The Italian Food Center opened on Grand and Mulberry in 1954. It more recently lost its lease and shuttered without much of a peep. A restaurant will soon be moving in. In the meantime, some of the metal siding has been removed along Mulberry, revealing brick underneath. On those bricks is a bounty of graffiti from an older Little Italy.
How old, I don't know--from the days before those turquoise metal sheets went up on the Food Center, whenever that was. Other signs of its age? The paint here was mostly put on with a brush, not with a spray can. And the language is old, from a more innocent time. There isn't a single "fuck" in the bunch.
There are "The Best Girls," aka, "The Great & Best," E.D. and C.D., their initials put on with some kind of faded mustard color. Were they sisters?
In blocky, black, brushed-on paint, there's The Mulberry...perhaps a missing word like Crew or Gang? Again, there's C.D. at the top, followed by a list of other initials. Who was C.D.? This would've been her corner, back in the day. I'm imagining a tough girl, a leader, with a name like Connie DiNucci or Carol-Anne D'Angelis. Maybe she favored toreador pants and bolero vests. Maybe she snapped her gum. Maybe they called her Connie from the Corner.
The names on the wall are from an older New York, too.
Nowhere is there a Josh or a Caitlyn or an Ethan or a Madison. There's a Sal and a Marie. There are "Pals" John, Joe, and Anthony. Was Joe ever called Joey, as in Pal Joey? Whatever happened to the word pal, anyway?
And there is at least one couple, their love spelled out in what looks like Magic Marker, scripted in a tidy, girlish variation on the Palmer Method: Louise & Johnny.
It's Valentine's Day, however many years later, and I wonder whatever happened to these two. Are they still together? Did their love live as long as the valentine that Louise (I'm pretty sure it was she) inscribed here while sitting on Johnny's shoulders to reach the highest spot she could, high enough so no one could cover it with other names, high enough to be seen from down the block? Did their love outlive the Italian Food Center, too?
Louise and Johnny, C.D. and E.D., Joey and pals--if you're out there, let us know. Soon, your names, and all the others, will be covered once again and lost.