Friday night was the going-away party for the Pioneer Theater. After a decade on Avenue A, they are closing their doors, unable to manage the high cost of living in Newer York. Two Boots pizza and the video store are supposed to stay, but as you can see in this real estate listing, their spots appear to be on the market.
For the celebration, they showed free films from 6:00 to midnight and gave away popcorn, soda, and candy. I stayed for the first two movies: Truffaut's "The 400 Blows" and Michel Gondry's "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," a personal favorite. (Later would come "L'Atalante" then "Donnie Darko.")
Before the film, theater co-owner Phil Hartman said a few words about the occasion. The farewell party was originally to be a chance to watch his favorite films with family and friends, but, he said, "you are all family and friends," so he opened it to the public. He asked us to enjoy the free stuff and "be cool, you know, don't ask for a giant jug of soda to take home or stuff Milk Duds down your pants."
In between screenings, pizzas flowed in from Two Boots and the growing crowd grabbed up the slices. Thanks Phil--for the good night and for giving it a go these past 10 years.
Munching Raisinets and watching "Eternal Sunshine," I could not help but see vanishing New York in its metaphor of erasure. Boom, boom, boom, the lights go out on one memory and another. People, places, objects of love suddenly disappear. You run around, frantically trying to hold on to it, but in the end, it all collapses, taken away by a force more powerful, unstoppable.
Outside, after the movie and a last slice of pizza, I remembered when the condo building that houses the Pioneer went up (1995, 1996?). Across the avenue in the Cafe Limbo (vanished), I used to sit and write in a notebook, watching the construction.
But I can't remember what came before. Was it a vacant lot or was there something standing there? I do recall that you could see a church tower from the cafe and that I disliked having that view disappear. But the rest, like too many of my city memories, has been erased.