The Cafe

Sebastian Raynes had a fascinating Back to the Past TWIDDER that included a great meal! (Original post at

It was a few years now back in 1999. And I was on a rest break/holiday in New York. I was 26 years 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.”images 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.


About aloholmes

We live in a wondrous universe, and I love learning about it. Spacetime slips are one facet of existence that fascinate me. As a retired teacher I enjoy researching this topic and sharing the information I garner.
This entry was posted in Back to the Past and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The Cafe

  1. Pearl Nestor says:

    I loved your story, mainly because I always loved the late 1960’s early 70’s. You got to experience the whole coffee shoppe experience as it was back in the day. Interestingly, the coffee shops of the day did serve coffee but most of them were into herbal teas. I spent many an evening listening to folk music and listening to some great and not so great poetry while sipping Russian Tea, It was all part of the coffee house experience. I remember the Bridge Restaurant in Anchorage when they had spaghetti dinner’s on Thursdays for a dollar. Cafe’ owner’s didn’t hire talent, most of them were there just to share freely and show case their talents. It was a better world back then and I miss it. How I wish I could go back for even an hour and yet you managed to do that. I envy you. Life really was good back then, to be young, free, and sipping Russian tea! Love, peace, and Bobby Sherman!

    • aloholmes says:

      Holy cow! Pearl, I cannot imagine ever paying only a dollar for a spaghetti dinner in expensive old Anchorage!

      • Pearl Nestor says:

        You were never at the Bridge back then? Oh, it was great. It was right on Northern Lights Blvd, I think a hair salon is there now. I spent many an hour there listening to The Dr. Shultz Band (sadly he died some time ago) but they were tops, and listening to some really bad poetry by other’s. Mine was always better, LOL! There used to be the Chanting Gull too, it was in the basement of the Lutheran church on Tudor and Lake Otis. I used to go around and follow the Dr. Shultz band like a groupie, where ever they were playing I was there. I miss those days, I had a great time growing up in Anchorage as a teenager, almost too good of a time, just glad I survived it! As a side note, The Bridge was always my favorite place to be, I would nip in there on early Saturday mornings and get a hot pot of tea for a 1.25 and just sit and read the paper or do my homework. It was just a great hippie like place to be, so mellow. I miss those days so much, just wish I could go back even just for an hour.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s