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Category: New York City

My Childhood Diner is Gone

Nothing is forever. Especially not restaurants. Last week, I lost the diner I grew up with. Here’s my homage to the end of this 91-year-old institution.

For my entire life, the Green Kitchen was the local diner down the street from where I grew up in New York City. It was a fixture on the corner of 77th and First Avenue in Manhattan. The decades passed, and it went through ownership changes. But it always remained.

I remember it when I was a young child, and my parents took me out for dinner there. That was always so much fun. And until last month, I would order take-out from the Green Kitchen to have lunch at home with my 89-year-old father.

Even during the years when the upstart 3-Star Diner across the street competed for customers (and yes, we ate there often), the Green Kitchen’s sign always glowed strong.

Then, right before the pandemic, the 3-Star Diner closed. (Talk about timing.) But the Green Kitchen stuck it out, and eventually reopened. There was nothing stopping it. Year after year. Decades meant nothing.

My Final Visit to the Green Kitchen
Last week, I called and ordered lunch for take-out when I was visiting my father. I went downstairs and around the corner. I walked up and pulled the diner’s door like I must have done hundreds of times. It didn’t open.

I looked up and read the sign on the door stating that the Green Kitchen had closed forever.

What?! It took a moment to register. I felt like I had slipped into an alternate universe. I had just called and ordered the sandwiches. I know I had spoken to someone! (Was he a ghost?)

Then, reality snapped back into place. I remembered that the Green Kitchen had a sister location on 84th and 2nd Avenue. My call had obviously been routed there.

So, I schlepped over to pick up our lunch, and as I walked the extra distance, I pondered this shakeup in my world order.

It’s not like restaurants don’t close all the time. But this place had been around my entire life. And the 84th Street location wasn’t going to be close enough to really replace the loss.

Sharing the News with My Father
When I finally got back to my father’s apartment, I told him the bad news. I was a bit worried how he would take it. It’s been a constant for him as well.

But he brushed it off like I was giving him a mediocre weather report.

My dad has always been about appearances. So perhaps he wasn’t revealing his true feelings. Or maybe it just hadn’t sunk in yet. And just perhaps, he’d gone through enough shake-ups in his life that this one really wasn’t that significant. (If so, it’s nice to see that my father can still teach me a thing or two.)

The good news is New York City is filled with restaurants and diners. So I think it’s just a matter of choosing a new one. I’ll add it to my to-do list.

Thanks for the Memories
Yes, I’m feeling nostalgic. Another fixture from my childhood is gone. I know it’s just a place. But it held a lot of happy memories.

Thank you, Green Kitchen.

Now, it’s time to move on.

Where to Buy a Belt before 9am near Grand Central Terminal

If you forget your belt after leaving for your commute to New York City, all is not lost. Here’s the solution I found within steps of Grand Central.

The fundamentals of dressing oneself properly isn’t a topic that should require much attention. We all know the rules. Sure, we can discuss fashion, but the basics of covering up your birthday suit doesn’t usually require much thought. And that’s sometimes the problem.

It’s when you’re rushing off to work on autopilot and not paying attention that little mistakes can crop up.

  • Mismatched socks
  • A forgotten tie (when jacket and tie were standard wear)
  • Shirt sleeve cuff buttons misaligned into the wrong holes

These little errors can happen to anyone. (I’m certainly guilty of the occasional ‘I dressed myself too quickly’ faux pas.) None of this is catastrophic. But what do you do if you forget a more structurally important item… such as your belt?

I’ve got a friend who recently experienced this problem. Here’s his story.
(Okay… it was me.)

Help! I Forgot my Belt!
No, it wasn’t such a big deal, and yes, I could have gotten through the day with slightly looser pants on my waist without risking a wardrobe malfunction. But I didn’t feel right, and it was bothering me while I sat on my Metro North commuter train.

I figured as I headed to Grand Central Terminal that there must be thousands of ways to solve the problem and still be at my desk by 9am.
Hey, this is New York City!

I thought back to pre-pandemic days when men’s clothing stores in Midtown Manhattan were open early to handle commuter traffic. (My go-to store is usually Charles Tyrwhitt. Their shirts with ‘proper’ collars can’t be beat.)

But on the train ride, as I held my iPhone and Googled the hours of men’s clothing stores near Grand Central Terminal, I was awakened to another painful example of our new normal.

At 8:30am, stores are still closed.

All except for one.

A Lone Outpost in the Center of Everything
It’s the Men’s Wearhouse at 360 Madison Avenue (45th and Madison).

That store opens at 8:30am. (All of their other branches in New York City open at 10am.)

As I walked by at 8:40am, this Men’s Wearhouse actually looked closed. The darkened windows obscured any activity. But as I peered in, I spotted blurry movement. I walked up to the door and pulled.

And the portal opened!

As I entered, I still wasn’t entirely certain the store was actually ready for business. It was empty, save for one salesman at the register.

I walked up and cautiously asked… “belts?”

He pointed to the back without looking up. I continued on.

I’ve Joined the Club
So I quickly found a black belt and brought it back to the salesman.

As he started to ring it up, I suddenly felt this intense need to confess. So I told him my story.

He finally looked directly at me and gently explained that belts are actually their hottest-selling item in the early morning. My story was not so unique after all.

He handed me the receipt and asked if I wanted him to cut off the tags so I could wear the belt out of the store.

I smiled.

Tame your Inner Vecna
I walked out of the Men’s Wearhouse with my new belt around my waist and a feeling of great accomplishment.

Sure, you’ve got to roll with the punches, and if you forget your belt, it’s not the end of the world. Stranger things can happen.

But with the past two and a half years feeling a bit like the upside down, it’s especially sweet when you have the opportunity to take back a little control.

Ode to the Distant Tracks at Grand Central Terminal

As a Metro North commuter to Manhattan, I’ve found certain tracks take more time to walk to than others on my way back to Connecticut. When rushing to catch your ride, you never want that faraway gate. Here’s a poem that tells my story.

Stairway to Tracks 23 and 24

The track to take, you just don’t know.
Your walk is fast. There is no time.
To find your train and claim your seat.
Or lose your spot. Then stand and whine.

The odds get worse if train is Red.
The track it’s on can seal your fate.
Easy to reach or Outer Rim?
This is how you will miss your date.

Upper level gates no hurry.
But basement level spans further.
It’s like moving through Tatooine.
You’ll have to sprint. Feels like murder.

Teens and twenties, easy to reach.
But beware twenty three and four.
You think you’re there. Then more to go.
Two more staircases? Now you roar!

Then there’s eleven on the end.
It feels like you are lost backstage.
Garbage bags and metal shards stacked.
Now you’re walking through the bronze age.

Red transports I take up the coast.
So don’t know what other droids feel.
But where are the good tracks for me?
The trek can feel a bit unreal.

Sure, here I complain and kvetch.
What‘s wrong with a few more minutes?
If that’s a pain, the fault is more.
A track shouldn’t test one’s limits.

Still, it would be nice if we shared.
The good tracks and the naughty ones.
A rotation to split the fun.
And then we would all move our buns.

I expect there is some logic.
For how these Vulcan pods are stashed.
Could change come from just one poem?
Perhaps my high hopes won’t get dashed.

More Odes by Barrett:

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