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Back in 2011 I wrote about the teardown of all the shops on the east side of Broadway between 77th and 78th Street. A year later I looked in on the construction, which was just beginning. The low-slung building that housed New Pizza Town, Jewelry Store, World of Nuts, Subway, Laila Rowe and Cosi was landmarked for some reason and couldn’t be torn down. Now complete, here’s the once interesting block:

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I don’t know much about architecture – aside from some inspired work with Lego (OK, the kids helped) – however, this seems like a lost opportunity for creating something distinctive rather than bland and ugly. I eagerly await its teardown sometime in the next century.

Another tradeoff: Eight locally owned and operated businesses and franchises for a bland store selling CCME (cheap crap made elsewhere) and another massive chain pharmacy. One of those lost businesses was Ruby Foo, a place where my wife and I had our second first date. Its previous occupant was Mad Fish where we had our first second date three years earlier. I’m willing to bet that Ruby Foo alone employed more people than the two current occupants on the block.

The people who operated World of Nuts, a candy and ice cream store, knew our kids by name.

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Walking east on 34th St., right around the time I found out about Jim.

My neighbor Jim died last month some time. I’m not even sure of the day. He lived across the hall to the age of 83 or so and walking home tonight I thought about him. Jim and I always ran into each other…in the lobby, the hallway, walking our dogs, crossing a street. We’d stop and chat and he’d talk about the changing neighborhood or his wife who died not long after I moved into the building or some problem or other with the building. He engineered subway cars in the 50s or 60s, and had something to do with shale oil in Saskatchewan.

Jim liked beer and he really liked to shoot the shit. He wore big, thick glasses and in his last few years he had some kind of an eye problem and one eye looked off to the side. A lot of our conversations started out, “Did you hear about what they’re doing over on _______?” Or “Have you heard the one about… ?”

After his wife Ellen died, he took care of their old English sheepdog because “she’s Ellen’s dog.” When the dog became so old and frail, he’d pick her up to carry her outside and did all the things you do for old dogs. Jim was sharp, informed about everything, but more than anything, he was kind.

The last time I saw him, it was summer and Jim was walking on Amsterdam Avenue but he didn’t see me. I was in a hurry and I didn’t stop to talk. Hey Jim, what do you think about that monstrosity they’re putting up on Broadway & 77th? I’ll tell you what, he’d have said, it’s not the same neighborhood anymore.

 

Three photos taken this summer, two with water towers. First, yesterday in Manhattan…

The water towers frame a distant jet… click to enlarge and you’ll see it.

One night in July, the sunset and the water towers…

Last year, Upper West Siders saw the shutdown of the entire block of stores between 77th and 78th Street. I spent a few minutes catching up with Flag Guy. The northern portion of the block seen in the left of the above photo (click to see big), has been gutted. The shell of these historically significant buildings will be preserved, which earns the developer a tax break.

This section of the block: nineteen stories of glorious glass. What was most recently there? Manhattan Diner (so-so, but reliable), Ruby Foo’s (a classic standby), Cosi (where have all the new moms and triple-decker baby carriages gone?), Laila Rowe (emergency gifts for teenage girls), Jewelry store (reliable repairs, reasonable pries), Subway (so what), World of Nuts & Ice Cream (OK in a pinch, but Emack and Grom were always the first choice), New Pizza Town (the loss of this icon remains a tragedy).

 

 

 

 

 

 

It seems like good advice. Last year alone, more than a dozen shredders round the world were ruined when shredder blades jammed because of unfortunate finger, toe and tongue placement . We’ve installed a proximity sensor on our shredder that sounds an alarm whenever our large, soiled-diaper wearing hairy monster baby approaches our shredder. Send us your tips for preventing baby/shredder incidents. Send your tips to don’t shred my baby at box 1, Scwhenksville, TX.

It was June 18 last year, a day of late spring’s shimmering edge with summer, that the ghosts appeared, all translucence, going about their business as the rest of us do.

All heart they live, all head, all eye, all ear,
All intellect, all sense, and as they please
They limb themselves, and colour, shape, or size,
Assume, as likes them best, condense or rare.

JOHN MILTON, Paradise Lost

There are an infinite number of universes existing side by side and through which our consciousnesses constantly pass. In these universes, all possibilities exist. You are alive in some, long dead in others, and never existed in still others. Many of our “ghosts” could indeed be visions of people going about their business in a parallel universe or another time — or both.

PAUL F. ENO, Faces at the Window

 

I look for ghosts; but none will force
Their way to me. ‘Tis falsely said
That there was ever intercourse
Between the living and the dead.

 WILLIAM WORDSWORTH, Affliction of Margaret

 

Of all ghosts, the ghosts of our old loves are the worst.

SIR ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes

Whenever I take up a newspaper, I seem to see Ghosts gliding between the lines. There must be Ghosts all the country over, as thick as the sand of the sea…. We are, one and all, so pitifully afraid of the light.

HENRIK IBSEN, Ghosts

The ghosts of the tribe
Crouch in the nights beside the ghost of a fire, they try to
Remember the sunlight,
Light has died out of their skies.

ROBINSON JEFFERS, Apology for Bad Dreams

It is wonderful that five thousand years have now elapsed since the creation of the world, and still it is undecided whether or not there has ever been an instance of the spirit of any person appearing after death. All argument is against it; but all belief is for it.

SAMUEL JOHNSON, The Life of Samuel Johnson

The murdered do haunt their murderers, I believe. I know that ghosts have wandered on earth. Be with me always — take any form — drive me mad! Only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you!

EMILY BRONTE, Wuthering Heights

While yet a boy I sought for ghosts, and sped
Through many a listening chamber, cave and ruin,
And starlight wood, with fearful steps pursuing
Hopes of high talk with the departed dead.

PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY, Hymn to Intellectual Beauty

January 2019
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