Pershing Square Plaza

As I already said, I make it a point to go outside at lunch now. I usually go to a small park across the street from the United Nations, just down the steps from Tudor City. Here I eat my one chicken (or turkey) sandwich, my one peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and my apple. Then I read my book until it’s time to go back. There aren’t too many people who come to this park so I always get a bench to sit on, and am not too distracted from my reading. Rita said I should go up to the Tudor City park. She’s right, I should. I didn’t even think about it.

Well, that’s what I usually do, if I bring my lunch with me. But there are times when we don’t have any bread at home and I can’t make my sandwiches. On those days I have to go out and buy something. Fortunately, I know a few places that are cheap. One of them is called Cafe Zaiya. It’s a Japanese grocery/lunch place on 41st Street between Fifth and Madison Avenues. They have these spicy chicken sandwiches for $3.25, so I always get two of them when I go there.

On the day of this photo, I was walking across 41st Street to Zaiya. I crossed Park, under the overpass that skirts Grand Central to Park Avenue-proper, to discover that the downtown side of the street is closed now to traffic. Metal gates with signs to this effect stand at each end of the block. Now, in the place of taxis and buses, are tables with umbrellas. On this day, even though it was warm (hot!) and sunny, almost no one was seated at the tables.

It’s really a bad place to put tables. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to eat or even drink here. There are many places such as this, ridiculous places where bar/restaurant owners put tables in the hope that someone will sit outside and eat or drink no matter how distasteful the location.

There was a place at the northern edge of Times Square in the early 90s, a deli on the southwest corner of Seventh Avenue and 49th Street, with the downtown R train entrance just outside its doors. The bit of sidewalk by the wall of the subway entrance was frequently peed on by (usually drunk) people at night, and the owner put a small table and two chairs there. Only one table too, so the people who sat there had no other company beside them. It was just them, people getting on and off the train, the traffic of Times Square, and the stench of urine.

On Second Avenue near 6th Street, the owner put a table for two on top of the metal doors that lead into the basement. Not both doors, of course. He still needed for someone to get into the basement to bring up supplies for the restaurant. So he put a table on one of the doors and left the other one open. Not only was the table right beside a ten-foot drop into the basement, but it sat on top of a wobbly metal door. And people sat there.

So this place isn’t as bad as the two I just described, but it’s bad enough. It’s under an overpass, on a slope, with 42nd Street traffic on the bottom edge. There’s no view, except of the wall and the front of Grand Central. It’s a little bit claustrophobic — there’s nothing relaxing about it. I can’t say that it’s only tourists who eat/drink there, but they’re not very discriminating, that’s for sure. Most people who eat outside are not very discriminating though, or they wouldn’t eat outside.

Except in parks!


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