Ollie has left the building.
Ollie is – or shall I say was – my neighbor. We shared a building – and many a late night courtyard conversation. Ollie was the best at barbecues and the life of the party here on Cornelia Street. He had a knack for collecting friends as he strolled – simply with just his smile.
Yesterday I came home to find Apartment 2F cleared out of its couches — and empty of Ollie.
My neighbor (and friend) has moved out, leaving only a short handwritten note behind.
As I walk through our empty apartment courtyard, absent of Ollie and his fun-loving antics, and as I pace over his spacious hardwood floors, I am reminded again that everything changes – for better or for worse. People exit our lives and babies are born, friends move away from Cornelia Street and new tenants come calling.
Change is tough. Adapting to change is a talent. By force of nature, I think I am getting good at it. Almost as good as Chef Raffaele Ronca from last week’s Delicious Thursday - an immigrant who, 20 years ago, arrived and thrived in NYC. In honor of Raffaele’s journey to America and in honor of my own journey as recorded weekly on this blog, I was invited to meet Mayor Bloomberg and join him for breakfast at Gracie Mansion as part of Immigrant Heritage Week. Luckily, it happened to be a Thursday.
I walked up the wooden steps and circled the wrap-around porch of Gracie Mansion. Shortly after I arrive I am greeted by plates of sweetly syruped waffles swirling around the room. Baskets of bagels and international coffees abound.
I wandered off to quietly collect my thoughts and stumbled upon the awesome acreage of this 1799 mansion – first through a room dressed in peacock blue, then passed the canary yellow quarters and finally into the dining room with walls dressed in The Gardens of France. The murals, mantles and moldings of this Mansion on East End Ave at 88th Street remind me I am far from my small studio on the West side. After a meet and greet with Mayor Mike – and a bit of breakfast – I head back downtown, before my subway car turns into a pumpkin.
On my way home from Gracie Mansion I came across an abandoned chair sitting curbside. Perched on the corner of West 4th Street and 6th Avenue I found a perfectly good mid-century style teal blue armchair. Like any good New Yorker, I studied it, analyzed the wear and tear and then picked up the orphaned item and carried it to its new home on Cornelia Street. I will never know who owned it before I adopted it into my home. Maybe it belonged to an immigrant who had realized his American dream and moved on to fancier furniture. Possibly. Maybe it was excess from Mayor Bloomberg’s Mansion. Not likely. Or maybe it was Ollie’s – the last remains of his disappearance from Cornelia Street. I don’t know – but I hope so.
What I do know for sure is that my new chair had clearly lived many lives, in many houses, and over many years. It is comfy and cozy. It is tattered and worn. A bit unraveled and unfinished. But it has substance and soul – just like me, and just like Chef Raffaele. What I also know is that if anyone wants to come over to my apartment, worn out or not – there is now a place to sit – comfortably. My chair needs a little work. But then again so do I. So do we all. None of us are excused from a little growth and development. Not even the Mayor.
Not surprisingly, breakfast with the Mayor was less about breakfast and more about the Mayor — the experience, the house and mostly, the journey to get there. The food played backup to the story surrounding it – as it oftentimes does. Next week our food focus returns. Until then, happy eating.