Wednesday, May 27, 2020. It was like a warm, perfect Summer day, yesterday in New York. Temps were in the mid-70s; there was no humidity, no chilly breezes. It had been an unremarkable holiday weekend in the city. Although on Sunday and Monday, the Promenade by the river and the park had lots of visitors. Things are officially opening up in the Hamptons – which had been already inundated with seasonal residents escaping the city ten weeks ago.
Back here in lockdown-ville, I stuck pretty close to home except for the voyage to Zabar’s on Saturday around 2 p.m. I figured people would rather be out or relaxing at that hour, rather than picking the goods for dinner. I was right; there was no waiting to get in. Aha! There weren’t a lot of customers inside either. Perfect. I bought a Zabar’s bag (a dollar) which I had to fill myself as the checker evidently doesn’t touch bags from outside under the current circumstances. I’m sure those were her instructions.
I’ve always liked Zabar’s because they deliver both quality in every department and a fair price. I’m a comparative shopper when it comes to the food market. Fair price today is naturally a rising price. 20 years ago a pound of Zabar’s freshly ground coffee was $4.98 per. Today It’s $10.98.
There is a shop owned by Eli Zabar on East Side at Third Avenue and 80th. Eli Zabar, the youngest of the brothers, is kind of the Ralph Lauren of his business. It’s very convenient and their quality is excellent and their prices are higher. Eli’s is located in the heart of the golden residential real estate in Manhattan (they can afford it).
They also cater to a different clientele, like East Side billionaires who often send their cooks and maids to gather the goods. Their coffee freshly ground was $10.98 back when I was paying $4.98 across town at the family emporium. It so happened last week when I was running out of coffee, I stopped in Eli’s to pick up a little until I could get across town for my pound (ground for metal). I knew the price would be higher so I asked for only a quarter pound to tide me over. Done. Weighed, it came out to almost a half. The price: $11.11. Wow, I asked the man what a pound would have cost me? $26. Aha!
Now in our 9th or 11th week of the lock down, the city is beginning to come back to life. It is inevitable. There are all kinds of opinions about it. Some could lead you to believe we’ll be pursued by this virus every day for the rest of our long lives. Unless there is a vaccine, of course. So they say.
Others predict that our world has changed forever, and now life will be different because of it. I do think life will be different for a lot of us because of the huge impact this lock down has had on the financial lives of us ordinary folk. There seems to be very little impact apparent at this time. But that is possibly because most of us are thinking if not hoping that we will resume the pace of daily life in New York for all of us.
When you’ve been isolated — if not entirely physically — for all these weeks, as well as showered with all kinds of bad news predictions, you can find yourself thinking that it’s The End. Of Something. Of what; who knows! However, realistically assessing things, it’s the nature of the city to return to its dynamic pace. Maybe not overnight, but sooner than one believe right now.
New York is always changing. It’s a far, far different city than the one I first came to out of college in the early 1960s. And far different from the town it was when I returned here from California in the early 1990s.
The manners have changed, the neighborhoods have changed, and often dynamically and radically. So have the prices including the real estate. SoHo didn’t exist as a residential area back in the 1960s. It was rundown, old, and even with abandoned factory buildings of studios and warehouses and second-hand establishments. By the end of the business day it was empty, abandoned even by cars.
It was only after the artists fresh out of the schools, such as Yale School of Fine Arts and RISD, began renting the raw and long empty warehouse spaces for desperation rents. They were cheap. By the mid-’70s it had become SoHo (South of Houston), christened by a newborn weekly. By the ’80s, the forward looking rich art collectors from the Upper East Side were looking at those big empty warehouse spaces as potential private residences. It was cool to own a “loft” rather than an apartment on Park or Fifth. It was also a lot cheaper. Back then.
All of New York was a lot cheaper. Some wonder if New York is going to be a lot cheaper again because of the current situation affecting the financials of our world. Time will tell, but it is also likely that we will see a resurgence of the creative energy that has always been New York’s mantra in the world. I’d vote for that outcome as most realistic.
Meanwhile, on Memorial Day, my big outdoor activity was a brief tour of the Promenade with the dawgs who are always happy to get out in some fresh air (no masks for them!).