Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Razing the Tempus Fugit.

All over New York, and people could have written this sentence from the 1600s on, old buildings are coming down and new buildings are going up.

There are two old school diners near my current office. One, Market, occupied a large corner lot on 43rd Street. The developers have been salivating over the lot way more than they ever had over Market's food.

It's shuttered now, Market is. Soon to be a 57-story econobox high-rise for high-risers.

I joke that the city of Houston is rising on Manhattan's far west side. But it's really no joke. Between Hudson Yards and a dozen other projects a new world is being built. The old bricks are pulverized, and with them the memories of dreams gone by.

In their place, steel and glass and gleam.

This is New York--emphasis on the new. Where people and buildings my age are kicked to the curb, thrown in a dump truck then land-filled in Staten Island.

It was therefore with trepidation that last night--or rather this morning--at 3:13, I threw on a pair of jeans and a tee-shirt and walked with Whiskey, my three-and-a-half year-old golden retriever to my sudsy sanctuary, the Tempus Fugit.

I wasn't even so much in the mood for a brew or some bartendery camaraderie. It was more just to see if the old place, nestled down stairways, and up stairways, past egresses and beyond the garage in an old six-story Verizon warehouse/parking lot was going to meet the wreckers' ball anytime soon.

The bartender did what he does. Like a virtuoso short-stop or a fleet wide receiver, he was around the hardwood in a trice--or even a nano-trice--with a small wooden bowl of hydrogen and oxygen, and he placed it by Whiskey, near the foot of my stool, my favorite one, one in from the end.

Then, back home, behind the teak, he pulled me, expertly and foam-free, a juice-glass full of the sweet amber that is Pike's Ale (the ALE that won for YALE!) He slid over, as always another wooden bowl, this one filled to the brim with salted Spanish peanuts. I, as always, demurred. Dismissing the legumes with my usual, "A pound in every nut."

There were two men and a woman sitting at a table in the back, against the wall, near the signed photograph of the ex-Heavyweight Champeen, Gene Tunney, which the bartender had hung-up when Tunney visited the joint--with half a dozen show girls, naturally, back in 1924.

I drank down my Pike's in one simple swig. The bartender whisked my glass away and in one motion returned it, brimming with suds.

"What's with the suits?"

"They seek to raze this building. They are going over plans for a 42-story luxury co-opdominium. It will have a screening room, a gym, a swimming pool, a running track, gleaming views of the river and the park. It will have so many conveniences, including a porte cochere, that you will never need breathe actual city air. It will be gated, hermetically sealed and wrapped in richophane, a cellophane-like material that will shield its tenants from the vagaries of the poor and middle-class."

"That's it? No more Tempus Fugit?"

He pulled me another Pike's and wiped down the hardwood with a soft terry rag.

"They have a problem," he said, ringing me up for the night.

"An intractable problem."

I pushed two twenties his way.

He returned the volley.

"The place is mine through 2924," he said. "Perpetually renewable thousand-year-lease."

"Thank god," I said. And Whiskey and I walked home through the night.

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