I had dinner with a friend at a Greek restaurant on Columbus Avenue tonight. To get there, I walked down 85th Street between Amsterdam and Columbus, where Jack and I lived 50 years ago.
I passed a copy and graphics shop near Amsterdam. It was in the space that was, when we lived at the other end of the block, the Red Carpet Bar, and it achieved noteriety in 1971 when H. Rap Brown, a former head of SNCC, along with four other men, attempted armed robbery at the bar. Brown and an associate were wounded, and the other three men were arrested after a gunfight in which, according to the New York Times, “Bullets ricocheted off parked cars and building fronts on 85th Street.” Jack referred to the bar thereafter as the H. Rap Brown Memorial Bar. After it closed, the space was for a while a real estate office.
Most of the block is brownstones, and I can’t remember how similar or different they are now from November 1970, when we moved away. Our building was 101, a red stone apartment building at least 100 years old. Once upon a time, it had large apartments, perhaps two per floor. When we lived there, the sixth floor, where we lived, had been chopped into tiny, and weirdly laid out, spaces. We had a big living room, a bedroom separated from the living room by French doors, and a kitchen that looked like it had once been a hallway. At one end it was as wide as the stove, and the sink looked like the utility sink in a garage; its drainboard was a literal piece of wood, about 14”x9”, tacked to the wall. We did have a lot of windows.
At the Columbus end of the block, the corner of our building has seen a series of bars and restaurants. When we lived there, it was a very disreputable bar, so dodgy that even Jack wouldn’t drink there—and he drank most everywhere. After we’d moved away, it became a very upscale restaurant whose name I don’t remember. Today, it’s a country-style restaurant called Good Enough to Eat; New York magazine called it “very Vermont-farmish.”
I like checking out those locations where I have put mental plaques on buildings, e.g., Jack and I lived here, 1967–1970.
I’m participating in the 10th annual Slice of Life Challenge over at Two Writing Teachers. This is day 16 of the 31-day challenge. It’s not too late to make space for daily writing in a community that is encouraging, enthusiastic, and eager to read what you have to slice about. Join in!