It was a few years now back in 1999. And I was on a rest break/holiday in New York. I was 26yrs old and just divorced from my first wife and because the settlement had just been finalized. I decided to take a break for a week. I was tired and stressed at work. Thankfully my boss understood at the time and recommended I go to New York. It was baseball season he and I are both Yankees fans. I thought that I'd catch a game while I was there. Turns out the Yankees were in Cleveland that week. Sadly and it wasn't until 2001 that I got to see them play live. Again while on holiday. Not that it mattered as it turned out I had enough excitement on this holiday to last a lifetime. And it came in a very odd way. At least to me as I hadn't previously ever experienced anything like this before.
I was low on huge funds so a friend of a friend recommended I stay in a cheap (sadly not to clean and a bit sleezy) hotel/motel in the East Village. I can't remember its name, sadly. But the hotel was old and had clearly seen much better days. I didn't plan on doing much but sleep there, as I had a lot I wanted to do in just a few days. I'm a Museum and Art Gallery buff and as New York has some of the best of both I was going to spend time visiting them. After learning the Yankees were interstate for the week, I went to find something else to do and wound up seeing a Broadway show matinee, of all things, on my first full day in New York. The show was "Cats" and I really thought it was worth my time going even though it was the first real theater show I'd been to beside my school productions, which I always got stuck into performing in. I hated it. It was more fun to watch the show. Anyone going to New York I recommend you go to a theater show. If your lower on funds the matinees are a better chance and there often isn't a massive amount of people and you can get really good seats, as I did. Second row, dead center. Couldn't ask for better If I tried.
Anyway enough warm up talk. Down to business of the reason I'm here posting this. I had been in New York four days of the 8 days I would be there. And I found myself back in the East Village around 5pm in the evening and I was feeling hungry. I'd had a busy day visiting the Museum of Natural History, which I really think is fantastic, and was deciding between going to go and eat then go to my room to rest for a couple of hours and see what happens from there, or get something to eat, go and shower, change and keep on out finding things to do. After much thinking I'd see how it went after having something to eat as my stomach was rumbling.
After a change of clothes in my room, I went out to look for a nice little place to eat, somewhere quiet and relaxed. I walked from the Hotel and turned into the walkway, I think on my right, and started hunting down a cafe. A lot of places I tried were over run and had no empty tables to much later in the evening. So I kept looking. I can't remember the name of the street or how I got there from my room, all I know is that it was still in the East Village and that I remember only by sight and landmarks how to get there from my room. This was prior to 9/11 and there were a lot of people out enjoying the nice warm night. I don't know what made me stop and look at this one place. But when I saw it I first thought "How cool, a 60's style coffee house like cafe." I was a little surprised that this place which looked so warm and welcoming was not over run with customers. There were only about 4-5 other people sitting at nearby tables eating, drinking sodas and laughing happily or in what looked like serious discussion.
I walked to the door to look in further and barely got there when a lady with almost waist length strawberry blonde hair and a long skirt and peasant style 60's shirt came over and asked me if I would like a table. The atmosphere felt so welcoming that I just couldn't say no. So I was taken in to this table along the side wall that had placings for two and was asked to take a seat. She took my drink order, left and quickly returned with my Coca-Cola and a menu. First thing I noticed that the Coke was in an old fashioned glass bottle with the brand name in the glass. I hadn't seen one like this since I was a Kid in the mid-1970's and they were dumped empty ones. I thought how cool is this and maybe Coke has made a special limited edition of the bottles again for a anniversary of something. I drank some and it tasted cold and good; just what I needed after all the running around all day.
I looked over the menu I had been given. The food on offer looked really good and the prices were unbelievably cheap. When the waitress came back, I ordered the Chicken Burger with fries. And while waiting looked around at the others in the cafe. Two guys with their girlfriends who looked like rock musician with their long hair. They had smiled at me as I had sat down. A man by himself in a tie-dyed shirt and bandana. Another couple who were older, like in their fifties who looked a little out of place as I guess I did. And a man about my age with long hair sitting playing a guitar in between bites of his salad plate. He music he was playing clearly sounded vaguely like 60's Hippie music. I actually was starting to enjoy it by the time my burger and fries came. The meal tasted fantastic, loads of flavor and lots of it for the price. After eating the main meal I got another Coke and ordered a equally cheap but extremely tasty chocolate cake piece for dessert. It was brilliant.
Meanwhile, I looked around me fascinated with the amazing detail of this so authentic looking 60's style cafe. The table had candles in glass holders that flickered a warm glow. There were lights in the roof but they were obviously dimmed to give the place a relaxed feel. There was a mural on the wall with people dancing, rainbows, musicians, animals and plants etc. It looked very high quality like a famous artist had done it or something. The place looked absolutely brilliant. And the people there looked and seemed friendly. I wondered how long this place had been here and if it had actually been around since the 1960's... As a lot of things like shops and galleries, etc., had been open 30plus years.
