As I'm prone to laboriously pointing out, I'm a native New Yorker. That said, I didn't grow up downtown. While I may have spent a major swathe of my adolescence onward traipsing around lower Manhattan's then-thriving network of record stores in the 1980s, I officially resided on the comparatively somnambulistic Upper East Side. As a small child, I certainly knew "downtown" existed, but only in the most abstract of ways. In the late 70's, Manhattan seemed like an unfathomably vast and endless place. In any case, I spotted something yesterday evening that took me right back to my small years as a native Manhattanite.
I've lived just off of University Place in one capacity or another since 1996, but I'd spent time on it long before that. It formerly acted as the major artery into the Village for me. But the first time I set foot on the avenue in question probably dates back about thirty-someodd years ago. I can't recall all of the specific circumstances, but I vividly remember a family excursion downtown. I was probably seven years old at the time, or possibly even younger. If memory serves, my parents, my sister and I all got in a cab to visit a specific antiques outlet on University Place. This strip used to be peppered with them. There are still a few left, but they're fewer and further between these days. Anyway, we all piled into a taxi and off we went.
Our cab pulled up to the southwest corner of 11th street & University. Sitting closest to the corner-side door, I instinctively opened it while my step-father was paying the cabbie. Right as I was about to climb out of the car, an elderly lady appeared out of nowhere and slammed the door shut, narrowly missing me. My step-father got out and rounded the car, inevitably making some sort of "What the hell's wrong with you?" statement. In short order, it was obvious that this lady wasn't dealing with a full deck, and a high-volume exchange ensued. She started ranting that the cab door was irresponsibly blocking foot traffic on the sidewalk. My step-father loudly shouted over her that she'd very nearly amputated my leg. The debate was going nowhere fast. I believe my mother tried unsuccessfully to shoe my step-father away, capably recognizing the futility of this confrontation. My step-father, however, was still incensed. In an ill-considered moment, he grabbed the lady's elbow, presumably for the purposes of making an emphatic point. Instantly, she whipped out a pencil and started banging it on the metal light pole. She also started yelling "HELP, I'M BEING RAPED!" at the top of her lungs. Suffice it to say, it was not a good scene.
At this point, my step-father finally gave up and we left the corner with the elderly woman carrying on her clarion call and frantic pencil-banging. Shaken and quite confused, I was taken by the hand and we all entered an antiques outlet across the street (I believe my parents were searching for a certain armoire or something). That store was Kings.
I don't think I ever set foot in Kings after that. I had no real reason to, honestly. I'm not much of an antique fan anyway, or at least not of the variety that were on display there. Were I searching for a needlessly baroque chandelier, it'd probably have been the place I'd have hit first. But yesterday evening, I looked up and noticed that Kings was empty with a big "space available" sign in its window. I'm sure it'll soon be a bank or a massive frozen yoghurt emporium or yet another chain drugstore soon. While I wasn't a Kings shopper, I loved that it was still around as an old neighborhood fixture. But now it's gone, along with another tiny piece of my childhood.