They took down the signs for the M&G Diner last Monday morning. I caught a glimpse of them unhooking the corner sign as well as dismantling the beautiful “ol’ fashion’ but Good!” sign from the front of the building while my cab was stopped at Morningside Drive. I was brought back to my first few bus rides to and from the train station, looking for landmarks to let me know I was near either end of the trip, and I still remember seeing the soul food restaurant from the pilot of 30 Rock for the first time ever, in real life and being completely floored that I passed this place that was on a show that I loved on a daily basis. That the building has been stripped of its iconic yellow paint and more iconic, beautiful signs…well, it’s not difficult to throw around the phrase “the end of an era.” Also, I wanted to yell “Yo! Get me ten beers!” really, really badly.
Leaving New York will leave you in a state of severe ambivalence. Our time wasn’t an era by any means–if anything, it was an ephemeral dream from which I never wanted to really wake up–but even in the nearly two years we spent here, the city has made its permanent impression. No other place in the country quite feels the same after you’ve lived here, even the ones you love and feel some tie of loyalty to long after you’ve given up your residence there. It’s one thing to visit it and then go home; it’s another entirely to be able to hop on a subway and be within a reasonable walk home.
But then there are the fucked-up aspects of living in the city: rats in the subway (oh, are there ever), and the uninvited guests into your apartment (mice and I’m pretty sure at least one small rat),the panhandlers who yell at you on the subway, the endless pan-flute musicians who park next to the record store in the Times Square and play endless renditions of “Ave Maria” and “My Heart Will Go On,” or popping into a park in Harlem to see a vintage fire tower only to see some guys watching a couple have sex for some reason (I only caught a glimpse of a woman without pants on–I didn’t want to call attention to us by gawking at them, and twenty minutes later we were at Whole Foods. Only in New York).
And then there’s the matter of the commute across the island every day. Riding the bus down 125th Street is a strange, unique experience: it’s this bizarre combination of suburban mall, exotic bazaar and Jersey Shore boardwalk. You pass by icons like the Apollo Theater (and if you live nearby, you must go to Amateur Night at least once) and shops that share the same name as the clubs that The Situation et al frequent in Seaside Heights. There are days in which the bus flies down 125th, getting you to the station way ahead of schedule and you’re forced to stand on the platform and idle the time away, and sometimes you cut it so damn close that you’re racing in Hunters or flip flops and hoping that you can make it up the stairs in time and any effort you spend on makeup or hair is wasted. It’s a pretty singular experience.
Once it became all but official that we were leaving, I insisted to Michael that we needed to take a walk down 125th as pedestrians, something I don’t tend to do much because I’m in a hurry to get to the train station or to get home, so it was a lovely little walk. Plus, I wanted to see the aforementioned fire tower. So we walked. And Michael spoke indiscreetly of the maybe-public-sex we were both technically witness to (and I kept shushing him and he had absolutely no idea why I was until we were safely outside the park, so…awkward!) and then we made our way to the 3 and went down to Whole Foods. It was a nice day.
I’m really going to miss it here. It’ll be nice to have a big balcony and casbahs and an in-apartment washer and dryer and more space…but I will miss the character here, and having a store directly below us, and an elevator that can take us there without ever having to go outside, and weirding out people during the wintertime when I’d swan in there in skimpy clothes while they were all swaddled in North Face jackets and wool pea coats.
At least we’re within walking distance from the Metro North station, which means Grand Central is only about 40 minutes or so away.