When I was growing up, my grandparent's lived on 81st street, directly across from The Museum of Natural History. Their apartment served as a homebase for my father at various times, and I was often dispatched to Zabars, the specialty food shop, just a few blocks away on Broadway. I was usually asked to get the same thing: a beef salami and a seeded rye, sliced (must be seeded, must be sliced, I learned the hard way). The salamis hung above the meat counter and you had to take a number before being served.
One time, when my twin sister Sam and I were 12 or 13, we were standing on line facing the counter, when we heard two excited voices from behind us. They were discussing all of the treats behind the glass counter. In a nifty bit of timing, we both turned our heads around slowly, and who should we see but Danny Devito and Rea Pearlman. I think we may have had an inch on them, but we were essentially looking at them eye-to-eye. Just as our heads were completely turned, facing them, they stopped talking, looked up at us, and gave us a big smiled. They waved, which was comic because they were standing about two feet away. We turned our heads slowly back around, looked at each other and shrugged.
Zabars is still around of course (it practically takes up the entire block now). I stopped in earlier this week and was nearly floored when I got to the deli counter and found that there were no salamis hanging above it anymore. It made me think of my father. They still sell beef salami, but it just isn't the same. Such is life in the big city. But I did feel better--at least somewhat comforted--after reading Alex Witchel's piece in The Times yesterday. Hey, I'm thankful that Zabars is still here--and it's not likely to go anywhere for at least a minute.