January 9, 2006
I don't think that one really becomes a New Yorker until you've been in the city long enough so that one night you go to a place you love only to find it has been turned into something else entirely in your absence. There is that strange feeling as you stand outside. You try to fool yourself into thinking that you are at the wrong address saying, "Maybe it was one block over, or maybe it was around the corner." But on some level know: the slate has been wiped clean. This experience is exaggerated by time and because I spent a full 10 years away in Los Angeles, I find myself having these moments much too often. The favorite bar with the singing waitress on 22nd, the little restaurant that served a handmade strozzapreti ragu on 77th, the hole in the wall specializing in antique maps on Mott, the saddle shop on Madison, etc, etc... Fellow Peanuts fans will understand when I call this the Daisy Hill Puppy Farm effect.
You've probably figured out by now that this happened to us tonight. We went on a trek to a favorite little Italian place where everything was made by hand and only to find another restaurant there. The other restaurant was actually pretty darn good, but throughout dinner I kept feeling sad that I would never have the original restaurant's piping hot bread. Of course we're always finding new favorite places, building new networks, but the ghosts of the missing are out there and sometimes they weigh heavy.
I was thinking about all this as we were driving home when we were hit from behind by another car on the Brooklyn Bridge onramp. Then that car was hit, and then fourth car hit that one. With each crash we were banged hard forward with increasing velocity. We were not hurt, just shaken up although the woman behind us was not so lucky. She was taken to the hospital. Two of the cars involved were totaled.
The first impact was a shock, no time for anything, but in the seconds between the subsequent bangs I had a hundred thoughts. First I was worried for my wife and baby who were in the back getting thrown forward with each smash. Then I was trying to remember what to do (I eased off the brakes to let car move with the impacts). Then I was thinking about the people in the cars behind us because i could see that they were violently shattered. In the middle of that flurry of thoughts in the uncertainty of how bad it might or might not be for a brief moment I thought about how people and places come in and out of our lives every day and how holding on to the past too tightly might be a mistake because tomorrow we might be the ones who are missing and there is too much to do in the meantime.