A little while back, you may remember, I posted an entry in typically melodramatic fashion announcing that Flaming Pablum was going on hiatus due to some personal issues. Mere days after that, however, I popped back online to post a quickie about a depressing neighborhood development. After eight plus years of penning this blog, old habits truly die hard.
Well, as it happens, there was another such story that broke recently that I feel truly compelled to address here, despite my self-imposed hiatus (more about that in a bit). My good friend and former colleague Jon Abbey posted a link on my Facebook page that managed to further dim my already dark mood. Apparently Gray's Papaya on the fabled corner of West 8th Street and Sixth Avenue, is no more.
While I have several friends who remember eras prior to Gray's tenure on that particular plot, in my own recollection, there was never a time when I don't remember Gray's Papaya being there. As an Upper East Side kid, I was probably supposed to swear my allegiance to Papaya King on Third Avenue and East 86th Street, but I'd be fibbing if I said I didn't prefer Gray's downtown.
I've discussed the significance of 8th Street to my teenhood here almost as much as I've written about the Cedar Tavern or Rocks in Your Head or favorite bands. To my mind, Gray's Papaya was the veritable anchor of West 8th Street. An inevitable stop on any sortie around the strip's former circuit of record stores and rock t-shirt shops, if you were buying rock pins at Postermat, wraparound shades at Flip, Iron Maiden t-shirts at Butterfly's, Plasmatics bootlegs at It's Only Rock N' Roll or import singles at Venus Records (all long gone, of course), it was nigh on a given that you were going to end up at Gray's at some point for a dog and a milky, styrofoam cup of papaya juice.
I've mentioned it before, but if I'm not mistaken, I believe Lou Reed once cited Gray's as his favorite restaurant (if you could call it that) in Manhattan. For some reason, for several years, the radio inside Gray's was tuned adamantly to WKHK, New York's own short-lived all-country music station (despite the fact that most of the guys that worked behind the grill were from Bangladesh). It was even crashed into by a car only a few years back, but they kept on serving their grub. Gray's was a place you always thought was going to be there.
Much like more celebrated landmarks like the Chelsea Hotel or CBGB, I'm always drawn to take pictures of Gray's on atmospheric evenings, as the place has such vibe (I took all three of these shots). I cannot help but think of the opening strains of the Rolling Stones' "Dance Pt. 1" every time I walk by this place (citing, as they do in the opening portion of the song, the corner in question).
Decades after first setting foot in the place, I still counted myself as a regular. Put simply, while I'm becoming jaded to all the changes happening downtown, this one really, really makes me sad. What is happening to my city?
Back to the hiatus.....
There will invariably be more moments in the days and weeks to come when I cannot fight the urge to hop back online to post something. There's no crime in that. I'm not ashamed to be breaking my hiatus. It brings me joy to do this, and keeps me sharp. But, still, I have to tend to other things right now.
Regrettably, the reason for my hiatus was further cemented in recent days. While I've often said that Flaming Pablum has no single overriding theme, it has obviously become defined by a handful of very specifics topics, and those topics invariably involve looking back in time. As much as it's a tag I don't wear with shame, I have a hard time immersing myself in nostalgia right now, whether good or bad. At the risk of being further vague, the reason for the hiatus is a matter that dwells very pointedly in the NOW and has serious ramifications about THE FUTURE. While I frequently write here about elements of the past here, I almost always frame them within the context of my own past. Well, suffice it to say, I can't justify spending as much time dwelling on my past right now. I've got a problem that needs my attention this instant, in order to secure a better future for an indescribably beloved person in my life going forward.
Until then, thanks to all for your kind words. I am determined to deliver my family through this, and, as such, when I have, I will be back doing what I do here on the regular.