Monday, April 25, 2016

The GoodFellas Diner

On Saturday my friends and I walked to what is now my very favorite diner in the city, the GoodFellas Diner. I don't make that distinction lightly, and there are still a lot of diners on my to-do list, but it was nearly perfect. The diner wasn't named GoodFellas when the movie filmed scenes there (it's also called the Clinton Diner), but now it's pretty obvious they've decided to align themselves fully with their namesake film. Despite none of us having seen the movie, we graciously accepted when we were greeted upon entry and asked if we wanted to sit at the "Robert DeNiro table."

The outside of the diner looks like it came from the same makers of the wonderful Market Diner—which is now (quite depressingly) completely demolished. The zig-zag shaped roof is nearly identical to the Market's, although the GoodFellas Diner is quite large with a front room, main diner area, counter and a back bar room.

We arrived at the diner at about 1pm, and it was nearly empty. By the time we had finished our meals we were the only people in the diner, in addition to our waitress and two cooks. I was both thrilled and saddened to have the entire place to ourselves. We had free reign to take photos and explore, which I love, but also I worry about the longevity of places like this—diners are dropping like flies and I want them to not only survive, but to thrive.

Not everything in the diner feels 100% authentic, but the overall effect is still dazzling. The red and silver glitter vinyl booths, stools, chairs and amber-colored lamps are beautiful, but my favorite is the counter with its scalloped edge and basket weave printed top. It's also one of the longest diner counters I've seen, sitting at least 15 people.

The signs inside of the diner are really exquisite, advertising wonderful-sounding menu items such as Beefburger Steak, Fried Filet of Sole, Romanian Steak, London Broil, Beef Goulash, American Fries and Liver with Onions. I love the proclamations "Our Pies Are So Good," "The Best 1/2 Lb Burger in Town" and even the simple and to-the-point "We Serve Grits."

Our hostess/waitress/(probably) owner was so incredible—and straight out of Central Casting. She was generous with the coffee refills, let us linger as long as we liked and was eager to show us around. We didn't have the heart to tell her that none of us had seen the movie, and it seemed easier to pretend rather than to explain that we all just really love diners.

The recent loss of the Market Diner (and seeing a huge hole in the ground where it used to be) really hit me hard. I've lived in New York long enough to begin to see places I love and frequent disappear—and be replaced by luxury condos or something equally soulless. It's sad and unfair but also just a reality of life, especially here where change is a constant and money talks. I can only hope that for every diner I lose, I find another special gem like the GoodFellas Diner to help soften the blow.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Carvel Ice Cream Shop

On Saturday my friends and I wanted to check out a diner in Maspeth, Queens. It was located in a bit of a transit desert—at least subway-wise—so we decided to walk. Our 3.5 mile walk took us through a few neighborhoods that I had never really been to, starting in Brooklyn and then into Queens.

Some people might think it's pointless to take an already long journey and make it even longer, but I'm a huge fan of taking the long way, especially here in the city. So often I stumble upon places or see wonderful things that I would never have known about if I hadn't allowed myself the time and luxury of simply wandering. As we turned the corner from Forest Ave onto Metropolitan Ave, we hit the found-place jackpot when the most wonderful, old timey Carvel ice cream shop appeared before us.

The stand-alone shop (with ample parking) is not something I'm used to seeing much in New York, although they do stand a slightly better chance of surviving in the outer boroughs. The lettering on the front and sides of the building is perfect in every way, and I'm eternally grateful that they didn't just cover it up with a printed banner bearing the newer Carvel logo (I can forgive them for putting those on top). The two huge ice cream cones have sadly seen better days—most of their ice cream was damaged in Hurricane Sandy (according to Forgotten NY)— but props to the owner for not trashing them completely.

I got a Fudgie the Whale cake for my dude's birthday this year, which was my first (very positive) Carvel experience, so I was extra-thrilled to see their Fudgie neon "Open" sign. When paired with the purple ice cream cone neon, the hand-painted signs, the faded pink everything—this Carvel is everything my vintage-kitsch-loving heart needs.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Rock Creek Cemetery: Part Two

In addition to all of the wonderful bronze sculptures at Rock Creek Cemetery, there were many wonderful old headstones, mausoleums and other treasures. I love that no matter how famous or unknown a cemetery may be, I can always find interesting, historical or strange things to delight in.

I'm always surprised when I come across mausoleums that only have gates, instead of heavy stone doors. Rock Creek is close to Washington DC, but not right in the city—I think I'm so used to places like Green-Wood, which are very well-kept and buttoned-up, that it throws me to be able to freely see inside of any mausoleum.

We found a lot of wonderful stone sculptures to complement the bronzes, including a few men and a lot of really unique representations of specific people. The creepy nun was definitely a favorite of ours, and we ended up circling back to her a few times.

We visited Rock Creek in November, and luckily there were still a few leaves in their full fall glory. Of course I love cemeteries in all seasons, but nothing really beats the fall. The late afternoon light was just perfect, and I've never met an ivy-covered headstone that I didn't love.

In every cemetery I visit, I usually find a few things that really stand out and stick with me long after I've gone. I hope we're forgiven, but we cannot be the first people to visit Rock Creek and laugh upon seeing Richard Butt's headstone. I very much identified with the bookshelf stone, and I loved the scythe-and-hourglass-carrying angel that managed to be both ominous and beautiful at the same time.

But in between all of the wonderful sculptures and symbolism we found in Rock Creek, nothing will stay with me quite as long as the blue-eyed, plastic doll entombed atop a crudely carved stone, and forever in my nightmares.