gonna be fun


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