Last night my wife and I got free tickets to the Public Theater's "Shakespeare in the Park" which is now presenting "All's Well that Ends Well," (which we saw) and "Measure for Measure," which we likely will see in the next few weeks or so.
However, before the show we walked to Zabar's, perhaps the world's greatest food store, to pick up some food for dinner. We transported our comestibles to a little Zabar's-run cafe, a grungy pace next door to Zabar's with communal tables and a counter that offers sandwiches, soups, pastries and frozen yogurt.
I'm sure it wasn't Zabar's intent when they opened the place--I'm sure they wanted to attract thoroughly yuppified Upper West-Siders, but what they have in their little cafe is dozens of the octogenarians who used to sit on the benches along Broadway, now transported inside spending hours over a cup of coffee and a cinnamon swirl, unraveling the cake a slow inch at a time.
They come for the coffee and they come for their friends. They all seem to know each other. This is a community.
Most of their conversation last night was about the difficulties getting around the city to their various medical appointments.
"The one time he sees me for a full hour and I had to miss my 2:30 because my 11:30 ran so late."
"I left an hour and forty minutes to get to my dentist on the Lower East Side and I called him from the street when I was already late because the trains weren't running because of a police action, what that was, they didn't have the decency to tell us."
"There was a street fair on 6th Avenue and the crosstown had to go on 34th rather than 23rd."
It was like that for the 45 minutes my wife and I were there eating our Caesar salads.
During that whole time not once did any of the elderly we were sitting amidst check their Facebook, send a tweet or check their email. They live in a different world than the world we live in. They don't think about their Klout score, or Kim Kardashian's buttocks or the anything the younger generations wear as a frontlet.
They seemed at peace. Talking. Kvetching. Kibbitzing. Complaining how hard it was to carry a whole cantaloupe back to their apartments.
Their dramas more vivid, even, than the Shakespeare.