Tuesday, July 3, 2007

this is our shadow

{Evergreen Video. Gone.}

That was the text message I received today from my friend Mike.
Evergreen Video is the old-school video store that was on our block in NYC. We loved the people that worked there and would spend hours upon hours looking at little cardboard boxes boasting of greatness!, talking about movies, arguing about the best and the worst movies, one-upping each other on what we'd seen and what needed to be seen. This was all before Netflix and before boyfriends and girlfriends and when we had all the time in the world to spend at the local video store. It was one of the greatest. It was known all over the city. What wasn't really known, except to some canny locals, was how good the people-watching was. Everyone's gotta rent a video, and this was the place to come. Kim's video already had a terrible reputation for being above and beyond the call of condescending. My friend, Jello, who had to work there for awhile, told me they only hired people on their bad attitudes. Who wanted to be looked down upon when you couldn't come up with the name of the key grip on the set of "Nuovo Cinema Paradiso"? You just knew you really, really, really wanted to rent it.

The cats at Evergreen never made you feel inferior. I remember once when I was about a half hour late returning my movie because I'd just had to see how "Romeo + Juliet" ended. (Yes, I know how thee "Romeo and Juliet" ends) And when I ran, breathlessly through the doors of Evergreen babbling about how riveted I was, wiping the tears from my eyes and sniffling about how I just had to see, etc, etc, etc. not one of those employees turned down their nose at me, or snickered to one another. In fact, one of 'em totally agreed that they had to do the same thing, while the other employee, who probably thought it was a ridiculous film, just nodded and said, "that's cool. no fee. don't worry about it." Sure, maybe he was alluding to something...but it was understated and I knew, if it hadn't been so busy in there and if I didn't have to be somewhere, we could've had a conversation about it all. For as long as we liked. Evergreen was just good like that. The people that worked there really dug films.

And now it's gone. Forever.

Everybody's got them, I know...but it's one of those old iconic destinations that make you just shake your head and hope that you'd put as much time into that space while you were there as you could have.

Which reminds me of Untitled. One of my top 3 places to spend a lot, lot, lot of time in. And now it's gone, too. Forever.

Which brings me to 65 Carmine Street. My old apartment building. Whenever we visit NYC, we are invited to stay in our old apartment. The lease has been in my name for over ten years and, for the last three years, one of my best friends has rented it. It was a perfect fit. It was ideal. I loved that apartment. I loved that building almost as much as I hated it. It was a lot of years of a lot of good memories. Mike, who told me about Evergreen today, lived across the hall from me from the day I moved in. We knew everyone in our building, what they did, who they dated, and if they were against roof parties or not. We were a family. Sorta. In a really weird way, we were. After September 11th, 2001, we all left our doors open to each other, literally. Though I didn't move there until my early 20's, I feel like I did all my growing up there.

Currently, the management company is fixing up the facade and making some minor repairs to the building. They're also going through and weeding out all the illegal sub-lets. And, besides mine, there are a lot of those. I had a heart to heart with my old super, Joe, and he told me if I wanted my friend to stay in my old apt., I'd better start talking with the management company. So it came to pass...one day, on this last visit, when I was walking out of the building, Joe was removing names from the front door buzzers. My name had come down, along with others they knew were no longer living there full time. At that very same moment, Jose, from the management company, came walking up. I introduced myself and said we should probably talk (I felt like a criminal finally ready to confess).

So, within the span of a fifteen minute conversation and including a few weeks later, the apartment where I spent some of my most memorable moments and the video store that I never thought would leave the block, are both gone. Forever.

Addendum: Considering Paul Nelson, one of the great employees of Evergreen, was a driving force behind my story here, I felt it only appropriate to add on this finding. Thank you, Kevin, for pointing out the greatness behind Paul--someone I only knew thru smoke breaks and movie advice and am now happy to honor here.

Title from a fantastic Rumi quote: This is not the real reality. The real reality is behind the curtain. In truth, we are not here. This is our shadow.

Photo taken a couple years ago by mike, in the days when i didn't live there, but my name still was on the doorbell.


meighan said...

it's funny as we get older how things change. i'm staring to understand the emotion behind the stories my grampa used to tell me of places and things long gone .

great post.

Christina said...

i feel honored i got to spend a couple of nights around that kitchen table on Carmine street. i know it wasn't your old days, but it felt like i got a tiny peek at it and i'm oh so grateful for that.

comfies said...

it sounds like your ny years were truly rich.

Domino Bianchi said...

I can almost smell evergreen just thinking about it. it was only a matter of time before it fell to the inevitable. last time i strolled by it it looked empty. living in cities we tend to grasp these businesses as institutions and feel like they are anchors that keep the city together. they keep our selves together. cities are organic and they are everchanging (imagine how people felt when FG closed!). so when joe's pizza goes away or cho's or evergreen or cbgb's, we feel like we've lost part of ourselves too. except now there's some other 20 y/o living next door to some other shop that will become... "theirs".

i'll miss 65. great post, thanks!

Kevin Avery said...

Nice post. I wrote an Evergreen-related post here and a Carmine Street-related post here. Enjoy.

s said...

o molly! i live on that block now. i walked by evergreen the other day and saw the sign "closed forever" and felt like society sucks. if that place wasn't there when would i have discovered half the things that changed my life?

Kevin Avery said...

Molly, thanks for mentioning me in your addendum. Only this morning did I see your comments to my Shopsin's and Evergreen Video posts -- something's up (or down) with LiveJournal's notification system, it would appear.

I would appreciate the opportunity to interview you about your memories of Paul Nelson. I've interviewed over 80 individuals who knew him -- friends, colleagues, some of the artists about whose work he wrote -- but nobody who knew him as a customer at Evergreen.

If you're interested (and I hope you are), I'd appreciate your dropping me a line at chidder@optonline.net.



Anonymous said...

Molly, thank you for that heartfelt tribute to an important neigborhood institution. Evergreen was one of the first local businesses that really made me feel at home when I moved to Cornelia Street, and I have considered it a definitive part of life in our corner of the Village from the start. The closing of Evergreen came as a shock to me when I heard a couple of weeks ago, having spent much of the past few months out of town. What will I do now? I regret not having stopped in there more frequently... but I guess that's just the way it goes. RIP Evergreen, Bruno's, Shopsin's, 50 Carmine, Zito's Bread...