Recently, I was in Tribeca, walking down Hudson Street en route to my bank. Ahead of me was a mother around age thirty pushing a tot in a stroller. Walking ahead of them was a woman around sixty wearing a mink coat and chic black leather boots. Mink Coat either stopped or slowed down and Stroller Mom bumped into her. Mink Coat gives Stroller Mom the hairy eyeball. Stroller Mom says:
Stroller Mom: Sorry.
Mink Coat finds the one-word apology insufficient so she looks at me, a witness that is completely indifferent to this crime, for support. I say:
Me: I blame the economy.
Then, I blow past both of them.
The following evening, I am in my neighborhood, the Upper West Side. Milton and I have tickets to a performance of Ann, a one-woman show about Ann Richards, the former governor of Texas who was a pistol and a liberal with a wicked sense of humor. The show, written and starring Holland Taylor, is currently staged at the Vivian Beaumont theater in Lincoln Center.
I thought that it was a fun tribute to a great American woman. Milton had qualms. During intermission, he said he was certain that Taylor’s performance would rate a Best Actress Tony award nomination this season:
Milton: But it won’t rate a nomination for anything else. I can even see it closing early.
After the second act, he gave it a standing ovation and declared:
Milton: I liked the second act a lot more than the first.
I liked both acts and found it thoroughly entertaining. It is also possible that Milton was feeling cranky about the show because as soon as we were in our seats, he confided that was starving. After the applause and standing ovation, Milton transformed into Usain Bolt and rocketed out of the theater so fast, if the doors were not already open, he surely would have plowed through them leaving a Fred Flintstone-style imprint. Once outside we headed straight to our go-to Columbus Avenue watering hole, the Emerald Inn. When we arrived, Milton peeked through the window and groaned.
Milton: It’s packed. Every table’s full. Think of someplace else to go. They’re not going to be able to seat us.
Me: Let’s just go in and find out.
We walk in. Our usual waitress sees us and says:
Our Usual Waitress: Two minutes guys.
Two minutes later, we’re sitting at table, marveling at our luck.
We order beverages, foodstuffs, and further discuss the play. I show Milton the latest prototype of My Manhattan Project. He’s impressed and we talk about whatever else we talk about over the course of a few more drinks. Even though it’s flurrying outside, we both radiate a comfy glow. It’s been a good evening. Then, Our Usual Waitress approaches.
Our Usual Waitress: You know guys we’re closing at the end of April.
Milton and I look at her, shell-shocked.
Our Usual Waitress: Didn’t you read the article in The Times?
Under the glass on Milton’s side of the table is the heartbreaking article included in All the News That’s Fit to Print. After seventy years in this location, and being my home away from home for almost thirty years, the Emerald’s rent has been doubled from $17,500 to $35,000. They’re shuttering to make way for a trendy Kate Spade clothing store that will take over the space. We feel violated. Our Usual Waitress says to me:
Our Usual Waitress: You’ve been coming here forever.
My Liver: That’s true.
Me: No way is that Kate Spade store going to last seventy years! I doubt it’ll last seven!
Our Usual Waitress agrees with me. I ask:
Me: What’s going to happen to you? Where are you going to go?
She smiles wistfully.
Our Usual Waitress: I don’t know.
And neither do Milton and I. When he and I first met about a dozen years ago, following a screening at the New York Film Festival, we went to the Emerald. I have frequented this watering hole with almost every member of my posse, and select lady friends, including a few times, an Irish direct from Ireland lass. I thought:
Me (calculating): We go here and it’s going to be score for me!
She had alternate plans.
Irish from Ireland Lass: I love your bar! It’s great! Too bad you’re not my type.
The Irish bars on the Upper West Side are all being forced out. As they close one by one, they take with them another piece of the neighborhood’s soul. For that, I really do blame the economy.
*An expression I acquired from my Chicago-based blogger bud, Jules at Mccrabass, who I hope will visit me before that very last round is called.