Chapter 2: Reality Sets In
[Note–You can read the first chapter of this continuing saga here. A new episode appears every Friday at 9 a.m.]
I stared at my faithful stove in disbelief. No flame had appeared when I’d turned on the burner, and a Con Ed notice on the door downstairs had informed me that the gas had been shut off for the entire building. I later found out it was due to a leak in one of the apartments upstairs, where some slapdash renovations were in progress. Drats!
My first need was strong coffee, but how to make it? Was I one of those idiots so desperate for caffeine, that I’d take hot water from the tap and mix it with instant coffee just to get my fix? Not likely.
I donned my coat and headed out to the sainted Garber Hardware on nearby Greenwich Street. It, too, had almost been gentrified out of existence. Its original location was Jackson Square, on Eighth Avenue near Horatio Street, a store so well-stocked and densely packed, that it was common for hardware purchasers to become lost or hopelessly distracted among the aisles of plumbing fixtures, odd-sized screws, lawn ornaments, rubber hoses, drill bits, wood-carving tools, potting soils, seeds, fan belts, diverse gauges, and arcane bits of hardware too old and obsolete to be identified by hardware historians.
The new place on Greenwich Street was more efficiently laid out in two distinct rooms. Most of the heirloom hardware had been expunged, so the new place wasn’t as much fun to browse, which was OK because I was in desperate need of coffee by this time, a thin veil of sweat spreading across my forehead and a tremor evident in my hand.
I strode up to the counter and asked the clerk, whose skateboard was balanced on the counter beside him, “What do you have in the way of a hot plate?”
This was apparently a very common request. With the neighborhood on an upscale tangent, apartments were being renovated on every block, leading to an endless stream of lumber trucks. cable TV vans, pick-ups, and every other sort of delivery and service vehicle, as work crews shuttled in and out of buildings. The noise both inside and out was often ear-splitting. Many renovations were done without benefit of the proper building permits, leading to delays and shutdowns, with crews wandering off to other buildings to continue similarly doomed projects..
The clerk led me to a dusty corner of Garber’s, and wordlessly pointed a craggy finger at the top shelf, just above a display of pancake flippers, egg beaters, and blenders. A line of hot plates perched above, but after scanning the inventory, I realized there were really only two types, displayed in boxes with cheesy art that suggested they’d been manufactured in the most obscure corners of China.
So, my only real dilemma was–one burner or two?
Next: I take my new hot plate out for a test drive.