Mack Williams: Saturday in the city

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 21, 2022

On a recent Saturday, daughter, Rachel, son, Jeremy, daughter-in-law, Rose, and I went to a much larger city to partake of a restaurant and do some shopping.

We dined in a restaurant equipped with old-style decorative tiles in its ceiling. They reminded me of the sections of Grandmother Williams’ pie saver doors (but of course, minus the pin-point hole designs).

Curious about the place, I asked the waitress of the building’s history. I learned it had been many things in its over-100-year history: shop, dance studio, several other businesses which I can’t recall, and now, of course, a restaurant with bar.

The restaurant’s walls had not been totally scraped clean from their old brick base. Sections of some the building’s former lives were kept preserved on its walls. There were raised blotches of plain cement, along with sections of a smoother, more white porcelain covering, which by the series of crisscrossing gray lines made me think it was true mosaic. But Jeremy said it looked more like faux mosaic, the lines between the squares looking painted-on. If one’s eyes lingered upon the bricks and remnants there, in that place into which he had never before stepped, memories of prior commercial re-imaginings were evoked.

For a while, there was only one waitress on staff, and she was rushing around in a hurry. Sometimes, life rushes around in a hurry.

Afterwards, we visited a consignment shop, which seem to be places where someone has weighed memory against money, and found memory wanting.

My hips are replaced and I try to walk every day, but sometimes the stop-and-start of leisurely shopping makes for a little sciatica. Rachel pointed out there was a wrought-iron chair placed to one side of the entrance. As the chair was outside, and without price tag, I felt it was OK to sit there. Anyway, in a large city, no one notices an old man sitting in a chair, even adjacent a store entrance, unless he asks passersby for money (which I didn’t). I did quell an urge to provide some entertainment for the entering and exiting customers via Italian folk songs. Rachel said that sort of thing depends on the audience, and I thought: possibly a license in a large city.

While sitting there, I looked down at a true mosaic at the shop’s entranceway (from when it was a long-ago manufacturing store), contrasting it with that which I had seen on the restaurant wall. The manufacturing company’s individual floor-mosaic name stones had been pressed down by the accumulated weight of a multitude of past customers, some of the stones even looking bent out of alignment by a “hair tad.”

As I sat there, I saw some young people dressed in what might be termed 1960s -’70s revival (there was much tie-dye!). My ears were privy to passing (literally) conversations, such as: “Where are we going now?” or “Have you been there yet?”

Across the way from where I sat was the restaurant where we had eaten. I could see our former waitress bringing food to those who had chosen to sit at the outside serving tables. She was now waiting upon others.

Each day, in their present and even future incarnations, I imagine these two downtown businesses will be visited by new customers and former, dedicated patrons; the overall mix of the two always giving a future distinctive difference from those which came before.

And each group’s life-tasting and life-shopping will, of course, be finitely defined and time-driven.

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