Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Bye bye Miss American Pie

Though I've never met the man, my life to this late, great date has followed in the footsteps of Sander Hicks. Not ideologically, but geographically, he's indirectly shaped two of the biggest parts of my life. The publishing company he founded gave me my start on editorial work. And, on an evening trip to Adderley with K.-- so long ago, it was catching sight of his coffee-shop-self-publisher-rabble-rouser Vox Pop that made me want to explore Ditmas Park. Now, many clients and a year in the neighborhood wiser and more fulfilled, I walked down rainy Cortelyou to see that Vox Pop is no more.

The place had a tumultuous fiscal history and from time to time was seized by the marshals for failing to pay taxes. It acquired new management and a new financial program with community-based ownership, and for a while it seemed, at least to an outside eye, like the place was doing well. But apparently it's been seized and closed for the last time.

Back my newly-Brooklyn-aware days, I dreamed of moving to Park Slope so the Tea Lounge could be my neighborhood cafe. My favorite branch closed before I could move out of my parents' house, and I started searching for greener pastures, which I found in Ditmas Park (quite literally, in fact--have you seen those yards?). Though I didn't spend as much time in Vox Pop as the old Tea Lounge, it was the same sort of neighborhood beacon for me. I brought A.-- there for hot chocolate last year, proudly showing off my neighborhood to an out-of-towner. Waking up early on a rare Saturday, I took myself there for breakfast in pajama pants, fresh from picking up my new library book. I went there in the depths of being sick and miserable, when it was about as far as I could drag myself out of bed. I took C.-- there for coffee shortly after we met and also kicked off our Berkshires journey with a couple of eggs McVox. (How eggs and cheese on a bagel can be so sublimely delicious, I don't know.)

And so it's with a bit of chagrin that I report that upon A.--'s triumphant return this past weekend I opted to take her to the tiny Market, where we munched on fancy cupcakes and sipped cappuccinos, instead of Voxy's less-upscale fare. I felt a twinge of guilt but reasoned that A.--'d been to Vox Pop before, and that it was such a nice day to sit on tiny Market's tiny bench outside. But if I'd known it was my last chance to go there, I would have changed my mind.

The NYT just ran an article about a new breed of coffee shops which are more like fill-up stations than home offices. I like the idea of focusing on coffee quality rather than laptop amenities. But as a chronic wanderer, I like a coffee shop to be a place where I can sit down and relax, whether with a dreaded laptop or a journal or a copy of Invisible Cities on a snowy night. Vox Pop may not have been the perfect cozy-up spot, but it was much more friendly and inviting than a tiny hipster go-go-go counter.

I wish I had patronized the business more, both to contribute to their financial success and to eat some of those delicious sandwiches. But it's in the nature of my wandering to always seek newer, better, farther locales. And so because it was nearly on my corner Vox Pop suffered from my wanderlust, same as lamentedly-closed Amai on my parents' block. When I want coffee, I want a destination (see Monday).

I know my paltry few bucks of coffee a week couldn't have kept Vox Pop in business even if I had come by every day. But I wish I had appreciated it more while it lasted. I have been thinking lately about what the purpose of a blog should be, and have come to no brilliant conclusions. There are several nostalgia blogs I read, and I know this blog's purpose isn't to be one of those. But I hope that at least in this one case it can provide a fitting tribute for an institution I will miss.


  1. Well, in *my* neighborhood the local lefty anarchist hipster coffeeshop is still alive and kicking. In fact I am sitting at it *right now*.

    Gloat gloat gloat. :P

  2. Well, I guess I know where *I* will have to go to get my anarchohipsteriberal coffee now.

  3. sorry we went to the wrong place (but the cupcakes were really really really good) Also - there's no anarchohipsteriberal coffee shop near me. boooooooo. I miss my old neighborhood.

  4. Aw, maybe you should start one!