by The End of the 00s
Hate to infringe on Rudy’s trademark, but of course the memory cached in my cranial sieve is from right after 9/11. I was out traipsing around the city for a Times story on how restaurants were recovering, and on that Sunday I passed the Odeon on West Broadway. Almost every sidewalk table was occupied, with shiny, happy people swigging mimosas in the sun, literally blocks from the reeking fire. The scene made my lead as a sign of hope, and the owner called to thank me for helping business, but as time’s gone by, the reality has looked grim. Those blithe brunchers were ingesting incinerated human beings with their OJ. We were all breathing the same thing. The melting-plastic smell blowing in the wind even way uptown masked something worse.
Not to natter on, but thinking back on that makes me realize those were the Times’ glory days, not least because the endless “Portraits of Grief” forced it to cover poor and rich alike for once. My editor, not yet encumbered by the backstabbing Times-person I refer to as Krazy Kunt, went into overdrive trying to make our “getting and spending” section relevant with so much awfulness in the rest of the paper and with the anthrax mucking up the mail. She went for every idea I came up with, in that brief shining period after I had said I could no longer waste my life trying to make vibrant soup out of wilted carrots by editing the sorry likes of Floho and the Egotist, et al, and needed to write. I went out with no worries about expenses to do stuff like eat in timeless restaurants and fly to Montreal to conjure a happy Christmas.
Rereading my story just now, I had two kicks to the head: Who was that crazy typist who could think clearly enough to string those words together? And who could have predicted it would be a chronicle of the decline of the food scene foretold? In those nights trekking all over Manhattan with John Hiatt’s then-new “Thank God the Tiki Bar is Open” echoing in my head, I saw fancy French institutions evoking The Shining and lesser new places packed with people craving intimacy. Burgers and food carts, here we come.
And in recollecting all this, I dredged even deeper and remembered a night way back in Arizona when my too-poor-for-a-phone family came home from a camping trip and had the town cop pull up shortly afterward. Buck Snoddy (no joke) had come to inform my dad that his relatives in Oklahoma had called the police station to say that his mom, my grandmother, had died. The shock for his seven little kids was mostly that he had a mom-first we’d heard-but we all toddled off to our trundle beds terrified, convinced nothing would ever be the same.
Next morning, we got up and it was if it had never happened.
Regina Schrambling vents at Gastropoda.