Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Yesterday I needed a place to grade papers that was cheerful and away from my apartment which is littered with distractions everywhere I look. I'd been wanting to check out a diminutive cafe on 1st street between 1st and 2nd aves called Arlo & Esme, which from the street promised all marble, and an old wooden bar. The clientelle at 10 a.m. was "barely" and included three of us freelancers with laptops, and a mom which an incredibly cooperative little monkey who quietly drank hot cocoa and pushed a Thomas train back and forth across the table top.
That said,  I was momentarily nostalgic for the old Peacock Cafe on Greenwich Avenue. The Peacock was an ancient Italian espresso shop I used to go to in the early to mid-90s with a revolving tour of writer's groups that always started off with a bang and ended up flailing for dear life. If only those fledgling members had known the Peacock's days were numbered; they would have returned for sure, despite all the bad poetry and tortured first person pieces being workshopped.  The Peacock was a wild beatnik hangout in the 50s, and the reason I loved it forty years later was because the owner was an old mustached-guy who used to spin his favorite arias on an old turntable behind the bar, and you could sit undisturbed for ages without feeling like you had to push off. In my memory he played a Gramophone, but that could be romance bending reality. Mustached Sweetie always made a mean cappuccino and delivered it with one eyebrow raised.
Arlo & Esme was a welcoming corner of the neighborhood yesterday, and I managed to get a lot of work done despite the macabre 80s playlist which cut through the physical serenity of the space. I'll go back.


  1. your piece gave me the same feeling that reading dylan's "chronicles vol 1" did. i love the idea of the cozy cafe or the basement haunt where musicians busk and share their love of music or poetry, etc etc. i don't know why i feel like those days and places have vanished- they clearly haven't- but my fictionalized memories of the places i've never been are so much more simple and delicate than the things in my present life. wish i'd had a chance to see the peacock. i have my local haunt, orchard 88, in the meantime.

  2. Wow - thank you for writing this. I didn't think anyone else remembered the Peacock. I too camped out there as an 18 year old in the 90's. I once logged 10 hours straight in that place. Reading your piece brought it all back. I used to love the minestrone that would be poured into your bowl at the table and served with loads of chewy bread and butter.

  3. I've got all of you beat. I used to "group date," which was defined as a bunch of high school girls and me (the lone, not yet gay male), who would go to the Peacock after seeing something like The Fantasticks ("It's not going to close, is it?" we'd whine to some usher who actually seemed interested in our question) in 1969.

    Not a typo.

    My tried-and-true?: Venetian Chocolate Rum Delight.

    I've said enough.