Thursday, December 31, 2009

Amaretto Sour, Please

Just read on Facebook today that Tavern on the Green is closing after dinner service on New Year's Eve. It's been open in Central Park for 75 years, and now there will be a legal battle over whether the next restaurant is allowed to use the name.

No matter. I've only eaten at Tavern on the Green once in my life, and I was 21 years old. It was my senior year at Smith, and my friend Beth had invited me to New York for her 21st birthday party. Beth is an only child, and let's just say her father doted on her. In my memory, he had rented the entire restaurant, but I wonder if that's even possible, let alone affordable. But Beth had at least 25 friends there, and we ate and drank extremely well. Yelp is filled with disrespect for the legendary Tavern menu, but that's not how I remember it. The meal was scrumptious, and the never-ending cocktails didn't hurt my impression. We were all in the best of moods, and I was so grateful to Beth for inviting me.

I had met Beth the previous year, in England, where I attended the University of London for my junior year. We were fast friends immediately. We stayed friends for a long, long time. I miss her now, and don't know how we fell out of touch.

I have a photo from that occasion that I still love. Beth is sitting in a chair and the rest of us are standing behind her, our arms around each other. A lot of my London friends made it to the party. I don't know where any of them are today, which bums me out. I attended the party with Carolyn, one of my best friends from Smith, who had hit it off with Beth when she visited me from Paris. Carolyn is standing next to me in the photo. We are still in touch, though we don't talk as much as I'd like.

We used to joke that because Beth is the only one seated in the picture, it looks like she's in a wheelchair. Which isn't funny, exactly, so much as it is misleading. I am wearing an electric blue sweater dress, borrowed from Carolyn. I often borrowed her clothes, and she mine. It's a pretty tame ensemble, for the '80s. Not so my hair, fiery red and huge. In those days, it was just like that, without any interference from me. I have a slight, secretive smile, and am looking coolly chic--almost New York chic, but not quite. I was having a good year, and a secretive one. I was learning a lot of things, none of them academic. I was having a lot of fun.

And I think I imagined this was what life would look like, from now on. I'd always be in groups of friends, in big cities, eating and drinking well, laughing too loud. There would be countless pictures of me in famous restaurants, with twinkle lights all around me, and the bare branches of Central Park in the background.

But most of those people--I don't remember their names. And I've never been to the Tavern again. I've had a lot of fun, fun I wouldn't have dreamed of then. But it's been different. The week that photo was taken, I was interviewing for jobs in publishing in New York. I imagined myself a famous writer, one with lots of events, a more literary Carrie Bradshaw (in a time when Carrie Bradshaw didn't exist.)

The Tavern has been around longer than I have, and now it's done. People will think of it in a similarly nostalgic way, and "remember when" in their own lives.

And I'm not a famous writer...yet. But if you're reading this right now, thank you. Because of you, what I write gets read. That night in 1987, I had it all figured out, but I never imagined I'd write about my day and someone might read it on the other side of the world, or across town, and they might tell me but more likely I'd have to take it on faith.

Which is always how it is, being a writer, if you really think about it.


Jen said...

Wow, so true. You, my dear, will ALWAYS have an audience. We simply cannot help ourselves! ;-)

erin said...

Jeremiah's brother worked there until recently...was let go for obvious reasons. I've only eaten there once too, but I remember the food being...'old fashioned' and there wasn't very much for a vegetarian to eat either. I think I was 14 or so. My dad was took me to a convention in the city, I spent one whole evening sleeping on a bench at a bar. I can't even imagine doing something like that with my kids.

Good post!

Caroline said...

When I was in high school, I liked to imagine people reading my journal entries. I was just ahead of my time. And you're living the dream. :) You are a great writer and have a great blog.

Mary said...

I would love to see the photo!

Lovely post.



Anonymous said...

How sad. I also ate at Tavern on the Green once.(maybe that is why they had to close, we all ate there once) My table was right where Rick Moranis crashed into while being chased in "Ghost Busters"

As to you wanting to be a "famous" writer. According to Websters:

Main Entry: fa·mous
Pronunciation: \ˈfā-məs\
Function: adjective
Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin famosus, from fama fame
Date: 14th century
1 a : widely known b : honored for achievement
2 : excellent, first-rate

Since you are an excellent and first rate writer you are Famous!

Happy New Year!
Bill Mary and Jinji

Anonymous said...

Loved this post -- it made me nostalgic for a restaurant I've never been to and a group of friends that I didn't know. ;) Would love to see that photo too! lix

Sam said...

Thanks, dear ones! And Bill and Mary, that rocks. :)

I will try to post the photo.