Candid recollections of growing up in Greenwich Village in the 1980s.
Graphic designer, illustrator, and memoirist Shopsin (Mumbai New York Scranton, 2013, etc.) continues her life story in a chronicle constructed of terse paragraphs, whimsical graphics, and family photographs. The author, her twin sister, and three brothers ranged freely in the neighborhood around Morton Street, where her parents—her irascible father, Kenny, a cook, and gentle mother, Eve—owned The Store, a grocery, later turned into a restaurant that attracted celebrities such as John Belushi, Calvin Trillin (he paid in cookbooks), poet Joseph Brodsky, John F. Kennedy Jr., handsome in Lycra bike shorts, and a host of models, rock stars, and athletes. Good customers got a set of keys so they could go to the store any time it was closed, write down what they took, and pay later. Born in 1979, the year the schoolboy Etan Patz disappeared, Shopsin was hardly overprotected. “The city may have been more dangerous,” she writes, “but it was a less hostile place. Everyone knew each other.” Still, she witnessed blacks beaten up by a gang of boys, drug addicts sleeping in doorways, and homeless people living in playgrounds. “It is easy to cite the bad in the filthy chaos of New York before luxury condos,” she writes. “It is harder to express the spirit, life, and community that the chaos and inefficiency bred.” The author succeeds admirably in expressing that spirit, largely through sharp, loving portraits of two brash, irreverent, opinionated men: her father, who summarily banned certain customers from his restaurant, and his best friend Willy, superintendent of an apartment building, occasional nightclub singer, flagrant womanizer, and scam artist. Shopsin adored them both. It was her father who came up with the phrase “Arbitrary Stupid Goal” to describe his “guiding belief”: “A goal that isn’t too important makes you live in the moment, and still gives you a driving force” that allows you “to find ecstasy in the small things, the unexpected, and the everyday.”
A warm evocation of a quirky life and exuberant times.