January 6th, 2006


Second Avenue Deli Closing?

New York City may be losing one of its most welcome restaurants.

The Second Avenue Deli has been in operation since 1954 at the corner of 10th Street and 2nd Avenue (where else?). When it was first opened by Abe Lebewohl, a Holocaust survivor, the Lower East Side was more of Jewish enclave than it is now. But despite the changes in he neighborhood, the Deli remained open, even when Abe was murdered during a robbery in 1996.

However, it now appears that the real estate market has become too expensive. The New York Times is reporting that last Sunday, Jack Lebewohl, the current owner, closed the restaurant and has not reopened it all week (Hold the Mustard, Maybe Forever). Apparently, he currently pays $24,000 per month in rent, and that rent is about to go up to $33,000, which he can't afford.

One of the things I always liked about the existence of the Second Avenue Deli was their nod to the history of the Yiddish theatre. Out front, on the sidewalk, they have a Yiddish theatre "Walk of Fame," stars with the names of actors from the Yiddish theatre's glory days.

Two of those names are Peisach Burstein and Lillian Lux, the parents of American-Israel actor and entertainer Mike Burstyn. Although we're not directly related, I've always been pleased that we share the same name. By an odd coincidence, last year Burstyn performed in a show called On Second Avenue, a tribute to the legacy of New York's Yiddish theatre. Sadly, Burstyn's mother passed away last year; I can only hope that his parents' stars don't vanish as well.

Robert's Rules of Writing #22: Pick Your Poison

[Rule quoted from Robert's Rules of Writing: 101 Unconventional Lessons Every Writer Needs to Know by Robert Masello (Writer's Digest Books, 2005). See my original post for the rules of this discussion.]

Masello now begins a few rules and short essays that seem to hit the theme of getting something written. "Pick Your Poison" is an odd-sounding rule without explanation, and even with his explanation I'm still not sure why he phrased the rule that way.

Because his essay is about fear. The fear of writing. The fear of failure. The fear of success.

Masello points out that the blank page can be scary, because it's challenging you to create something worthwhile. But, on the other hand, if you give into your fears, then fear will eventually turn to regret. Because you'll have missed your opportunity

I think many of us know what he's talking about. Whenever I try to write a story, I'm eager to get it just right. Sometimes that eagerness feels like desperation. And as I write, I sometimes look at what I'm writing and think it's awful and that I don't know what I'm doing.

And as for regret, I think we feel that too. I set a daily quota for writing, and whenever I miss that quota, I feel the pangs of a day wasted, a day when I could have made progress on a story. And if I later see a story similar to the one I wanted to write, I regret not having gotten to it first.

Masello's advice is simple, which is to ignore the fear and just write anyway. He says that if you do that, the fear goes away and the regret never arrives. I tend to agree with his assessment, but I would offer a few additional pieces of advice, based on what I noted about my own writing habits.

The way to get past the fear, I've found, is to remind yourself that what you're working on is just a story. It's something you're doing because you enjoy it, and you don't have to release it into the world until you've gotten it as close to perfect as you can. I find that can sometimes relax the mind, and make the words flow more easily.

And as for regret, the best solution I've found is simply not to focus on it. You didn't get your 1000 words done yesterday? That's too bad, but hey, that doesn't mean you can't write your 1000 words today. Yesterday's over, forget about what you didn't accomplish. Instead, focus on what you can accomplish today. You'll be happier and more productive for it.

Erev Shabbos Jewish Blogging

Since gnomi has done this only once, it's still heresy and not yet tradition. So I figure I'll call my post Second Avenue Deli Closing? an example of this, so it can become tradition. If someone else chooses to play, it can become sacred tradition.

Anyway, go read gnomi's post: Erev Shabbos Jewish Blogging (kind of like Friday Cat Blogging, but with fewer cats and more Jews).

And if you want Mayor Bloomberg's home phone number, look it up yourself.