(on First Avenue at 62nd Street in the Upper East Side)
I needed some solace today, both from the terrible news from Boston and from the day-to-day weariness of this and that. Milkshakes soothe both my soul and my stomach, so I stopped in at the Ritz Diner at lunch time for a chocolate shake to go.
The Ritz is, despite what the website says (“not just a diner, but a ‘ritzy’ diner”), a pretty classic diner (with pretty classic prices, considering the neighborhood). Counter, tables, grilled cheese, etc. — it’s all there. Most importantly, it is:
The main sign is pretty straightforward — just mazy channel letters spelling out RITZ DINER — but that seems about right for this place. I need to go back some time after dark and get better photos (these are old), though it’s a big tricky with the awning. For now I’ll just say I’m glad the Ritz is still keeping 1st Avenue aglow (along with Goldberger’s and others).
John Shoe Repair
(On the Upper East Side on 67th Street between 2nd & 3rd Avenues)
The cobblers of New York City are a wonder. Operating out of shoe-box sized shops, each packed with the detritus of a lifetime of repairing our worn-out footwear, the enable us to keep pounding the pavement in style. There must have once been so many more of them, in the era before sneakers and the rise of disposable fashions, but there are still a good number today. And a good number of them have neon signs, usually small skeleton signs hanging in the window like this one, but with a wide variety of shoe types from boots to high heels. When winter comes (these one-man operations (are there any women cobblers in New York?) tend to close early), I’d like to finally take a shoe-neon-only walk, and gather a whole poster’s worth of neon shoes.
I dropped my shoes off this afternoon with John. I inadvertently wore through the heels (and nearly through the soles) last winter. I hope he can fix them. I’ll find out tomorrow. If he can, it will have been a bargain — $5!
Half of his tiny shop was filled with a massive shoe lathe that looked like some kind of intricate contemporary sculpture. The other half, more assemblage, featured piles of hardened glue, scraps of leather, and bits and pieces of this and that, with assorted pliers and punchers and whatnot here and there. I would have been claustrophobic to spend too long there, but for a brief visit it was wonderfully quiet and private and soothing, all earthy browns and cozines, with the iconic pink and green shoe glowing softly out the window. Here is New York, alive and busily industrious.
PS: Happy birthday to my mom today!
PPS: Did I tell you? I started a new project to explore New York by daylight: apicnicineverypark.tumblr.com
UPDATE: Shoes look great! When I picked them up, John told me, I think, about his forthcoming trip to Athens (where he apparently hails from), where it is even hotter than it is here, though of course everyone leaves the city when it gets too hot, or goes swimming (communicated largely through miming breast stroke). He is very nice and an excellent cobbler and you should take your shoes there. Oh, and be prepared for the overwhelming smell of shoe polish when you open the door.