When the chocolate cake arrived the waitress smiled at me again as she had done other times that night. And said to me while looking at my then new Ray-ban sun glasses in Aviator style... She said, "groovy glasses, man." I tried hard not to laugh realizing that if this is a place that's set up as a 60's cafe, I thought she was just playing out the character of the times and I thanked her. After I finished my meal and asked for and paid the check. The whole $3.25. I was so shocked at how cheap this huge portioned meal was I left a $5 tip. I'm sure the lady probably thought I was crazy. It was well worth every dime. After I said my goodbye to her. I asked If I could make a dinner placement to tomorrow night. She of course said yes and in a book near the counter where I paid my bill. And I left for the night.
On the short walk home I found myself thinking about this unusual cafe. Thinking too how lucky I was to find a non-overcrowded cafe with good cheap food, friendly staff and nice surroundings. The cafe had felt so warm, friendly and welcoming. Nothing really seemed odd. A little too fitting with the 60's maybe, but that was because it was themed (or so I thought).
For the first time in a long time I slept a sleep broken by strange dreams I can't recall much other than it seemed I was in that cafe. Only now it was old, dilapidated and unloved. I thought little of it as I put it down to the fact I was just in a new place and I was just getting used to the weird hotel and the strange shadows the place had.
Anyway, the next day I again spent in the city's various cultural diverse galleries and market stalls, Little Italy, China Town and some other various well known visitors' hang outs. And was, again, now tired and hungry and looking forward to a nice dinner at the cafe that night. So again, I went to my room to change and freshen up, and left to make my reservation.
And that's when I got the biggest shock of my life. I reached the cafe early by ten minutes. But still I wouldn't be ever able to eat there. Where I was sure I left a great cafe the night before was a dark, empty boarded up store front with smoke damage around its frame. All the windows and the door were very roughly boarded over and it looked like it had been that way for years and years.
Thinking I must have had the wrong place I walked up and down, back and forth across two blocks nearly getting my poorly functioning mental compass really confused. For over 2 hours I looked. Not one place I saw was even close. And after fruitlessly hunting for 2hrs. I gave up my search and vowed to look into it in the good light of the day. And found a MacDonald's to eat in instead.
Next day, let's just say things got plain strange. Again I retraced my steps looking up and down, back and forth over the same area I had the night before. And could still only find that badly covered over, empty, dark cold boarded up shop with some smoke damage on the walls on the outside beside the window frames like the fire had blow out the windows at sometime. I was standing looking at the empty store when a lady in her 60's asked me if I had seen the place too. I told her what had happened the night before. And she told me she herself had experienced the cafe after it had long closed, as I had the night before. And she went on with my probing to tell me that, Yes there had been a 60's Coffee Shop there in real life. And it had been very popular. It served really good food really cheap. The problem was the cafe hadn't been open in that place since the big kitchen fire during closing hours in 1974. No one was hurt or killed, and no one could explain why it happened. The owners had no funds to fix it and sold the store and left the area.
The next people re-did over the shop, each time someone moved in they didn't last long. Eventually after many years of bad luck with shops there in the building, the owner decided to sell it, but another fire made it impossible and the building was declared unsafe, and had been boarded up empty for the past 15yrs at the time I saw the long gone Cafe there that night.
Was it a time slip I got lost in for a couple of hours? Most people I have spoken to seem to think it was. And I apparently wasn't the only one besides that old lady to have been caught up in it. There are as many as 7 others who have had dealings with the long shut place.
Not that anyone other than that one old lady would tell me anything, as much as I tried to find out. Most people tried to dismiss my question or laugh at me saying I was seeing things. One old guy asked me if I was high (I've never taken drugs in my life). Another, a lady in her 80's I'm guessing, demanded curtly I stopped asking about that "Damned filthy Hippie drug users cafe that keeps on showing up". Clearly she had seen it since it had shut, too, but dead set refused to talk to me. And the last guy I talked to gave me a filthy look and muttered something about F'n tourists. I thought I'd leave the street and go do more tourist things before I got anyone more upset and got arrested or something.
I tried looking the place up on the internet but because I didn't know the name of the place. It didn't help out much and I couldn't find anything out.
Still to this day I wonder why it happened to me and what did actually happen. All I know is that if I do visit New York again, I may just try to look for the cafe again. With any luck it may show itself to me again. All I know is it would be worth finding again. The food there was great. And very, very cheap. You sure got value for money.
I'd like to know what you all think. Thanks for Reading.