Pick Me Up, Don’t Tear Me Down

It has happened again. They won’t rest till they pave paradise and put up a Chase bank.

This was my hangout. I read and wrote and blogged, or just sat cross-legged and daydreaming here.

IMG_7401It was quaint and grungy. Shabby but in such a way that made me imagine I was in Paris at the turn of the last century. Henri Toulouse-Lautrec might stride through the door any night in his top hat and tail coat for a quick coffee before heading to paint the dancers at the Moulin Rouge.

The right cafe can transport you like that.



The waiters were efficient but delightfully glum (in a city where the behavior of wait staff who survive on tips can border on sycophancy, you have to applaud such subversiveness).

The music was a John Hughes movie: The Smiths, Echo and the Bunnymen, Joy Division, played on tinny speakers for the authentic sound of 1985.



I noticed too that Pick Me Up people mostly read books. Yes, there were many like me cuffed to their laptops grimacing under the sickly blue glow, but crumpled and yellowed paperbacks outdazzled the shiny Kindles any day of the week.

Whether stuck for inspiration or amazed that a few decades earlier this area known as Alphabet City was paved with junkies’ needles and the park across the street was a riot zone, you could gaze out at serene Thompkins Square Park and find a particular brand of downtown peace that Soho or Greenwich Village can’t provide.


That was Pick Me Up.

Rumor has it the landlords wanted $20,000 a month in rent.

It closed its doors at the weekend.

This morning hobos were burrowing through the bits of furniture and smashed lamps that had been stacked on the sidewalk for garbage.

In the words of LED Sound System, New York, I love you but you’re bringing me down.

What I want from you is a Pick Me Up.


My novel, Silk for the Feed Dogs, although written at my kitchen table before I discovered the joys of being among yet alone that is cafe writing, is available here


  1. It’s so sad when places like that go out of business. There are too few bits of reality out there any more – I know it’s funny I call a cafe based on fantasy and nostalgia “reality”, but it is much more real than the corporate version of “funky”. A Starbucks will never have that type of atmosphere….

    • Thanks for the condolences, Trent.
      Although the reliability and “sameness” of Starbucks can be weirdly reassuring when you’re trying to work and any slight irregularity to the routine will throw all your good intentions to the wind…Or is that just me?

      • I understand, and it’s even more true when you travel. I can go into any town and know what I’m going to get at Starbucks. Not all mom-and-pop cafes are created equal and some are, well, give me Starbucks 😉

  2. I feel your pain…everything is becoming so soulless it’s heartbreaking xx

  3. I worry New York will one day just choke on the fumes of its own regeneration and just be a smoking pile of rocks sinking into the Hudson River!

  4. Shame isn’t it? And it’s becoming worse and worse, here in Europe too. I knew we’re doomed when I saw a brand new Starbucks opening in Grand Place!!. That was a few months ago. I still can’t bear it…

  5. Choke on the fumes of generalisation in the fug of world domination..I mourn the little man.. xxx

  6. Aww Jackie — the city is changing so fast…sigh. I still miss Florent when the Meatpacking District was…well…meatpacking — not just picking up meat~

  7. Ughhhh sigh- this type of change always makes me sad. I’m glad you shared your memories, though, I’m sure others share your sentiments. They paved paradise, right?

  8. This is always such sad news. Frank music gone and now FAO Schwartz closing in July. A while back I posted something along the same lines after a shop clerk on the UWS and I struck up a conversation about the same subject. Well written…

  9. Oh, I totally feel with you, how sad this is.

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