We'd met at the antique shop on Madison Ave. between 81st and 82nd.
We found ourselves both admiring an old A&P baking powder tin, with
the label still intact. I had been at it all day, as was my habit on
my only day off, wandering the endless parade of shops in that area,
for the past was my passion, and these shops held the best.
Conchetta and I hit it off right away. Both of us it seemed, were together in a
previous life, so alike we were in our love for the antique, and especially
for that having to do with food. We must have stood there in that shop for
hours trading stories of the things we had seen , all relating to food,
and especially restaraunts in the period between the end of the great
depression and the beginning of the second world war. There was a certain
charm about that time which we both were attracted to. Finally the shop owner
came along and gently shood us away, for it was closing time, and so we left.
We found ourselves walking down the street together, and so we made our way to
a coffee shop down at the corner. We both bemoaned the condition of the cafe.
It had been a restaraunt at one time but now just served coffee and light
snacks. We could see where the modern had been slapped on, right over the
history, with no regard at all for what had been there before. We must have
stayed there for a few more hours, but we were caught up in a time warp of
sorts, lost in our sudden love we'd rediscovered in each other from that previous life,
and our love for the antique. That we would share our lives together was a given,
something that we both knew without even saying. And the plans for the
restaraunt began that day, in that coffee shop. I had always wanted to
open a restaraunt, and Conchetta spoke of many of the dishes her grandmother
had taught her to make, dishes that just weren't served any more.
Authenticity. That was our code. That was the one word we would live by,
in all the things we persued. Above all, it must be authentic. There was
a certain spirit in the old times that wasn't present in reproductions, so
everything about our restaraunt to be had to be original. There was nobody
more authentic than my Conchetta.
I called her my blossom, and we ended up
using that name for our little restaraunt. We found a perfect place
over on Bowery, right next to a barber shop museum. The museum was operated
by an old gent who had another real operating shop further down the street,
and this little museum was opened
only on mondays, his days off. People, mostly tourists would stop by and be
able to go in and it was set up just as a barber shop was back in the 1930s.
Mondays were our slowest day, so it worked out great for customer parking,
as the old man let us lease the parking places too. And so it got off to a
great start. People found us quickly. Hey, how many places in the city could
they find such authentic period dishes like ox tail soup or pigs feet and
kraut. It wasn't more than two days after we opened that we were filling
every seat, and turning them away at the door, business was so good, and word
was traveling so fast.
It didn't last though. I should have caught on earlier but we'd been so busy,
I hadn't realized the problem until it was too late. Conchetta would slave away
in the kitchen at night, putting the different dishes together, and then I
would take over in the back during business hours while Conchetta served and
worked the register. It was easy work for me, I just had to reheat stuff,
and I caught on quickly. Things were really moving fast, we couldn't believe
our success. The day the photographer dropped by from the Times to take the
picture for the review that was to be in the paper the next Sunday, that was
the day we realized what we had done wrong. I should have realized on opening day,
when Conchetta had climbed the step ladder out front and wrote all that
stuff on the windows. Authentic, I thought. She's just putting the final
touches on the authentic period look to the place. When she was done putting
up all the dishes and their 1930s prices, it really made the place look and
FEEL like it was in the 1930s. And so the day the photographer came, we'd
both had no idea that it was our last day.
I'd seen the old man come in and approach Conchetta, and had gone back to
my work. I ladled out a big bowl of ox tail soup for him, for I knew what
he always wanted. I heard him talk to Conchetta, and though I couldn't hear
the words, there were questions, becoming increasingly tense over a span of
a couple of minutes. Finally the old man shouted, "But not the rent!", and
stormed out the door, just as I was about to ring the bell to let her know
the bowl of soup was waiting. Conchetta had taken her authenticity too far.
She was so caught up in this past world, the one that had moved on and only
existed in our past life memories, that she had charged the customers
authentic prices. And though our landlord also had an appreciation for
the past, fifteen cent bowls of oxtail soup would not pay his $4,000 a month rent.
We let the photographer take the picture anyway, and closed shop for good
the next day.
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