My wife has an appointment in the East Village, so I go with her to spend the afternoon in my old haunts. I lived in the East Village for years when I first moved to the city. The punk in me felt at home here. I spent morning, afternoon, and night walking The Bowery and Tompkins Square Park.
My plan is to head to Ninth Street Espresso. It’s my favorite coffee shop in the city. It’s also where I felt most at home when what I used to call home was far away, and this city was still only becoming my home. If I wasn’t working, I was here writing.
Since I moved in with my wife to her cheap little Hell’s Kitchen apartment, I haven’t gotten back to the East Village much. Every time I come back, I have to hold my breath, knowing that some of my old places won’t be around anymore.
The first I remember to go was Lower East Side Taqueria on Orchard Street. It was one of the early places I took Ashley even before we were dating. We went often until it was torn down, replaced by a hole in the ground, then swiftly and brutally out of the hole rose a hideous fucking glass box with an Equinox. Next to go was Dorian Gray. It was a regular spot of mine on E 4th during my first couple of years in the city. I would work long hours and then stop at Dorian Gray on my bike ride home. I’d eat and drink, read a book, and be inspired by the portraits of authors covering the walls. Rumor had it that if you could name 10, you’d get a free beer. I dreamed of learning enough to earn myself that drink. I also dreamed of having someone to take there and drink with. When I started bringing Ashley to Dorian Gray, many of my dreams became reality. We’d enjoy hot toddies on cold winter nights. A recent walk down E 4th Street—another cautious expedition—proved that it had closed, painted green, and turned into some other bar. Not my bar. Not our bar.
Change in life is inevitable. You can be upset about change, fight it when that’s the right thing to do, then mourn change when it’s bad. New York City prepares you for the fact that change will come in life, so don’t be surprised.
I turn the corner to see my coffee shop open. Unchanged in the ten years I’ve been coming. I push open the door, and the familiar humidity of the espresso machine steam hangs in the air and fogs up my glasses as I step in from the winter chill. Someday this place will be gone, but today, it’s still here, so I’m happy.