In “Arbitrary Stupid Goal”, Conjuring a Lost New York City

Julia Felsenthal in Vogue:

ScreenHunter_2765 Jul. 23 21.37“There are roughly three New Yorks,” E.B. White once wrote. “There is, first, the New York of the man or woman who was born here, who takes the city for granted and accepts its size and its turbulence as natural and inevitable. Second, there is the New York of the commuter—the city that is devoured by locusts each day and spat out each night. Third, there is the New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something.”

For White, that last New York, “the city of final destination, the city that is a goal,” was the greatest of all. The illustrator, graphic designer, cook, writer, and born-and-bred New Yorker Tamara Shopsin quotes this passage—drawn from White’s essay Here is New York—in her new memoir, Arbitrary Stupid Goal. Her book, among many other things, traces its author’s unconventional childhood, growing up in a one-bedroom apartment on Morton Street with four siblings and her parents, Kenny and Eve Shopsin, the eccentric proprietors of their eponymous, legendarily idiosyncratic West Village grocery-store-turned-eatery. (If you’re wondering about logistics, Shopsin writes that she slept in a bookshelf.)

Their business, Shopsin’s, or for those in the know, “The Store,” was housed for roughly three decades in a storefront on the corner of Bedford and Morton. In 2002, forced out by rapidly rising rents, Shopsin’s moved a couple blocks over to Carmine Street; then, a few years later, the restaurant moved again to its current home in Essex Market on the Lower East Side. Eve passed away in the mid-aughts. Kenny, The Store’s burly, famously bellicose chef, still mans the kitchen with his son Zack.

White’s essay, writes Shopsin in her memoir, is “written with so much love and grace its words become fact.” Still, she quibbles with his conclusion. “The third New Yorker, the non-native, takes a thing for granted too,” she asserts. “The third New Yorker knows they can live somewhere else. They have done it once, deep down if need be they can do it again.”

More here.

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