They are the tentpoles of every neighborhood that makes it unique, that tell you exactly where you are in the world.
I don’t care what neighborhood you live in, you know what I’m talking about. The pizza place with the employees watching some European soccer game on TV while flipping your pies. The dry cleaners, with plastic bags billowing everywhere. The electronics store, with the eager young employees trying to sell you the latest gadget.
And of course, we all have a neighborhood supermarket. It’s a place we visit all the time, and we know its aisles like the back of our hand. We stroll through at least once a week, smile at the cashiers, thank the deli counter woman for giving you a free tasting slice of the new ham, and then go on our way.
The neighborhood supermarket is always there, dependable no matter what you need. It becomes part of the fabric of your life.
Until one day, you walk in and the shelves look half-empty, there’s hardly any milk or juice available, and you ask one of the regular workers whose face you see all the time what’s up.
“We’re closing,” he said. “Mid-November at the latest.”
This just happened in our neighborhood, and I can assure you my wife and I aren’t the only ones crushed.
The Food Emporium under the 59th Street bridge in New York City, hard by the corner of 1st Avenue, may not look like much to you, even though its location makes it visually stunning to glance at.
To us in the neighborhood, it was special. For one thing, it was so much bigger than most Manhattan markets (I just looked it up and it is 35,000 square feet!), with wide aisles and much bigger selection than any other market in the boro I’ve been to. (Also, the echo you hear in the store from the bridge is awesome)
For another, it’s where we knew everyone, and they knew us. My man Robert behind the hot prepared foods counter would always smile at my son in his stroller, and then toss an extra grilled chicken breast, free of charge, into my order.
There were the identical twin adult women working the register; one day they worked side by side and totally freaked my wife out. They were always smiling, always happy to answer questions.
I’ll even miss the monosyllabic guy at the sushi and fish counter, who always moved things around just a little bit so you’d be confused looking for the salmon.
These people help make up the daily bread of my life, and in a few days they’ll all be out of a job. Food Emporium’s parent, A&P, filed for bankruptcy, and is closing several of its NYC stores.
We’d heard rumors, but nothing was confirmed. Now it’s official and so sad; I walked in on Monday since everything was 50 percent off and found a practically empty place.
Robert behind the counter was gone, and the twins weren’t there, either.
The beat of the neighborhood goes on, but it’s a little sadder, emptier place now.
**Next up, I’ve written a lot about prisoner rehabilitation and re-integration issues on the blog, because it’s an issue I feel deeply about. How shabbily we treat those who come out of prison is a national disgrace, and John Oliver has been the best person on TV highlighting everything wrong with our criminal justice system.
This week he nailed it again with a great, moving story on how poorly those who are released from penitentiaries are re-integrated into society. It’s a 17-minute piece, but it’s fantastic, especially if you can hang in until the end, when we meet Bilal for a live in-studio interview. Just listen to this man, and tell me people can’t change.
**Finally today, we all know sports announcers have to sometimes call boring games, or call games at crazy hours of the night because the viewers back home in another time zone are watching.
So let’s just all have a chuckle and then forgive Chinese sportscaster Dong Lu, who while commentating on a Real Madrid vs. Paris Saint-Germain match last week, in the wee hours of the morning (China time), kinda sorta dozed off.
Listen for the snoring, it’s kinda hard to miss.
Poor guy. I could make A LOT of jokes here about falling asleep and the incredibly slow pace of soccer, but I won’t.
More Red Bull and coffee next time, Dong.