Sunday, November 17, 2013

On the Avenue

I stood outside the shuttered storefront on Fifth Avenue on Friday afternoon and peered through the grating.

The last time I had been here, the place was crammed with all kinds of men’s clothing.

But now it was bone empty, the lights were off, and a notice from the city marshal’s office was taped to the window.

The store's owner had been shot to death last year by some psycho who went on to murder two more shopkeepers before the cops got him.

I had heard the owner’s family was keeping the store open and I wanted to shop there as a personal tribute to a hard-working man who had been cruelly and senselessly killed.

But the place seems to be the latest casualty on Fifth Avenue, my old shopping ground.

I used to live right off the avenue and every Saturday morning I’d go on my weekly shopping expedition, hitting the bank, bagel shop, dry cleaner, and fruit store, before ending up at Picardi’s, a neighborhood butcher.

By the time I got home I was usually staggering under the weight of multiple plastic bags and my arms were stretched out of their sockets.

I started going to other stores after I moved down by Shore Road and my bad back has driven me into the shopping cart generation.

I only live a short distance away, but I barely recognize Fifth Avenue now. Some of the newer stores seem tawdry, peddling junk rather than quality merchandise.

Last One Out…

I stopped by Picardi’s to get some cold cuts and dinner. One of the women who works there cooks these fabulous take-out meals, which are a blessing to a lifelong bachelor who hardly even looks at his oven.

But I’m going to have to go elsewhere for my supper. On the way out, the cashier told me that Picardi’s would be closing by the end of the year.

I couldn’t believe it. This place was something of a landmark in the neighborhood--or at least in the neighborhood I grew up in. But the shop's owner is getting on, as are the customers.

There is a large Arabic population in Bay Ridge, as well, and they all go to halal butchers.

“I’m sure I’ll be in here before December,” I told the cashier, “but if I don’t see you, take care.”

“Nice knowing you,” she replied.

I walked out onto the avenue that was no longer mine. I saw an elderly woman walking toward me and I wondered how much Fifth Avenue had changed since she was young.

Maybe she had started complaining about Bay Ridge going downhill when she was my age. And perhaps my version of the golden age looked like a steep decline to her.

I know change is inevitable and that neighborhoods are in a constant state of upheaval. I just don’t like it when it happens to my neighborhood.

I walked into a new men’s clothing store near my old home and immediately wished I hadn’t. I looked around briefly, but I didn’t see anything I liked and I bailed before anyone could approach me.

It was time to go home. As I headed back toward Shore Road I thought about the old stores that used to line Fifth Avenue. They’re long gone now, but it was nice knowing them.


Bijoux said...

It's hard to watch, isn't it? Many of my childhood memories are either gone, or in very run down, unsafe areas. The loss of so many family businesses in America is really sad to me.

Rob K said...

Exactly, Bijoux, the loss of these family businesses is very painful indeed.

They represent a piece of history and they're being replaced by chain stores or crap merchants who have nothing to offer but imported junk.

Let's hope things turn around!

Ron said...

Rob what a bittersweet post! The same thing is happening in Philly as well. All the Mom and Pop stores are closing; being replaced by chain stores and corporations.

It's as you shared in your comment to Bijoux...they represented a piece of history.

When I lived in NYC back in the late 70's, the city had such a wonderful raw and gritty yet, authentic feel to it. I do realize that the changes the city made did improve the economy and got NYC back on it's feet, by going more corporate. will still ALWAYS be my favorite city on the east coast.


Fab post, buddy! Have a super Monday and week!

Rob K said...

Hey, Ron, how's it going?

Yes, the city was kind of gritty back in 1970s, and corporate money has helped.

But we're losing a lot of character as well and pretty soon New York will look like any other city.

But it's still a great town and it needs more Ronnie!!

Have a great week, buddy, and do take care.

v said...

loved your post, rob. your writing just makes me smile. a nice bitter sweet, as mentioned, nod to change. i understand a little how you may feel. there has been some unwanted change in my area and it stings a little, especially when it's not for the good. this history is gone to me.

Rob K said...

Oh, Val, thank you so much.

This kind of change can be difficult and it's hard to explain to people who haven't gone through it themselves.

Sorry to hear about your unwelcome change and I hope things get better.

Take care!

Anonymous said...

This is kinda of a depressing post :(. I am not really a big fan of change. I think if I could I would stay frozen in time to avoid watching things like this happen. But they say change allows space for new and better things. So I guess look to the better days ahead?

Rob K said...

Change is inevitable, so I guess it's best to embrace it. But that can be very hard to do sometimes.

Take care.